Vicky Piria claims first class podium in Italian GT, ends rookie season on a high
"I found again the joy of racing" – Her rookie season in GT racing was a rollercoaster of emotions that finally led to her first class podium in the season finale at Mugello, after being denied a second place on Saturday for a penalty. In only four race weekends, Piria's progression in GT cars opened a new chapter in her career.
Four race weekends to learn a whole new set of skills; four weekends to adapt to a new car and a new form of racing, having spent all her career in single-seaters. The challenge was not an easy one – but Vicky Piria has never taken the easy route. 2022 was a crucial season for the Italian racer, who has effectively relaunched her racing career in the vast and exciting world of GT racing. While it was certainly a learning-oriented season, Piria kept improving noticeably and consistently moved her expectations upwards race after race. If the top ten in class was the initial goal at debut, the bar was soon raised to a top five and, at Imola, a podium in GT Cup was missed by tenths of a second. The top three in class, while within arm's reach almost throughout the season, became the clear goal for the Italian GT Sprint series finale at Mugello, one of Vicky's favorite tracks. After the switch from the Sprint series to the Endurance championship of Vicky's teammate Francesca Linossi, Porsche specialist Giammarco Levorato joined the #301 crew at Imola. Piria and Levorato worked very well together, but due to the clashing round with Porsche Carrera Cup Italy, Levorato could not be back in Italian GT for the final round. Nevertheless, Tsunami RT brought in another extremely experienced GT racer: Vito Postiglione, who would be an important asset for Vicky to keep learning the secrets of the car. The first free practice session at Mugello highlighted some work to do on the car setup. But once adjustments were made, Piria and Postiglione set the second fastest time in FP2 – proving that the fast duo would be in contention for the class podium once again. On Saturday morning, Postiglione went out first for Q1 and claimed an outstanding second place in GT Cup for the Tsunami RT #301 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, less than three tenths behind the #371 Ebimotors Porsche of Riccardo Pera. Alberto Di Folco (Imperiale Lamborghini) preceded Daniele Di Amato (Scuderia Baldini Ferrari) in the overall classification, among the GT3 Pro entries. It was then Vicky Piria's turn for Q2. Unfortunately, an early red flag on her first flying lap with new tyres halted the action; at the end of the session, Vicky was P11 in GT Cup, with gaps in the thousands of a second. Crucially, Piria and Postiglione's best ally was their consistent race pace, which kept morale high.
On an overcast day over the Tuscan hills, Saturday's race proved to be a mix of emotions for Piria and Postiglione, who clearly had the chance to clinch the first class podium from second on the grid. At lights out, Alberto Di Folco held first place overall despite a great getaway by Scuderia Baldini's Di Amato, who then spun on cold tyres at Turn 3 and paved the way to Jacopo Guidetti (#55 NovaRace Honda NSX) and Timo Glock (#50 Ceccato Racing BMW M4 GT3), after Jonathan Cecotto, at the wheel of the LP Racing Lamborghini, went deep in an attempt to gain the lead. Di Folco stretched his lead throughout the first stint, as positions settled in the GT3 Pro class. In GT Cup, Pera retained the lead but was soon under pressure from the fast charging Vito Postiglione. A first safety car was deployed when Berton hit Tabacchi, ending his race in the gravel at Casanova-Savelli corner. At the restart, Guidetti saw his chances to attack the leading Imperiale Lamborghini, but Di Folco held on and Guidetti suddenly had his mirrors full of the Ceccato Racing BMW driven by former F1 racer Timo Glock, at his final outing with the Munich-based manufacturer. Glock seized the opportunity and moved into second place. Vito Postiglione had a perfect restart and, after a heated battle, could finally find a way past the #371 Porsche to claim the lead in GT Cup just before the pit window opened. The safety car had limited his chances to open a bigger gap, but the Tsunami RT #301 Porsche was for the first time this year in the lead of the race as pit stops started. Carrying a 15 second success penalty for a previous podium in GT Cup, Postiglione handed over to Vicky Piria, who could nevertheless retain the lead after a clean stop and driver change. A few laps into Piria's stint, though, the safety car was again deployed to retrieve the Ferrari 488 of Alessandro Cozzi, who had gone off in the gravel. The neutralization deleted Piria's gap to the class pursuers, as the field bunched up again.
Meanwhile, Stuart Middleton had taken over the overall leading #6 Lamborghini Huracan, who now preceded Klingmann and Guerra. While Middleton managed the restart and soon pulled away from the BMW and the Honda, the real battle was in GT Cup: with ten minutes left on the clock, Vicky Piria fought hard to keep the fast rivals behind. Eventually, the Rexal FFF Racing Lamborghini of Rodrigo Testa went by, followed by Giacomo Barri. Vicky regrouped and was then able to fight back and reclaim second place, crossing the finish line in an outstanding runner up spot in GT Cup having lapped on par with the leading cars. The result came undone a few seconds later, as a 8 second time penalty was applied to her race time due to a pit stop infringement. The driving time from pit entry and pit exit had been in fact miscalculated by approximately two seconds. Ironically, the smoothest driver change of the year ended up costing Piria and Postiglione the podium. "I'm really happy even though it was a really difficult race for me" – she told us. "Here, I really noticed how my approach is still oriented to formula cars because it's a high speed track and I'm used to high downforce and a car glued to the track, while this car keeps moving", she explained. "Sometimes, I tend to correct when it's not needed." "I somehow have to re-learn something, but overall I'm really happy because I wasn't quite expecting to keep second place, because there are very experienced drivers here." – Vicky continued. "We made a mistake in the drive change, but deep inside I know that the advantage wouldn't have changed the classification, so that's important for me. We obviously have to fix these things, but it's still my first season in GT cars." "Yesterday [in practice] was not easy, so every step forward is really important."
