St. Petersburg, Fla. – Forty Pirelli World Challenge drivers across the series’ GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS classes are set to battle it out March 11-13 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, part of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix weekend. Drivers will race Rounds 3 and 4, part of the Pirelli World Challenge St. Petersburg Grand Prix presented by Cadillac. This weekend marks the 11th visit, and sixth straight season PWC will race at the 14-turn 1.8-mile temporary street course.
O’Connell and Cooper lead Championship Heading into St. Petersburg – GT Preview
The Pirelli World Challenge GT class features some of the best sports car racing on the planet – over 10 world-renowned manufacturers including Acura, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche are represented by some of the top drivers in the world.
Four-time and defending 2015 GT Driver’s Champion Johnny O’Connell started the 2016 season with a win in Round 2 last weekend at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to go along with a 5th in Round 1 – O’Connell leads the Driver’s Championship heading into St. Petersburg with 190 points. O’Connell will pilot the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3. O’Connell’s teammate Michael Cooper, the 2015 GTS Driver’s Champion, scored a 2nd and a 3rd at Circuit of the Americas and comes into the weekend second overall only two points behind O’Connell with 188. He will pilot the Cadillac Racing No. 8 ATS-V.R GT3.
You have to go back to 2011 to see another driver listed as the PWC GT champion. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long came out on top that season and he returns to the series to pilot the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long won Round 1 at Circuit of the Americas, but did not finish Round 2 after his Porsche hit the wall after contact with James Davison in the Nissan GT-R. Long’s teammate is up-and-coming driver Michael Lewis in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long and Lewis will not only look to dethrone O’Connell, but help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer’s Champion in 2016.
Nissan Motorsports and Always Evolving return with two GT-R GT3s for Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. Davison comes into the weekend sixth in Driver’s Championship points – he will pilot the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3. Heitkotter will drive the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R and comes into the weekend seventh in the championship points standings.
K-PAX Racing returns with three McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, McLaren GT Academy Driver and 2015 GT Cup Driver’s Champion Colin Thompson, and young up-and-comer Austin Cindric. Parente comes into the series with an impressive racing resume including winning the 2005 British Formula 3 Championship, the 2007 World Series by Renault Championship and the 2015 International GT Open Championship – he will drive the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Thompson dominated in GT Cup last year winning 13 of 18 class races and will pilot the No. 13 K-PAX Racing machine. Cindric has raced in a number of series previously including Mazda’s Road to Indy’s USF2000 series and the Global Rally Cross Championship and will pilot the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Thompson sits third in championship points standings while Parente is fourth.
Up-and-coming sportscar racer Kyle Marcelli will drive the No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8. Marcelli sits fifth overall in the GT Driver’s Championship coming into the weekend.
Absolute Racing joins the series and will run two Bentley Continental GT3s with Adderly Fong and Andrew Palmer piloting the cars. Fong won the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup and was Vice Champion of the 2015 GT Asia series, while Palmer returns to PWC last competing in the series in 2014 – Palmer was the 2015 North American Endurance Cup (LMPC) Driver’s Champion. Fong will drive the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, while Palmer drives the No. 87 machine. Palmer currently sits eighth in the championship.
Sports car veteran Jon Fogarty enters his second year in PWC in the No. 99 Gainsco Auto Insurance /Bob Stallings Racing McLaren 650S. Fogarty’s impressive racing resume includes 16 career Rolex Series victories, while being the 2007 and 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Co-Champion. Fogarty finished 3rd in Round 2 at COTA and comes into the weekend 10th in the championship.
Calvert Dynamics Racing enters the No. 78 Phoenix Performance Porsche 911 GT3 R for Andrew Davis. Davis comes off a 2015 campaign that saw him co-drive the Championship-winning car in the GS Class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship. Among many racing accomplishments, the Athens, Georgia resident has an extensive history with Porsche, winning the 2011 Rolex GT Championship for the German manufacturer.
Seven-time series Driver’s Champion Peter Cunningham owns almost every statistical record in the series and will look to add to it in 2016 behind the wheel of the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing’s Acura TLX-GT. Cunningham’s teammate Ryan Eversley won at St. Petersburg last year and finished sixth overall in the GT Championship in 2015 – he will run the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT. An additional note on the Acura TLX-GT – the platform is now in line with FIA GT3 standards and moves from an all-wheel to a rear-wheel drive platform matching all of the other platforms in the GT class.
Rounding out the 17-car GT field is Duncan Ende, in the No. 67 Merchant Services LTD/Linospresso USA TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Fuentes Leads GTA Driver’s Championship after Sweeping COTA – GTA Class Preview
The GTA driver classification recognizes gentlemen drivers competing in GT class machinery. At season’s end, the GTA driver that accumulates the most points will be awarded the GTA Championship and the Sportsman Cup presented by B.R.M Chronographes. Along with the cup, a B.R.M championship chronograph will go to the champion.
