Vicky Piria secures first Italian GT victory at Mugello
After her first class podium in GT racing in 2022, the Mugello Circuit became the setting of another milestone in the career of Vicky Piria: at her first race in with the new Porsche 992 car, Piria claimed her first victory in Italian GT.
At her first race of the season in Italian GT Endurance, Vicky Piria has claimed her maiden victory in the championship, securing a brilliant overall and ProAm class win among the GT Cup entries at Mugello. After spending years in some of the most competitive single-seater series in the world, Piria was selected for W Series' inaugural season in 2019. Following two seasons in the all-female championship - and a few rounds in the highly-competitive Formula Renault Eurocup, where she would score points - Piria moved to GT racing in 2022, joining the Italian GT Championship Sprint series, in Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machinery. The four-event schedule meant that Piria had to learn quickly a whole new environment and set of skills - but proved to be a fast learner and constantly improved weekend after weekend. A massive crash at her series debut in Monza was a further hurdle, but at Misano Piria collected her first top 10 finish and showed pace to battle for the top-five. That result was just behind the corner - as Vicky was 0.7 seconds off a first podium in Imola, at her third race weekend in GT racing. The 2022 season finale at Mugello was yet another step forward, and Vicky - alongside experienced racer Vito Postiglione - would finally climb the podium in the GT Cup ProAm class at the Tuscan racetrack, rounding out a highly positive debut season. With new-found challenges in the extremely competitive world of GTs, Piria committed to a longer term plan and joined quickly-growing team Enrico Fulgenzi Racing, which has become one of the leading forces in the GT Cup and Italian Porsche Carrera Cup championship. Piria would team up with Kikko Galbiati - who had raced in the main GT3 class in 2022 - at the wheel of the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 992. Vicky had her first taste of the new-gen car at Mugello earlier in May, where she entered a Peroni Promotion racing weekend in order to acclimate with the new car and team. Despite a start from pitlane, Piria was fifth overall and won in class - in a very encouraging start of the racing season. With several teams opting to skip the Italian GT Endurance season opener at Pergusa, Enrico Fulgenzi Racing kicked off its season at Mugello on 7-9 July, eager to discover the potential of the new Piria-Galbiati driver pairing. Throughout the practice sessions, Piria and her teammate were solidly in the top three in GT Cup Pro-Am and close to a top five overall in GT Cup. Qualifying revealed to be a further step forward: Galbiati set the second fastest time with a 1:52.138 that brought the #125 Porsche just behind the fast #151 Lamborghini driven by Milos Pavlovic. In Q2, Piria held second - just seven tenths from the #111 Best Lap Ferrari 488 Challenge of Luca Demarchi. It was then Galbiati's turn once again in Q3 - and, despite setting the third fastest lap among the GT Cup ProAm entries, the EFR duo clinched a second place on the grid based on the combined results. "At the beginning we were not flying, we still had something to adjust but we really worked hard in the practice sessions to keep improving our pace", Piria summed up. "Qualifying was good - we were second in class, and we knew we would be fast also compared to other crews around us."
Temperatures on Sunday made for a very demanding two-hour race in extreme heat - which put drivers and machines at test on a notoriously proving circuit like Mugello. Kikko Galbiati lined up alongside class pole-sitter Sabatino di Mare (#111 Best Lap Ferrari 488 Challenge) and got behind the wheel for the first stint of the race. Galbiati had a clean start and held second, just behind Di Mare who mingled with the GT3 cars just ahead - briefly passing the #1 Audi Sport Italia of Sandy Stuvik. On the second lap, though, Galbiati was already in the gearbox of the #111 Ferrari - while at the same time he defended from the #222 Krypton Motorsport Porsche 992, as the top five entries in GT Cup followed each other closely in a tight battle. Galbiati managed to overtake Di Mare for the lead with a brilliant maneuver at turn 2, having switched back after taking the outside line at Turn 1. Experienced GT racer Milos Pavlovic (#151 Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini) was also making up positions and the Serbian driver was eventually able to snatch the lead from Galbiati, who avoided unnecessary risks and settled in second. Stefano Pezzucchi (#222 Krypton Porsche) caught up with Galbiati, but after going deep into turn 1, Pezzucchi lost out to the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing Porsche. A safety car with 90 minutes to go postponed the first pit window, when GT3 Pro frontrunner Raul Guzman (#54 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini) was hit and sent into the gravel at turn 1 by a lapped car; Kikko Galbiati saw his gap being wiped out after the first driving stint. The race resumed 4 minutes later - and Galbiati attacked the Lamborghini Huracan of Pavlovic, but both would lose a position to Pezzucchi, as the latter made a double pass stick on the inside of turn 1. The action, though, was short-lived, as the two BMW Ceccato Racing sister cars collided and Stefano Comandini had to retire his #7 M4 GT3. Under full course yellow, Galbiati pitted and handed over to Vicky Piria - who started her first stint of the season. Pavlovic had stayed out in the GT Cup-leading #151 Lambo - but the Bonaldi Racing entry kept the class lead after the pit stop once Michael Fischbaum took over. The neutralization was extended when the #1 Audi Sport Italia came to a halt on track and had to be retrieved by the marshals. The green flag waved once again with 66 minutes left on the clock: with a BMW GT3 Pro car in between her GT Cup rival ahead, Piria perfectly managed the restart and took the ProAm class lead at turn 1, having surprised both Nicolosi and Fischbaum. Piria was therefore third in GT Cup, following the Lamborghinis of Fabi and Moretti. Vicky kept Demarchi (#111 Best Lap Ferrari) at bay and had a flawless run in the central stint of the race; she kept chipping away as positions settled. When the second pit window opened, Enrico Fulgenzi Racing opted to keep Vicky out on track, as the Italian racer set solid lap times and moved up to fifth overall. She would then pit with 40 minutes to go, handing back the reins of the #125 Porsche 992 to Kikko Galbiati from the lead in GT Cup ProAm and second in GT Cup; positions that Galbiati would maintain once the pit window closed.
In the closing stages of the race, Galbiati hunted down Filippo Lazzaroni - who had taken over from Marzio Moretti in the #232 Bonaldi Racing's Lamborghini. Piria's teammate was lapping significantly faster and eventually snatched the overall GT Cup lead with 10 minutes to go. Once ahead, Galbiati pulled away and crossed the finish line of the two-hour race as the leader in both GT Cup and ProAm.
"It was a great weekend" - Piria told us after the race. "Enrico [Fulgenzi, team owner] believed in this driver pairing and we came here in Mugello with very little preparation because it was only the second time I had driven this car. Luckily, the first time was here as well - and it was Kikko's second time in this car as well" - she explained. "Honestly, I was not expecting to win in GTCup overall, maybe I was expecting a podium in overall and ProAm - but we brought it home", Vicky added. "I managed my restart well after the safety car and kept my position - then Kikko worked his magic in the last 10 minutes and passed the leader." It was Vicky's first ever victory in Italian GT and in GT racing, at only her second season - and fifth race meeting - in the series. Her adaptation from single-seater has been progressive and steady - and her second season already proved to be a further step forward. "I'm happy because I'm already feeling at home in the team - we have a great chemistry with everyone in the team and I hope this is just the beginning of something bigger." The Italian GT Endurance season will resume at Monza after the summer break, on 15-17 September.
Additional reporting: Andrea Tasselli & Davide Persiani