But, just like in a movie script, redemption hits sweetest in the last chapter. And indeed the final race of the season was another thrilling rollercoaster, full of twists and turns that left everyone holding their breath until the chequered flag. Audi Sport Italia's Marco Butti got away well from pole position, retaining first place from Stuart Middleton and Leonardo Moncini (#55 NovaRace Honda), who had to back off after attacking the #6 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini. While Butti initially was able to enjoy a comfortable lead, he was then under pressure in the second part of his stint, when Middleton consistently closed in. In GT Cup, Vicky Piria took the start in the #301 Tsunami RT Porsche from eleventh on the grid and, with a good start, she passed a few cars and then held position in the opening minutes. Eliseo Donno (Best Lap Ferrari 488 Challenge) led in class, followed by Rodrigo Testa. The Portuguese driver found a gap and eventually overtook Donno for the CT Cup top spot at Turn 1. After a clean first half of the race, drivers took the way of the pit lane for their driver change; Vicky Piria handed over to Vito Postiglione – this time in a well-timed pit stop that moved the #301 Porsche up to tenth place in class. Soon after, the Full Course Yellow was deployed when the overall leader Marco Butti hit the lapped Porsche of Jeffrey Nelson, who was sent off at speed into the tyre barriers. The American was unharmed and, once the Ebimotors Porsche was retrieved, the Safety car bunched up the field again.
Simone Patrinicola was able to keep the lead in the #1 Audi after taking over from Butti, with many pit stops being completed under caution. He preceded Jacopo Guidetti and Jpnathan Cecotto. While Postiglione's stint was cut short by the neutralization, as soon as the green flag waved he was on a mission: he quickly gained a few positions, moving into seventh. His progress was under threat when a second Safety car halted the action: Di Folco had attacked and hit the #50 M4 GT3 driven by Timo Glock, who ended his last race with BMW into the barriers. Meanwhile, Guidetti's Honda NSX had managed to claim the overall lead at the restart. With less than a minute plus one lap to go, the race went back to green – and Vito Postiglione completed a stunning charge through the GT Cup field to claim third in GT Cup ProAm in the final corners. As it crossed the finish line, the #301 Tsunami RT Porsche of Postiglione/Piria secured its first class podium of the season - after being remarkably close to the achievement on several occasions. Leonardo Moncini and Jacopo Guidetti took victory in race 2 at Mugello and clinched the 2022 Italian GT Sprint series title, ahead of Cecotto/Di Giusto (LP Motorsport Lamborghini) and Butti/Patrinociola - who would then receive a 25 second penalty for the earlier contact – promoting Di Amato/Urcera (Scuderia Baldini Ferrari) to third overall. In the action-filled GT Cup ProAm class, Pera/Piccioli took top honors, sharing the Mugello podium with Mazzola/Coluccio and Postiglione/Piria.
"Finally!" – Vicky said, "I had a clean stint with a good start. I have to say I'm happy about my starts, I passed a few cars and then settled in my position, focusing on my pace." "I had no safety cars [in my stint]. I struggle a little bit more on high fuel loads, yesterday I had a better pace. But then fortunately we had a regular driver change and Vito took over." "With the safety car, he could move up from sixth to a podium position, so it was a really good race. Most importantly, I'm happy to end the season on a high; we all know what happened in Monza, so rounding out the year with a podium is great." Vicky Piria's on-track success was equalled by her off-track interactions with young fans: it was not uncommon to spot the popular Italian racer giving garage tours to young female fans, who got to sit in the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, took pictures with Vicky and her helmet as well as had the chance to follow the race from the Tsunami garage. When 9 year-old Ludo was amazed to see a woman behind the helmet in Monza, Piria invited her and her father to spend the whole race day with her at Mugello, in an unforgettable experience for the young fan. "I didn't know that women can race too", said 8 year-old Melissa, who carried a drawing depicting Vicky in her blue helmet. On her first trip to the racetrack, she also enjoyed the greatest garage tour ever. These moments are the essence of Vicky Piria's commitment in getting the sport she deeply loves closer to the younger generations of fans. An exceptional ambassador for women in motorsport, Piria is the positive example of using her platforms to a greater good. "I found again the joy of racing" – Vicky concluded, when asked about summing up her season. "Now I'm already thinking about next year - I certainly want to keep racing GT cars."
And there is no doubt that she will continue to inspire more people along the path of this new chapter in her career.