Vicky Piria 0.7 seconds away from first podium in Italian GT
With another outstanding race on Sunday in Imola, Vicky Piria had great pace in the first stint and, together with Giammarco Levorato, she finished fourth in Italian GT – seven tenths away from her first podium in the series.
In Misano she scored her first top ten and in Imola, she clinched her first top five: three rounds into her new adventure in the world of GT racing, Vicky Piria's progression has been nothing short of impressive.
Having never raced anything other than single-seaters throughout her 13-year career in international motor racing, Piria had a big challenge as she went up against some of the most competitive GT specialists in the business – but with big steps at each rounds, the Italian is finding her place in one of the most crowded national GT championships in Europe.
With a record-breaking 44-car field in Imola - and 26 in the GT Cup class – Vicky Piria resumed her rookie campaign in Italian GT Sprint series almost three months after the latest round that preceded the summer break.
This time, she would share the #301 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup with Giammarco Levorato, 19-year-old protagonist of the Italian Porsche Carrera Cup.
The new Tsunami RT driver line up performed well in free practice and carried momentum into qualifying: Levorato was fourth fastest in class in Q1, while Piria was eighth in Q2, with significant improvements from practice but having missed her ideal best lap.
Qualifying, though, proved that Piria/Levorato were in contention for a class podium in both races.
“I’m super happy, we both had a good qualifying" – Vicky told us after qualifying. "It could have been even better, but I’m nevertheless really happy".
Piria's last race in Imola dated back to 2011, when she raced in the Formula Abarth championship. "It has been 11 years since my last race in Imola and lap times are good", she explained. "We are really close to drivers that know these cars well and race often, so it’s a good result for me.”
“There’s a good feeling and we have two good opportunities to do well; we hope for the best and aim for the podium.”
Giammarco Levorato took the start in Race 1, and was able to move up to second place in GT Cup – until the #301 Porsche suddenly switched off and lost a few places before it was back up to speed. He would bring the car back in the pits for the driver change in fourth.
A troubled pit stop was a major setback for the end-result, also in addition to a Safety Car just into Piria's stint; in the midst of the GT4 traffic, she had to settle for sixth. Nevertheless, her pace in the final stages of the race was a really promising sign for Sunday.
"Towards the end of the race I was lapping two seconds faster of the cars I had in front, which shows that I could have finished maybe fourth", she told us. "Either way, I’m happy: I think I made a big step, especially because I had no high expectations for Imola. It’s a difficult track and I only raced here two times."
"We look ahead to tomorrow, as we start from P8. Considering Safety Cars, we can do well."
The forecasted rain was not to be seen and Race 2 was underway in another beautiful end-of-summer Italian afternoon.
Timo Glock started from overall pole position in the Ceccato Racing BMW M4 GT3, leading the Lamborghini of Alberto Di Folco - but the latter lost two positions after a messy first lap.
Behind the wheel for the first stint of the race, Vicky Piria had a great start and gained two positions, slotting into sixth before a lengthy Full Course Yellow was deployed for the brutal accident of Pierluigi Alessadri, who rolled several times in the #396 Fulgenzi Racing Porsche on the run towards Tamburello.
The car was totaled in the accident – caused by a contact with the #387 Ferrari of Jeremy Clarke on the second lap - but the driver emerged unharmed.
The race resumed with 33 minutes left on the clock; Glock held the overall lead and tried to pull away, while there was a lead change in GT Cup when Riccardo Pera overtook Eliseo Donno. A few cars tangled in the chaotic laps after the restart - including Di Giusto, who ended up with a puncture and Pieri, who was off at Variante Alta - but the race remained green.
Vicky Piria showed really good pace and, when the pit window opened and most GT Cup cars opted to pit - she was kept out on track for a longer stint.
She would then pit from fifth place in class with 22 minutes to go, handing over the #301 Porsche to Giammarco Levorato. Another small issue with the seatbelts cost the Tsunami RT duo a few more seconds and Levorato rejoined in sixth.
Ahead, Klingmann took over the Ceccato Racing BMW, but after pit stop success penalties, it would be the two NovaRace Honda NSX to emerge on top: Moncini led Guerra, with the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes of Kikko Galbiati in third. Galbiati was unstoppable and first passed Guerra – who would drop down to sixth, with José Manuel Urcera moving into a podium position – and then engaged in an exciting duel for the lead with the NovaRace NSX driven by Moncini. After a few contacts in the final laps that left both cars wounded, Galbiati was eventually able to make a move stick at Tamburello on the final lap of the race, taking victory for Antonelli Motorsport. Moncini/Guidetti were second and preceded Urcera/Di Amato in the Scuderia Baldini Ferrari. In GT Cup, Levorato was on the move and overtook Barri and Bronzini over the course of two laps, moving into fourth place early in his stint. He would follow closely the fast Ferrari of Mikkel Mac – as the two hunted down the Porsche of Giovanni Berton (Krypton Motorsport). On a mission to clinch the podium, Levorato had another outstanding stint; Mac found a way past Berton after a mistake by the Porsche driver and Levorato was able to close an over 3 second gap to challenge him for the podium. Vito Postiglione/Eliseo Donno were unchallenged in GT Cup and took victory from Ferrari Challenge veterans Mac/Kirchmayr. Despite the late charge, Giammarco Levorato crossed the finish line fourth, seven tenths of a second away from his and Vicky Piria's first podium in the championship. Fourth place on Sunday marked another huge step for Vicky, who was obviously happy about the weekend but also slightly disappointed about having missed out on the podium finish – further proof of her progression in such a small amount of races.
“This weekend I really had fun" – she told us. "I made a lot of steps forward and I’m increasingly in love with the GT world.”
“I had a great start, I’m happy that I had a more aggressive getaway", she continued. "In the few laps I had [in green flag conditions], I did a couple of passes and moved from P8 to P6. I handed back the car to Giammarco [Levorato] and he was also really good as he gained two more places and climbed to P4."
"We ended up seventh tenths from the podium, which is a bit bittersweet, because we’ve been so close to the podium in both days" – Vicky added.
“Nevertheless, I’m really happy about myself: every time I am in the car it’s a big progress.”
With now only one race meeting to go, Piria is eager to continue her journey in GT racing.
“Clearly, the most difficult thing about this championship is that now we have to wait until October for the next round", she said.
“Mugello is a track that I really like and I hope in a sunny and fun Mugello to do well again.”
The fourth round of the Italian GT Sprint series is scheduled for 20/23 October at Mugello, a circuit that fits Vicky's driving style and where she will target more points for her tally after scoring 14 points over the Imola weekend.