Giancarlo Vilarinho turned a Formula BMW Americas pole position into a race win for the sixth time this season as the Brazilian stormed to victory Saturday in Round 10 of the Formula BMW Americas event at Road America.
Vilarinho scored his first victory since May with a wire-to-wire romp around the 4.048-mile Road America circuit, besting Eurointernational teammate Gabby Chaves by 5.191 seconds to claim the win. Vilarinho took the lead heading into the first corner and fended off a couple of early advances by the Colombia-American driver before powering away to the checkered flag.
"It was a very good race for us, but I couldn't enjoy it until after the first couple laps, because those were tough," Vilarinho recalled. "We knew it would be important to start up front, and we needed to have a good result to stay in the championship. We were able to get it done today, but there are two more races to go this weekend."
Vilarinho's five-second margin of victory belies how hard-fought this event was over 10 grueling trips around the interminable Elkhart Lake road course. Chaves ended up with a gap of nearly two seconds back to third-placed Gianmarco Raimondo, but that advantage didn't tell the tale of a race that went back and forth between the quartet of drivers battling from second through fifth place.
Chaves scrapped with Raimondo and Australian James Kovacic through the first nine laps, with Kovacic holding down second place for most of the event ahead of Chaves. Both
drivers had made daring passes on numerous occasions throughout the race, with Chaves finally wresting second away from Kovacic with three laps to go.
"It was a serious battle out there and guys were really fighting hard the whole way," Chaves said. "In the end we were able to get on the podium and score some good points, so we can keep our lead in the championship."
The second-place result from Chaves helped him maintain his season-long streak of finishing on the podium in every race, but the trip for Raimondo's podium berth was far
more harrowing for the Canadian. He was fourth heading into the last lap, but was able to pressure Kovacic coming out of Turn Three and claimed the third position for his Autotecnica team. His Canadian stablemate Alex Ellis capped a stellar drive that saw him finish fourth and post the fastest lap of the race after an early-race spin had demoted him clear to 11th place.
"I was able to get a good run on James and he went off a little bit, and I took advantage," Raimondo said. "That was the kind of race we expect when we come to Road America and it was a great start to the weekend for us."
Team Apex's Joao Horto rounded out the top five with one of his strongest drives of the season. The Brazilian was part of the lead group the entire way, and came home with a fifth-place run, nipping Eurointernational's Michael Lewis by less than a car length at the finish line to drop the Californian to sixth.
Kovacic suffered a mechanical problem after going briefly off-course, which dropped him from third to 11th in the final standings. The Aussie was able to maintain his lead in the rookie point standings, but saw Ellis cut the lead from 23 to 15 points with four events to run. Chaves was able to hold on to his championship lead as well, but also saw it slashed from 18 to 13 points after 10 rounds.