Capitalizing on their perfect point scores at the previous round, the Florida-based DragonSpeed team and driver Frankie Montecalvo clinched the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge team and driver titles in the GTA (amateur) class at California’s Sonoma Raceway on 30 August.
After qualifying handily on pole for race one at the 2.52-mile circuit, Montecalvo’s Mercedes AMG SLS was forced into a spin on the opening lap, rejoining in last place. The 24-year-old from Highlands, NJ then tore through the field to reach second in class by two-thirds distance, but without enough tire grip left to challenge GTA leader Christina Neilsen’s TRG Aston Martin. Along the way, Frankie set a scorching lap of 1m35.00s, fast enough to place him third overall on the grid for Sunday’s race. DragonSpeed teammates Eric Lux and Henrik Hedman (on his return to the series) finished sixth and seventh, reversing their qualifying order.
With the GTA crown in his sights, the start of race two saw Montecalvo taking care to avoid a first-lap melée among the GT runners to run sixth under the ensuing full-course yellow. Frankie led GTA from flag to flag and set another fastest lap to score maximum points and his sixth win from the last eight races. Just as impressively, he finished seventh overall, splitting GT title contenders James Davison and Johnny O’Connell. Lux and Hedman made it 1-2-3 for DragonSpeed on the GTA grid, only for Henrik to suffer a broken rim on the first lap when he was chopped by former points leader Henrique Cisneros, leaving Hedman to post third fastest lap in GTA on his charge back up the field. Lux, meanwhile, maintained his outstanding late-season form to come out on top of a race-long battle with the errant Cisneros and give DragonSpeed its second 1-2 result in as many weekends.
Victor Gomez IV enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in his Mapfre-backed GT Cup class Porsche. The teenager from San Juan, Puerto Rico claimed a pair of fifth places to confirm his hold on seventh in the class points and put him within reach of fifth going into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend.
“It’s a proud moment for all of us at DragonSpeed,” said team principal Elton Julian. “We’ve gone from scoring our first-ever race win at the start of this season to clinching two championships at the end of it. It couldn’t have happened without our amazing crew, the very fast and very tough Mercedes AMG SLS, and the commitment and skill shown by all four of our drivers. And now we’re leading the global AMG Customer Sports Championship team standings, so there won’t be any resting on our laurels at Laguna.”
“I’m delighted to be taking home my first championship in my first season as a solo driver,” said Frankie Montecalvo. “I’ll be back to sharing a car next season as part of the DragonSpeed LMP2 program, so I’m happy I’ve been able to show what I can do on my own this year. My goal is to earn a factory drive in the future, so that’s really important. But for today, I just hope everyone who’s helped me get here – Elton and the fantastic DragonSpeed crew, the Jeannettes, and my family most of all – feels that it’s been as worthwhile as I do; I’m grateful to all of them.”
The 20th and final round of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge takes place this Sunday 13 September at 1.35pm PDT with live coverage online at world-challengetv.com.