Vicky Piria takes dominant win at Vallelunga in Italian GT season finale
Updated: Oct 23
Vicky Piria completed her second season in GT racing with her second major victory, following a dominant weekend at Vallelunga for the season finale of the 2023 Italian GT Endurance series.
Vicky Piria completed her second season in Italian GT with her second victory, following a dominant weekend at Vallelunga for the season finale of the 2023 Italian GT Endurance series. Piria, who shared the wheel of the #125 Enrico Fulgenzi Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup with teammate Kikko Galbiati, leaves the 4.085 km circuit located just outside the Italian capital with the Vice-Champion title in the GT Cup ProAm class, having collected two race wins and a second place in the three races contested. After several seasons in single seaters, Piria adapted quickly to GT racing and focused on her first ever year of competitions in Italian GT in 2022. In the four rounds of the Sprint series, Piria made extensive progress and claimed her first podium in class at the final round in Mugello. She was then announced as part of the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing team for the 2024 Endurance series campaign, switching from the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car to the new 992 GT3 Cup. With close to no testing, Piria entered a test race in the Peroni Promotion package earlier this year, securing class victory at Mugello and crucially learning the basics of the new car. While the team opted to sit out the opening Italian GT race at Pergusa, Piria and Galbiati were soon on top form for the Mugello round, where they secured a spectacular win in both the GT Cup and GT Cup ProAm classes. Vicky built on the momentum of her first GT racing success and headed to Monza aware of the challenges of her Porsche car compared to some other vehicles at the Temple of Speed. Nevertheless, Piria and Galbiati ran solidly all race and grabbed a valuable second place finish. Entering the final race meeting at Vallelunga - a technical and tricky track with a mix of very fast corners and slow, tight sections - Piria had to reacclimate with the track, having last raced there in formula cars in 2011.
During the free practice sessions, Piria made some significant improvements and, paired with Galbiati's fast pace, it was soon clear that the team would have good chances of a strong finish on race pace. The #151 Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini driven by Milos Pavlovic and Michael Fischbaum, though, would soon emerge as their closest rival: the fast Serbian racer in fact had the upper hand in all FP1 and FP3, while Galbiati/Piria led the second practice on Friday afternoon. Galbiati took on driving duties for the first qualifying session: he set a 1:35.251 lap that put the #125 Porsche in second place in class, only a tenth of a second behind Pavlovic's Lamborghini. It was then Vicky's time to get behind the wheel for Q2 and the Italian racer had an equally good run, securing second in class three tenths behind the #111 Best Lap Ferrari of Luca Demarchi. While her run was interrupted by a red flag mid-way through the session, Vicky managed to set her best sectors in the later stages to clock her best lap up until that point. Kikko Galbiati was therefore back aboard the EF Racing Porsche 992 for the final 15 minute session: Vicky's teammate further improved her previous benchmark and, with a 1:35.185 lap, was again second fastest. As the starting grid would be set according to combined lap times from the three sessions, though, Piria's strong middle stint revealed pivotal in securing GT-Cup ProAm pole position, thanks to a combined time of 4:47.118. Under clear skies, the final two-hour race of the season was underway on Sunday at 12pm local, in front of the many Italian fans gathered at Vallelunga. Galbiati was the elected driver to take the start and he had a brilliant launch which allowed him to comfortably lead the class field, also passing a few GT3 cars in the process. Home hero Giancarlo Fisichella retained the top spot overall, ahead of Stuart Middleton and Eliseo Donno. Over the first lap, Galbiati had cleared all the GT Cup-Am cars and started to put pressure on the former F2 racer Mahaveer Raghunathan, at the wheel of the #16 Imperiale Lamborghini. Milos Pavlovic, though, made up ground and closed in over the following laps, as the Bonaldi Lamborghini had been the EF Racing's closest rival all weekend. Pavlovic made a move stick for the lead on lap 4, although Galbiati remained close behind. Kikko set fast and consistent laps, but the Lamborghini was a few tenths faster.
