Italian GT: second Pro-Am podium in 2 races for Francesca Linossi
After her return to the main class of Italian GT Endurance series, Francesca Linossi was twice on the ProAm podium and was P2 in the two-hour race at Vallelunga.
The third round of the Italian GT endurance series - on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of ACI Roma - brought 28,000 spectators to ACI Circuit Vallelunga, in the outskirts of Rome. And the 2 hour race delivered some spectacular racing, thrilling plot twists - as well as a class podium for two time champion Francesca Linossi, at her second race after her return to the Endurance series. Linossi - who became GT3 ProAm champion in 2019 and then went on to seal a Sprint series title in GT Cup in 2021 - started the season in the Sprint championship, but then returned to the top class of Italian GT Endurance at Mugello: alongside Jop Rappange and Emidio Pesce at the wheel of the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3, Linossi was immediately on the class podium. At Vallelunga, Linossi-Rappange-Pesce targeted another podium and, since free practice on Friday, they often showed pace for an overall top five. In qualifying, Jop Rappange put the #44 Mercedes in eighth place in Q1, while Linossi set a 1:32.494, the fastest lap for the team, that gained them P5 in Q2. Emidio Pesce was not far off and, with seventh in Q3, bagged a start from the fourth row of the grid after the combined results. Former F1 stars Giancarlo Fisichella and Rubens Barrichello - at his return to racing - led every sessions in the Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo, ahead of the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes of Kikko Galbiati/Florian Scholze, the VSR Lamborghini of Nemoto/Beretta/Liberati and the NovaRace Honda NSX driven by Guidetti/Moncini/Cabezas. In the driving seat for the opening stint, Fisichella had a perfect start and safely held the lead from Galbiati, who had to defend from the aggressive Nemoto. Jop Rappange had a clean start and slotted in eighth for the #44 Antonelli Motorsport's Mercedes first stint of the race. A Safety Car halted the action after the first lap, after the Krypton Motorsport Porsche of Diego Locanto was off in the gravel after contact with a Lamborghini. Eight minutes later, the race went back to green; Baptiste Moulin (VSR Lamborghini) surprised Stefano Comandini and overtook the BMW M4 GT3 - with Rappange ready to pick up the pieces from the battle. Fisichella was unchallenged throughout the first stint and, when the pit window opened he went longer - as much of the top five overall. There was drama in pit lane for a fire ultimately taking out of the race the FFF Racing Lamborghini of Rodrigo Testa, who led the GT Cup before the pit stops. Nemoto, the first of the frontrunners to pit, handed over to Michele Beretta, and was then followed by Fisichella and Galbiati, who both pitted on lap 27. Just before his pit stop, Jop Rappange made a mistake and dropped a wheel on the gravel exiting the last corner, which cost him a position to the Imperiale Racing Lambo of Raul Guzman.
Rappange pitted on lap 23 and Francesca Linossi started her driving shift. A 20-second success penalty at the stop meant that Francesca rejoined in 10th place overall. When the Ceccato Racing BMW - the last car to stop - had completed its first driver change, Rubens Barrichello preceded Cabezas (NovaRace Honda) and Scholze (Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes) - the latter coming under pressure from the fast charging Beretta (VSR Lamborghini).
Beretta eventually found a way past with a great pass at Tornantino and soon chased down the Honda of Cabezas. With a longer second stint, Beretta slightly closed in on Barrichello, but the gap was never under the 10 second margin. At the second pit window, Giancarlo Fisichella was back behind the wheel of the Scuderia Baldini Ferrari and, with Leonardo Moncini, the #55 NovaRace Honda returned to the second place. With a very solid stint, Francesca Linossi was able to gain a position and handed over to Emidio Pesce in P9 overall. As Kikko Galbiati was back in the #17 Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes and tried to make up positions, he dived on the inside at Tornantino passing Moulin with slight contact. At the following corner, though, the two collided again and the Mercedes was sent into the wall. Moulin ended up with a drive through penalty and the Safety Car was once again deployed. In the final 15 minutes, Fisichella comfortably held on to the race lead, opening a small gap to Moncini and Daan Pijl - who brought the Imperiale Racing Lamborghini up to a podium position after. Emidio Pesce was also able to snatch seventh overall - and second in ProAm - after Moulin served his penalty, and crossed the finish line to claim another strong finish for Antonelli Motorsport. It's Francesca Linossi's second podium in two races since her return to the Endurance series - and her best ProAm result this year. With now one round to go, Jop Rappange and Emidio Pesce are currently tied on top of the GT3 ProAm championship standings with Andrea Cola/Baptiste Moulin; Having missed the opening race at Pergusa, Francesca Linossi is third in the drivers' tally at 27 points, but will have the chance to help her Antonelli Motorsport teammates at the final 2-hour race in the fight for the championship. The season finale at Monza is scheduled for 6-9 October.