WATKINS GLEN, NY – Bentley driver Alvaro Parente and Ferrari driver Toni Vilander topped the charts in Saturday morning’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America qualifying session presented by CrowdStrike at Watkins Glen International. The 30-minute session held at the scenic 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course located in upstate New York was split into two 15-minute segments to determine grids for the weekend’s two series races. Parente will start on pole for Saturday afternoon’s Round 9 while Vilander will head the field for Sunday’s Round 10.
Early in the first 15-minute qualifying segment for Round 9, Parente from Portugal in the K-PAX Racing #9 Bentley Continental GT3 went to the top of charts with a 1:43.492, followed by fellow K-PAX Racing driver Brazilian Rodrigo Baptista in the #3 Bentley Continental GT3 with a 1:43.801. Ferrari team R. Ferri Motorsport driver Brazilian Daniel Serra slotted into third behind the wheel of the #61 Ferrari 488 GT3 with a 1:43.827. In the Pro/Am division, Canadian Martin Barkey in the #80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX posted a 1:45.594 good for sixth overall on the charts and first in the class. Squadra Corse driver American Mark Issa in the #7 Ferrari 488 GT3 posted the quickest early time in the Am division, 12th overall on the charts with a 1:47.930.
Serra then improved his time to a 1:43.616 but not quick enough to move Parente off the top perch. US-based driver Christopher Cagnazzi behind the wheel of the #19 One11 Competition Ferrari 488 GT3 moved into 10th overall and 1st in the Am class with a 1:46.359.
Parente then solidified the top spot going faster at 1:43.320, followed by Serra who also posted a quicker time at 1:43.524. RealTime Racing’s Mike Hedlund in the #43 Acura NSX then slotted into 7th overall and first in Pro/Am class with a 1:45.580. Cagnazzi also posted a quicker time of 1:46.072 to remain in 10th and first in Am. Before the checkered flew, Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato in the #91 Porsche 911 GT3 R moved into 7th overall and tops in the Pro/Am class with a 1:45.291. Parente’s time held and he’ll start Round 9 at the head of the field. Serra will start alongside second on the grid with Baptista in the third position.
“We’re really happy with that lap, we’ve been chasing the Ferrari (#61) all weekend and in that first qualy it went really well,” said Parente. “Nice to get it on pole. Looking a bit harder for our second race (on Sunday) but we’ll see what we can do this afternoon.”
The second 15-minute session saw Serra’s teammate Finland’s Vilander take the #61 Ferrari to the top early with a 1:43.295. Baptista’s teammate Belgium’s Maxime Soulet in the #3 Bentley slotted into second with a 1:43.586, while Hedlund’s teammate Dane Cameron in the #43 Acura NSX posted a third fastest time of 1:43.766, first in Pro/Am.
In the Am class, Cagnazzi’s teammate Anthony Lazzaro posted the 12th quickest time with a 1:45.273, tops in the class.
DXDT Racing’s Ryan Dalziel then moved to the top of the Pro/Am class and third overall with a 1:43.684 in the #63 Mercedes-AMG GT3, while #96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 driver Takuya Shirasaka from Japan moved into 13th overall and 1st in Am with a 1:44.862.
At the checkered, Vilander’s time held for the pole. Soulet will start alongside in second, while Dalziel will start third and first in the Pro/Am division. Shirasaka will start 13th, and first in the Am division.
“Good qualifying (session),” said Vilander. “It’s nice to drive this weekend with Daniel Serra and nice to see Miguel (Molina, Vilander’s full-time driving teammate) doing well competing at Silverstone this weekend. We have tire warmers for this event, so we go in with warm tires which is nice. We have a lot of information and experience from the past so so far everything is good. For race 1 today we need to concentrate and have a good race then hopefully the weather holds for tomorrow’s race.”
Results are provisional until posted final. Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams and drivers now get set for Saturday’s 90-minute Round 9 race scheduled for a 3:10 pm EST green flag. Watch the live stream of the race at www.gt-world-challenge-america.com/watch-live.