Ferrari Challenge North America: MacNeil wins after Hites penalty

A post-race time penalty handed to Benjamin Hites gave Cooper MacNeil victory in the opening Ferrari Challenge North America race at Mugello.

On-the-road winner Hites (TR3) looked set to reduce his points deficit to MacNeil to just three points with one race remaining, but was given a one-second penalty for passing the Scuderia Corsa driver when the safety car had been called on the penultimate lap following an accident on the pit straight for Gianni Grilli.

That promoted MacNeil to victory by 0.098s behind the safety car, which extends his advantage over Hites in the championship to 13 points with one race remaining.

After rebuffing MacNeil’s early challenge, poleman Hites had managed a one second gap back to MacNeil until he was delayed by lapped traffic at the Palgio left-hander. That allowed MacNeil to sweep around the outside and take the lead into the downhill right-hand hairpin at Correntaio.

Hites then put MacNeil under stern pressure and was right on his tail after MacNeil had an oversteery moment at turn one on lap 14.

Beginning their penultimate lap, the left-rear wheel of Grilli machine parted company and caused him to crash heavily into the pitwall. As MacNeil dodged the offending wheel, Hites lined him up for a pass and completed the move into turn one, but the positions were swapped after the race.

Ziad Ghandour (Boardwalk Ferrari) finished a lonely third and took victory in Pirelli-Am, which puts him level on points with HP Tech’s Neil Gehani for the class championship, while fourth-placed Mark Issa (Ferrari of Atlanta) took Coppa Shell honours after Brian Davis was demoted to fifth by a one-second post-race penalty.

Meanwhile, HP Tech driver Jay Schreibman overhauled early leader Brad Horstmann (Riley Motorsports) to take victory in the Shell-Am class.

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