Vicky Piria collects personal best result in Italian GT with P6 in Imola race 1
After a long summer break, Vicky Piria showed huge steps forward in her GT racing adventure and, together with new teammate Giammarco Levorato, fought for the top positions in the first race of the Imola weekend.
Almost three months went by after the second round of the Italian GT Sprint championship, held in Misano in June. At the Italian riviera venue, Vicky Piria claimed her first top ten in the championship – at only her second weekend in a GT race car – despite a few technical hiccups in race 1. At the third – and penultimate – race meeting, the former W Series racer headed to Imola for a whole new challenge: sharing the #301 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup with new teammate Giammarco Levorato, Vicky was ready to fight for class podiums. And their pace was immediately clear after free practice, as they rounded out Friday with fourth place in FP2 – a result that left the whole team with high hopes for Saturday. Levorato – a young Italian driver that has spent the last couple of years fighting at the top of the Italian Porsche Carrera Cup and therefore knows well the machinery – kicked off the day with P4 in the first qualifying session, which gained the newly-liveried Tsunami RT Porsche a start from the second row of the grid in the GT Cup category. It was then Vicky Piria’s turn for Q2: she had a strong qualifying run as well, improving significantly from the practice lap times. While she couldn't put her sectors together, the 1:45.526 brought the #301 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup up to the fourth row of the grid for race 2, in eighth place. “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 result was particularly impressive considering that her last race in Imola dates back to 2011, when she raced in the Formula Abarth championship – today’s Formula 4. "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.”
The Ceccato BMW driven by Jens Klingmann preceded Moncini, Middleton and Urcera in the overall first rows of Saturday evening’s race at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo and Dino Ferrari in Imola. At lights out, Klingmann had a brilliant start and immediately opened a gap, while Moncini’s slow getaway allowed both Middleton and Urcera to gain a position behind the fast BMW M4 GT3. Giammarco Levorato took the start in the #301 Tsunami RT Porsche and, while he found himself fifth in class in the hectic opening lap – as 44 cars all tried to find its piece of real estate around the 4.909m track – he could soon claim back fourth on lap 2, with a brilliant pass at Tamburello on Giovanni Berton. Levorato then continued his impressive run by overtaking Postiglione one lap later, then hunted down the fast Ferrari 488 Challenge of Mikkel Mac, just a couple of seconds up the road in second place. Leading GT Cup in the opening stages was the Porsche of Giardelli, who mixed up with the GT3 cars and was up in the overall top ten at one point. Castillo Ruiz was off in the gravel at Rivazza, but narrowly avoided the barriers. A few seconds later, though, the Safety Car would have to be deployed when the Porsche of Pichler hit the tyre wall hard at Tamburello. The neutralization was bad news for the overall race leader – the BMW of Klingmann – who was on a mission to extend his gap in order to minimize damages from the 15 second pit stop success penalty. But it wasn’t great news for Levorato either, as the latter saw his gap to the other GT Cup entries wiped away. The race resumed with 37 minutes left on the clock and the Tsunami RT driver engaged in a fierce 3-car battle with the class front-runners: Mikkel Mac found a gap at Rivazza and took the lead from Giardelli; Levorato also tried to seize the opportunity to snatch second place, but Giardelli proved to be a challenging rival. With an outstanding pass at Rivazza, Levorato was up to second place midway through the race. The pit window opened and some GT Cup cars pitted for their driver change. Levorato/Piria were looking strong for a potential podium finish, when the #301 Porsche suddenly went silent in Levorato’s hands before his pit stop. He luckily was able to restart the engine and continue, albeit having lost three positions. Klingmann was also in the pits, handing over to former F1-driver Timo Glock. After the round of stops – and respective success penalties – Di Folco (Imperiale Lamborghini) preceded the Ferrari 488 driven by Di Amato and the Mercedes AMG GT3 of Matteo Cressoni. The SC thus proved costly for the Ceccato BMW, as they had to rebuild the race from fourth. Levorato pitted and handed over to Vicky Piria. A slow stop for a seatbelt issue cost the Tsunami RT duo a few additional seconds and Piria rejoined in P5. Her stint was then soon interrupted by the second Safety Car of the race. The #322 Porsche of Mainetti collided with the #39 Ferrari of Angelo Negro and both picked up enough suspension damage to end the races of both crews. The Safety Car was good news for Glock, who was back in contention for the race win; unfortunately the fact that GT4 cars could not unlap themselves didn’t help Piria, who had caught up with the GT Cup leaders.
At the restart, Glock attacked Matteo Cressoni and snatched third; Cressoni would then retire for technical issues, after a spin at Piratella. Vicky Piria moved up to P4, but was then forced to give up the position when Pera found a way past the Tsunami RT Porsche. Piria was under pressure from Mazzola as well, but held on brilliantly and, in the final minutes, her lap times were among the most competitive in GT Cup. Having led in class since the driver change, Ernst Kirchmayr made a mistake and lost the GT Cup lead to Rodrigo Testa, followed by Clarke. The GT4 traffic meant that Piria settled in sixth. In the final minutes, the battle for second overall between Timo Glock and Daniele Di Amato was highly entertaining. After 50 minutes plus one lap, Di Folco/Middleton won the first race of the weekend for Imperiale Racing and got back into the title fight. Di Amato helf on to second ahd preceded Glock, Guidetti and Greco, as they completed the top five. In GT Cup, Testa took an outstanding victory, followed by Pera/Piccioli and Clarke. Vicky Piria and Giammarco Levorato were sixth – fourth among the ProAm entries – in a 26-car field in class. Despite the few hiccups, they showed pace to contest for the podium. "Giammarco had a great race and he was second at one point, having completed some beautiful overtakes" – Vicky told us on Saturday evening. "This proved the car’s potential; unfortunately he had a technical problem and his car switched off and lost several positions." "A bit of a slow stop compromised everything", she continued. "I went out again fourth but, after the Safety Car, the gap that Giammarco had been able to build until that point was nullified." "Then I caught two GT4 cars racing each other in the worst possible sections of the track, at Piratella and Acque Minerali" – Vicky explained. "As I’m still a bit inexperienced, I was slowed down quite a lot and that’s how I lost two positions." Nevertheless, Piria made huge steps after Misano and proved how, despite the natural learning curve in such a different form of racing to what she was used to, she was able to quickly get comfortable with the car and make significant progress. With one more race on Sunday, she will now have another chance to chase her first podium in GT cars. "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 said. "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." Race 2 is scheduled for Sunday 4th September at 15:00 local.