Ferraris secured three wins and a third place in the GT Cup season opener, while they struggled in round two of the NLS, which was dogged by bad weather. In the GT World Challenge America at the Sonoma track, Conquest Racing’s 296 GT3 finished second place in the Pro class in the second race of the weekend of 1 and 2 April.
GT WC America. The new Ferrari 296 GT3 scored its first podium finish in international competition on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway in a race that came down to a pair of last-lap passes and a sprint to the checkered flag.
Starting at the back of the Pro field, Alessandro Balzan took the No. 21 Conquest Racing up to the lead in the 90-minute event. Balzan made a pass for the lead shortly after the pit window opened, and then stayed out to build up a margin over his competition. Manny Franco returned to the race in second and was involved in a terrific four-car battle for the remainder of the race.
Coming up short after several runs, Franco then made a last-lap pass with slight side-to-side contact. Ashton Harrison retaliated, though, coming up with a pass to regain the lead with two turns remaining. Franco held tough, coming up only 0.336-seconds short of giving the new Ferrari its first victory. Conquest Racing finished fifth in Saturday’s season opener, the debut of the Ferrari 296 in international SRO competition. Ferrari’s global GT platform made its debut earlier this year in IMSA action at Daytona and Sebring in the Florida endurance classics.
In Pro-Am class, Ryan Dalziel and Justin Wetherill drove the No. 33 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 to 11th in Race 2, two positions lower than their finish on Saturday. Dalziel started 10th but worked up to sixth before his pit stop at the midway point.
Next up for the GT World Challenge America with be at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, with races on April 29-30.
GT Cup. Three victories out of four races and pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session capture the overwhelming supremacy of AF Corse’s Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo in the GT Cup Championship opening round, contested at the Donington circuit. With the father-son pairing of Graham-Dan De Zille at the wheel, the Piacenza-based team’s car dominated the GTC class in both the first 25-minute Sprint Race and the two 50-minute endurance Pit Stop Races, also claiming third place in Sunday’s speed test.
The next round is at the Brands Hatch circuit on 29 and 30 April.
NLS. It was a tough weekend for the three Ferrari 296 GT3s competing in round two of the Nürburgring Endurance Series, the 4 Hours of Nimex, held in poor and unpredictable weather that affected the race and the cars’ performance.
After posting the fastest time in the SP9 Pro-Am class qualifying, the Ferrari 296 GT3 of WTM by Rinaldi Racing, with Leonard Weiss, Jochen Krumbach and Indy Dontje at the wheel, had to retire from the race with about 1.5 hours remaining.
The Racing One team’s fate was no better in the same class. Christian Kohlhaas and Jody Fannin debuted in the 296 GT3 but did not start the race after qualifying. Finally, Frikadelli Racing also had a bad day in the SP9 PRO. After a podium in the season opener, they finished at the back of the pack with a completely new crew of Earl Bamber, Nick Catsburg and David Pittard.
The next event at the “Green Hell” of Nürburgring will be on 15 April, with the 54th ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy, which rounds off the first third of the season.