Vicky Piria escapes injuries in Italian GT crash
Her debut weekend in GT racing didn't end the way anyone hoped for - but the most important thing from the Monza round was that Vicky Piria escaped serious injuries from a big crash in the second race of the Italian GT Championship.
Vicky Piria's debut weekend in GT racing had started with excitement and promise, as the Italian racing star learned the secrets of the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, improved every sessions and started to move up the field in the crowded and competitive Italian GT Championship.
Having joined long-time friend and two-time series champion Francesca Linossi for her first campaign in a closed-cockpit series, Piria was looking forward to a learning-oriented weekend at the Monza season opener. She faced the challenges of multi-class racing for the first time, driver changes and a whole different form of racing compared to the world of single-seaters where she competed at international level for the past 10 years - but Piria proved to be a fast learner and the Tsunami RT duo's laptimes were pretty evenly matched ahead of the first race of the season.
Despite a few red flags and FCY that disrupted the free practice session and limited Vicky's track time, she was happy about the progress made on Friday. when they were just outside the top-10 in the GT-Cup class.
"It was a really intense first day of running, I had lots of fun." - Vicky told us. "In FP1 I unfortunately had not much driving time due to red flags and it still feels a bit strange for me to get on track with 40 cars around you, as I was used to 18 cars in W Series."
"It's all completely new, but I drove well; I am obviously still missing something compared to the top-drivers, but as a first step I'm really satisfied. I believe we're a good crew."
Linossi was behind the wheel for Q1 and set the ninth fastest lap in GT Cup class.
Piria got in the driving seat for Q2 and was P15 for Sunday's race.
"I made a few mistakes in qualifying. It was my very first qualifying in GT racing and I went in very aggressive, so I had a few mistakes in my push lap" - she explained.
"You really don't have time for mistakes in these short qualifying sessions, but as they say, it's all about the learning. I knew that Monza would have been a challenging track for the Porsches, we had not tested and for me the most important thing was to improve after each session. And I did that."
On Saturday, Linossi and Piria tackled their first race together and had a strong run - ultimately hampered by a slow pit stop at the driver change. Having lost over 35 seconds, they finished P14 in an otherwise very positive debut.
"In the race, the conditions were really tricky" - Piria explained. "Francesca started under the pouring rain and with very little visibility; she handled the car perfectly and, once at the driver change, we lost almost 40 seconds unfortunately. At that time the race was compromised, so it was free practice for me."
"I found my rhythm and improved lap after lap - I had my best time on the final lap", Vicky continued. "I recovered a few positions, which is always good, so I'm overall happy with the day!"
On a sunny yet chilly Sunday at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, the second 50-minute race saw Vicky Piria taking the start for the first stint, in what was her first ever rolling start of her career. Piria lined up in 15th place in GT Cup, with Saturday's dominators Glock (BMW Team Italy M4 GT3) and Alberto Di Folco (Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Imperiale) once again sharing the front row of the grid in the overall classification.
The run down towards Prima Variante was a bit messy for the race leaders, as Di Folco went straight into the escape road and Glock - as well as the Novarace Honda NSX that locked out the second row - went deep and jumped over the kerbs. Di Folco handed over the lead to Glock at the second chicane, with the Ferrari of Gai and Cressoni both jumping ahead of the Hondas.
Piria completed the first lap in 30th place overall, 16th in class, but was able to avoid contacts in the hectic stages of the first laps. She then started to fight back and, while battling with some recovering GT3 cars that started from the back of the pack, she managed to re-claim 15th in class.
Paul August (#9 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini) was tagged at the first chicane and spun just ahead of Piria, but she was able to take evasive action while battling with another Porsche for position in GT Cup.
Timo Glock - who knew he had to overcome a 15-second success penalty for Saturday's victory at the pit stop - tried to pull away and to open a gap on the Imperiale Racing Lamborghini, which would only carry a 5-second extra penalty.
When the former F1 driver had opened a 4-second lap, the Safety Car was deployed with 33 minutes to go.
At the second chicane, Piria's #301 Porsche suddenly veered towards the inside barrier at speed as soon as the driver hit the brakes. After a first impact with the guard rail, the car slid through the track and made a second heavy impact with the #305 Lamborghini of Luca Attianese, with both cars ending their race with significant damage.
Piria climbed out of the car on her feet and was later assessed at the circuit medical centre, reporting back pain. Luckily, she escaped major injuries.
The cause of the accident is currently still being evaluated, with oil on track or a mechanical failure being among the options.
The race went back to green with the leaders now again on each other's tail; Glock, though, had no time to pull away, as a second race neutralization followed shortly, when another accident at the second chicane took out the two Nova Race Honda NSX of Alberto Lippi and Francesco Guerra, as well as the GT Cup leader Milos Pavlovic (#332 Lamborghini) and the EF Racing Porsche of Pierluigi Alessandri.
Just as the race direction was about to restart the race, Paul August (Imperiale Racing Lamborghini) pulled off track with engine issues, extending the neutralization.
When the pit window opened, Glock and Di Folco pitted and, as expected, it would be the Imperiale Racing Lambo to get out ahead, in what was the race defining moment.
The race went back to green with 7 minutes left on the clock: Di Folco and Klingmann checked out and battled for first place - but the Italian held off the attacks of the new BMW M4 GT3.
In the final minutes, the Scuderia Baldini Ferraris of Nelson Panciatici and Daniele Di Amato traded places for fourth, as they tried to get ahead of the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes driven by Galbiati in third place.
Di Folco managed to put a one second safe margin between him and the #50 BMW, taking victory for Imperiale Racing in Race 2 - ahead of Klingmann/Glock and Galbiati.
Jacopo Guidetti (#55 Nova Race Honda NSX) managed to get ahead of Panciatici, but had to serve a penalty that put him in sixth place. After a charging race from the back of the grid, the Audi Sport Italia R8 LMS GT3 of Patrinicola/Butti recovered up to 8th place overall.
With the retirement of Pavlovic (#332 Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini), GT Cup victory went to Stefano Gattuso and Alessandro Mainetti (#322 Krypton Porsche), who preceded Andres Mendez and Mazzola/Coluccio. Marchetti/Scherpen dominated the GT4 class in the #207 Mercedes.
But the most important news of the day was certainly Vicky Piria escaping injuries from her crash; even if sore for a few days from the impact, the hard-fighting Italian will be stronger than ever at Misano.
"Sometimes motorsport can be very harsh, we still don’t understand what happened today, maybe a mechanical failure or oil on track but this is what happened and I couldn’t do anything to avoid it." - wrote Vicky on Sunday afternoon.
"This sport gives you so much but takes a lot away when it does…
I have a hurt coccyx now but I’m okay."
Italian GT will be back on track on May 14-15 for the first round of the endurance series, while the sprint series is scheduled to return on June 4-5 at Misano World Circuit - where Piria last raced in W Series in 2019 claiming a 5th place finish.