Martin Fuentes swept the weekend at COTA winning both Round 1 and 2. He enters the weekend leading the GTA Driver’s Championship with 220 points and will pilot the No. 07 Hublot, Under Armour Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
The 2015 GTA Driver’s Champion Frankie Montecalvo sits third in the championship with 178 points and will pilot the No. 66 DIME Racing Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Montecalvo put together a dominating second half of 2015 winning seven of the final nine races and will be sure to challenge Fuentes throughout the 2016 season.
The GTA field also includes Jorge De La Torre in the No. 4 De La Torre Racing Motor Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3. De La Torre sits sixth in the GTA championship coming into St. Pete.
Urry and Udell Set to Continue Duel at St. Pete – GT Cup Preview
Entering its sophomore season in 2016, GT Cup is a spec class featuring drivers piloting the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Sloan Urry, in the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup comes into St. Pete having won his first career PWC win last weekend in Round 2 – he sits atop the GT Cup Driver’s Championship standings heading into this weekend with 222 points.
Up-and-coming driver Alec Udell, piloting the No. 19 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup also looks to make a push for the podium at St. Pete. Udell won in Round 1 at COTA, his fourth career PWC win. He comes into the St. Pete weekend second in GT Cup points with 208.
Corey Fergus, the 2015 TC Driver’s Champion, has moved up into the class and will pilot the No. 00 Byers Porsche, US LED, Motul Motorsports Promotions machine. Fergus had an impressive 2015 campaign scoring three TC wins and 13 top 5 finishes – he’ll look to carry that momentum into 2016. He sits fourth in class driver’s championship points.
Preston Calvert returns in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Calvert sits seventh in the GT Cup standings following Rounds 1 and 2 at COTA.
Blackdog Speed Shop Looks to Continue Defense of its Championship – GTS Class Overview
The GTS class has featured some of the best wheel-to-wheel competition seen in racing in recent years. And 2016 will be no different with any of six or seven different drivers piloting machinery from any of six or seven different manufacturers having a shot to win a GTS race.
With defending GTS Driver’s Champion Cooper moving up to GT, four-time series and two-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach will pilot the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28. Since 2013, a Blackdog Chevy has claimed the GTS Championship – Aschenbach did so in 2013 and 2014, with Cooper winning in 2015. Aschenbach got off to a good start at COTA winning Round 1 and finished second in Round 2 and sits atop the GTS Driver’s Championship standings heading into St. Pete. He will team with series veteran Tony Gaples who will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Z28. Gaples will make his 151th career start at COTA.
Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302, and 16-year-old phenom Nate Stacy in the No. 14 Rehagen Racing/Stacy Racing machine team up to lead the Ford charge. Roush and Stacy look to help Ford win its second consecutive Manufacturer’s Championship in 2016. Stacy had a good start to the 2016 season finishing second in Round 1 and fourth in Round 2.
ANSA Autosport is one of a number of new teams joining the series as well as debuting a new platform in PWC. Brett Sandberg will pilot the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 – Sandberg won Round 2 at COTA and finished sixth in Round 1. Teammate Dore Chaponick Jr. will pilot the No. 12 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4.
TRG-AMR brings two Aston Martin Vantage GT4’s to the GTS battle with Sean Gibbons driving the No. 7 car, and Derek DeBoer and Jason Alexandridis sharing duties in the No. 09 car.
JCR Motorsports and Jeff Courtney lead a number of teams bringing the Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 into the series – Courtney will pilot the No. 99 RecStuff.com, Kenda machine. Series veteran Charles Espenlaub returns to the series piloting the No. 93 AK&J Sealants RT Motorsports Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4. Espenlaub has 91 PWC starts in the series with one win – he makes his first start in the series since 2010.
Yet another team bringing a new platform to PWC is the Performance Motorsports Group. Rookie Parker Chase will pilot the team’s No. 19 Ginetta GT4. Parker will make his third career start in PWC start at St. Petersburg.
Five-time driver’s champion Pierre Kleinubing returns to the series to compete for the first time in PWC since 2010. In 131 series starts, Kleinubing has 29 wins. He will pilot the No. 73 Compass360 Racing Audi TT RS.
Rounding out the 16-car field is Kevin Marshall, in the No. 44 VSA Motorsports Lotus GT4, Mark Klenin, in the No. 62 Schomp/Premiere Copy Klenin Performance Racing Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, Anthony Mantella in the No. 8 Gulf KTM X-Bow GT4, and teammate Martin Barkey in the No. 80 MBRP Sportlab Sawmill Creative car.
Streets of St. Petersburg: 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course
Thursday, March 10:
5:10 – 5:30 PM, GTS Qualifying
Friday, March 11
9:35 – 9:55 AM, GT-GTA-GT Cup Qualifying
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS)
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com):
Friday, March 11
12:20 – 1:20 PM GTS Race # 1
Saturday, March 12
9:35 – 10:35 AM GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 1
5:10 – 6 PM GTS Race #2
Sunday, March 13
3:15 – 4:15 PM GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 2
All times listed above Eastern
Television (on CBS Sports Network):
On CBS Sports Network
GT: March 20, 12 Noon
GTS: March 27, 3 PM