After her breakthrough win in Mugello, Vicky Piria continued her 2023 Italian GT Endurance campaign with a second place in Monza - as she moves up to the runner up spot in the GT Cup Pro/Am standings with one round to go.
In her second season in GT racing, Vicky Piria collected another class podium finish in the Italian GT Championship, with a second place at Monza that keeps the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing driver in contention for the GT Cup Pro/Am title in the Endurance series. Having raced at the top of world's junior single seater championships, Italian racer Vicky Piria moved to sports car racing in 2022, when she first contested her rookie campaign in the ACI-promoted Sprint series, aboard the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car. Over the course of the 4 rounds, Vicky showed impressive development, soon claiming a top-10 in Misano, a top-5 in Imola and her first class podium in Mugello, to round out her first season. Her journey in GT racing had just started and she joined Enrico Fulgenzi Racing for her sophomore season in Italian GT – this time aboard the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine that she would share with young talent Kikko Galbiati. Vicky had her first taste of the new-gen 992 at Mugello earlier this month, where she entered a Peroni Promotion racing weekend in order to acclimate with the new car. Despite a start from pitlane, Piria was fifth overall and won in class – in a very encouraging start of the racing season. As the team opted to skip the first Endurance round in Pergusa, Piria and Galbiati made their debut at Mugello – immediately taking victory in Pro/Am, as well as overall in GT Cup. It was Vicky's first ever victory in the series, at only her fifth participation, in a field of experienced drivers in closed-wheel racing. After the summer break, Italian GT hit the track at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for the third and penultimate round of the 2023 season - and Piria-Galbiati were eager to carry momentum, in a quest to fight for the GT Cup Pro/Am title. While they knew the Porsche 992 wouldn't be the car to beat at Monza, the strong duo took on the challenge with determination to maximise the result. On Friday at the Temple of Speed, Galbiati started the first practice session on a high, soon setting a 1:51.903 that put the #125 Porsche second among the GT Cup entries on top of the Pro/Am class. Piria took over in the second half of the session, but she couldn't unfortunately improve the time due to a series of red flags that severely limited her running time to barely one flying lap. In the afternoon's practice, Piria again had her driving time hampered by red flags – especially in the closing minutes, when an accident at Ascari prematurely ended the session – but Galbiati could further improve his benchmark and again settled on top of the GT Cup Pro/Am classification. The #111 Best Lap Ferrari of Sabatino Di Mare, Luca Demarchi and Simone Patrinicola emerged as the main contender for class honours, as the 488 Ferrari recorded top speeds almost 10 kph faster than the #125 Porsche.
Vicky was then given the chance to find her rhythm in the third practice on Saturday morning, as Galbiati opened the session and then handed over to Piria: on a longer stint, she clearly showed her potential with a series of very competitive lap times, improving by over a second by the end of the session. Vicky's consistent pace was particularly promising ahead of the two-hour race. "We came here aware that it would have been a difficult one for our car", Vicky explained. "But in free practice I have to say I really had a great progression and I was super happy – especially after the third session." The mood in the EF Racing's garage was partially toned down after qualifying, when the duo couldn't maximise their speed – albeit the nature of the track, with plenty of passing opportunities, and the longer endurance race, they were not a reason for discouragement. Galbiati tackled Q1 and clocked a 1:50.666 lap that put the #125 Porsche 992 third among the GT Cup cars and on top of the Pro/Am entries. Piria was behind the wheel for Q2, but was left in a difficult position when she struggled to get the tyre into the operating window and then had to call off a lap due to traffic. "In qualifying I was probably not focused enough", she told us. "It was a lot cooler and I was too late in warming up the tyre. We started the session late - and we weren't perfect in managing the situation. When I was ready for my lap, it was too late. This really worked to my detriment - especially on a track where everyone is so close and it's so easy to lose time." Piria was third fastest in GT Cup Pro/Am and handed over to Galbiati for the final part of qualifying, with times being combined in order to shape the starting grid of the 2 hour race. Kikko had a good session, again leading in class, but traffic prevented him from improving towards the end, which would have put the #125 EF Racing Porsche a position ahead in the overall classification. With a combined time of 5:34.411, they would line up in P6 in GT Cup and second in Pro/Am.