After a small mistake, overall leader Giancarlo Fisichella came under pressure from the Imperiale Lamborghini driven by Stuart Middleton, but the British driver couldn't find a gap. As positions settled, Galbiati clocked a 1:36.079 on lap 14 - which was a team's personal best. The championship rival #11 Best Lap Ferrari took no risks and ran in P14 overall, having a healthy gap. The first pit window opened and Fisichella handed over to Tommaso Mosca from the overall lead - after Middleton had lost a few seconds after he had gone wide into the grass at Curvone. After the pit stop, though, Gilardoni - now at the wheel of the Imperiale Huracan - found himself in the virtual lead. Kikko Galbiati ran as high as fifth overall, before he brought the #125 EF Racing Porsche into pit lane for the first driver change: Vicky Piria took over driving duties on lap 30, one lap earlier than the class-leading Bonaldi Lamborghini. Piria rejoined eleventh overall and second in class, behind Michael Fischbaum. Piria, though, was almost five seconds per lap faster than the German driver and she made a pass for the lead on lap 35, having gained a remarkable amount of time in a handful of laps. Vicky improved her times at every lap, gaining over 5 seconds per lap and really built the foundation for a strong result in the closing stint. Meanwhile, Mosca caught up with Gilardoni and the overall leaders made contact, resulting in the Lamborghini facing the wrong way. Fischbaum pitted again once the second window opened and Piria stayed out and set her personal best; the Italian had a really strong stint in the lead before she handed back over to Kikko Galbiati on lap 50. With now 35 minutes left on the clock, Galbiati held the class lead, with Milos Pavlovic gaining back second once Sabatino Di Mare started his stint in the #111 Ferrari. Galbiati has stellar pace and, with several laps under the 1:36 mark, attempted to extend his gap to the fast Pavlovic.
Once back in the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari, Giancarlo Fisichella held the overall lead, but the car was under investigation due to the previous contact with the Imperiale Lambo. Raul Guzman, meanwhile, had closed in again - and a post-race penalty ended up handing the overall victory to the Lamborghini driven by Kevin Gilardoni, Raul Guzman and Stuart Middleton. With a 30 second margin to manage in the GT Cup class, Galbiati kept up the pace and held a safety margin of 28 seconds as the race entered its final 5 minutes. Both Nico Menzel (#151 Porsche) and Milos Pavlovic, in fact, were struggling to outpace the Enrico Fulgenzi Racing Porsche 992, as Galbiati also cleared the Audi Sport GT3 Audi of Sandy Stuvik after the latter hit trouble. At the end of an outstanding season finale at Vallelunga, Kikko Galbiati and Vicky Piria secured their second win out of three races, in an utterly dominant performance among the GT Cup entries. It was a particularly positive race for Piria, whose flawless second stint made the difference in building a safe gap.
"I'm super happy because Vallelunga is a track where I had not raced in 10 years and last time it was in formulas." - Vicky told us after the weekend. "Given the fact that it was the last race of the season and I had proven myself, so I was more confident. I still have room for improvement in qualifying, but in the races I showed I can run well." Vicky completes her second season in GT racing with second place in the championship standings, albeit even on point with the Demarchi/Patrinicola/Di Mare trio. Both teams have in fact collected two wins and a second place finish, and with only three out of the four rounds counting towards the championship, dropped score meant that both crews totalled 55 points. The first round at Pergusa proved crucial for the #111 Best Lap team, who claimed the Italian title in the GT Cup ProAm class.
"We really had a strong race, winning by a good margin. I'm really happy because it was a short but good season and I'm already working on next year", Piria concluded. Despite coming second for the smallest of margins, Piria's move to EF Racing proved a very successful one and the Italian driver is clearly adapting fast to endurance racing. Her consistency in the longer race stints is particularly impressive, as she continues to unlock potential since switching to GT racing. If her rookie season in Italian GT was an impressive one, she left an even bigger mark in her second season - and will aim to continue on this path into 2024.