On a sunny and warm Sunday afternoon, Kikko Galbiati tackled the first stint of the race aboard the #125 EF Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup, as the duo's race pace was still a promising sign that suggested a recovery. And Galbiati lived up to the expectations, as he had a positive start where he gained a position overall as well as in GT Cup; ahead, Tommaso Mosca retained the GT3 top spot from the two BMW Italy’s M4 GT3 of Comandini and Guerra, before the safety car was deployed to retrieve the #269 Ferrari 488 driven by Francesco La Mazza, who crashed out of the race at the first chicane. Galbiati battled with Lazzaroni – whose Lamborghini was quick on the main straight – and Jorge Cabezas; the driver of the #125 Porsche moved up to third in GT Cup, retaining second in Pro/Am. Galbiati hunted down the debutant Nova Race Mercedes AMG GT3, as the latter mingled with the GT Cup entries. As the first pit window approached, Galbiati overtook the Nova Race Mercedes and, a few laps later, the Pro/Am overall leader Simone Patrinicola with a brilliant move. From the class lead, Galbiati handed over to Vicky Piria on lap 20. At the same time, the #273 Lamborghini had come to a halt on track – triggering a Full Course Yellow as soon as the pit window closed. Fourth in GT Cup and second in Pro/Am, Piria was just behind Sabatino Di Mare, in the #111 Ferrari that had shown the fastest pace early on in the weekend. Once the race resumed with 58 minutes to go, Vicky held position, avoiding troubles in the hectic laps that saw Bartholomew and Pulcini colliding at turn 1 and several cars taking the run off at the first chicane. Piria was finding her own rhythm but had to defend from the #232 Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini. With 49 minutes to go, the Lambo sent a late attack at Parabolica when Piria had already entered the corner; there was contact and Piria's Porsche was hit and spun across Parabolica, coming to a halt in the middle of one of the fastest corners of the track. Luckily avoided by the incoming cars, the #125 EF Racing Porsche lost almost 30 seconds as Piria tried to rejoin from the tricky position. Nevertheless, she retained second in Pro/Am and third in GT Cup. Vicky was not deterred and found good pace, logging fast laps and consistently improving her personal best. As she ran competitively when the pit window approached, Piria stayed out almost until the end of the window and took the way of the pit lane on lap 38. Kikko Galbiati was back in the #125 Porsche, chasing the #111 Ferrari – with now Luca Demarchi behind the wheel – 43 seconds up the road. Galbiati topped the car’s best lap twice in a row – setting a 1:50 lap for the first time in the race, in the attempt to close the gap.
Galbiati’s consistency meant that the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing Porsche started to close the gap, but couldn’t eventually catch the GT Cup Pro/Am leading Ferrari, after Kikko had to significantly slow down in the second half of his stint to aggressively save fuel. Ahead, a contact between Carlo Tamburini (Ceccato BMW M4 GT3) and Tommaso Rocca (Scuderia Baldini Ferrari) continued the Ferrari’s bad day, who previously had a fire in the pit stop and then lost a lap after the badly timed Full Course Yellow. This led to a comfortable win for the sister BMW M4 GT3 driven by Comandini-Cassarà-Nilsson, ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari of Castro-Pulcini-Gai. In GT Cup, Demarchi-Patrinicola-Di Mare claimed victory in the Pro/Am category for the #111 Best Lap Ferrari, preceding Vicky Piria and Kikko Galbiati's EF Racing 992 Porsche. Second in class, Piria secured her third – and consecutive – class podium in Italian GT, rounding off a positive weekend. "I think I understood that I'm good at managing the race, I like endurance and I can lap consistently as well handling the restarts and the tricky moments", Vicky commented after the race, reflecting on the positives to bring home from the Monza weekend. "I had a contact with a Lamborghini that went for the move when I had already turned in", she recalled. "I could have lifted and let him go, but motorsport is also about defending. I got spun and then rejoined, but we lost 30 seconds. Nevertheless, I'm happy about how I reacted after the incident – I was running half a second faster than the Ferrari afterwards." "Without that contact we would probably have finished second anyway – I'm building my experience and I'm really happy." "I have to say that it's been great to see so many people here in Monza – motorsport is taking a good direction. We just need some more female power, since I'm the only woman in over 26 crews. The only thing is that every time you have to prove yourself – and while I made a mistake in qualifying, I was right up there in the race." With one round to go – which will be contested in less than a month's time at Vallelunga, Piria and Galbiati remain in contention for the GT Cup Pro/Am championship title; the standings will in fact take into account the best three results out of four races per each entry.