TC Point Leader Paul Holton Wins TC Pole Friday at MRLS; Powell, O’Connell Score TCA, TCB Poles Respectively

Title battles come down to Round 11 and 12 Saturday

SALINAS, Calif. – Current Touring Car point leader Paul Holton of Orlando, Fla., added one more point to his margin Friday when he drove the No. 71 C360R Audi RS3 LMS sedan to the TC pole position at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the site of the final 2017 TC rounds set for Saturday.

Holton, who just turned 21, entered this weekend’s action with an eight-point advantage over veteran Nick Wittmer of Montreal, Que., Can., with the final two rounds (11 and12) scheduled for Saturday at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit east of picturesque Monterey Bay.

Holton clocked a quick lap of one minute, 35.474-seconds (84.3 miles per hour) to take the top spot in the 28-car Touring Car field, opening his point lead to nine points when the green flag falls for the Round 11 40-minute race Saturday at 9:50 a.m. PDT.

Second in TC qualifying went to four-time 2017 race winner Greg Liefooghe of San Francisco, Calif., with a 1:35.652 (84.2 m.p.h.) in the No. 20 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M235iR followed by Mark Drennan of San Jose, Calif., in the No. 54 Hooverspeed Mazda MX-5 at 1:35.698 (84.1 m.p.h.), N. Wittmer in the No. 91 ST Racing BMW M235iR at 1:35.751 (84.1 m.p.h.) and Karl Wittmer also of Montreal in the No. 99 Honda Ste. Rose Racing Honda Accord at 1:36.252 (83.7 m.p.h.).

Holton sits at 183 points going into Saturday’s events over Wittmer’s 175, Liefooghe at 162 and reigning TC champion Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., at 156 in the No. 1 Classic BMW BMW M235iR. Grahovec qualified 10thFriday at 1:36.913 (83.1 m.p.h.).

“The C360R guys gave me a really great car – it was almost perfect,” said Holton. “That (qualifying lap) was one of those laps where it was either going to be on the pole or it was going to be in the wall. Thankfully we got it on the pole. I don’t think I’ve sent a car off the Corkscrew as hard as I did that time, but this Audi RS3 LMS is really tough and it can handle stuff like that. Greg (Liefooghe) and Nick (Wittmer) kept me really honest there. I didn’t have anything left in the bag. I think tomorrow’s race is going to be nuts, especially with tire degradation. I’d really look for Mark Drennan in that MX-5 to be strong in the end. I know him from Spec Miata and he’s a serious shoe. And, that car doesn’t burn it’s tires off as much, where our heavy BMW and Audi RS3 tend to burn tires out a little bit. But, he could also help me out on the championship a little bit if there’s a buffer in there. So, I’m rooting for him to be right behind me.”

“It was a tough qualifying, especially after the five test/practice sessions we had so far this weekend,” said Nick Wittmer. “We were treating those sessions just like qualifying, and it was so tight for all the sessions, including qualifying. So tight, that if we even dropped a wheel, we would fall 3-4 positions. I did the best I could. I made a few mistakes, and ended up in 4th. The Championship is still right there for us. the other Championship guys are right in front, so hopefully, in the race, they will duke it out and give me an open door, so that I can take it home.”

In the TCA class, veteran Eric Powell also of Orlando took the No. 23 TechSport Racing Scion FR-S to the fastest time of the day at 1:41.680 (79.2 m.p.h.) followed by three-time 2017 race winner Kenny Murillo of Santa Rosa, Calif., in the No. 33 Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car at 1:41.788 (79.1 m.p.h.), defending TCA champion Elivan Goulart of Shelton, Conn., in the No. 70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car at 1:41.795 (79.1 m.p.h.), current TCA point leader Matthew Fassnacht of Madison, N.J., in the No. 74 S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car at 1:41.918 (79.0 m.p.h.) and Jeff Sexton of Austin, Tex., in the No. 89 Winding Road Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car at 1:43.681 (77.7 m.p.h.)

“Our car is really good,” said Powell. “TechSport has given me an amazing Scion FR-S. It’s a dream to drive every time I get into the car. I’m proud to be on the pole two races in a row. That one was a little tougher, it took us until the last lap to get it done. For some reason, everyone else’s car seemed to come in a bit quicker than ours, but I was able to get the job done. It’s awesome to get our own race, to be the feature event. Aside from that, it’s nice to not have to worry about incidents in the Touring Car class affecting our race.”

Fassnacht currently leads Goulart by 12 points entering Saturday’s two races set for 9:00 a.m. PDT for Round 11.

Canaan O’Connell of Chandler, Ariz., son of four-time Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Johnny O’Connell, paced the TCB qualifying in his No. 24 TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonic Friday with a time of 1:51.488 (72.2 m.p.h.). O’Connell, battling for the series point title, gained a valuable point for the pole position Friday.

Second in TCB qualifying was current point leader Jake Pipal of Oakdale, Calif., in the No. 6 Jake Pipal Racing Honda Fit at 1:52.036 (71.9 m.p.h.) followed by P.J. Groenke of Richmond Hill, Ont., Can., in the No. 25 TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonic at 1:53.124 (71.2 m.p.h.).

“I knew coming into this weekend that I had a mission,” said O’Connell. “I had to get pole position, win the first race, get the fastest lap, then win the second one. We’re so close – PJ (Groenke) and Jake (Pipal) and I – that I can’t hold anything back. This is a track that I grew up watching and dreaming of driving on, so I knew I didn’t have any time to waste. I look forward to everything tomorrow; the unbelievable competition between my teammate PJ and Jake and myself, the fact that we’re all one point away from each other in getting a championship – it all boils down to these next two races. For the Pirelli World Challenge fans, you’re going to see a phenomenal battle in TCB tomorrow and I look forward to every part of it.”

Round 11 races start with TCA/TCB at 9 a.m. PDT followed by TC at 9:50 a.m. Both races will be streamed live for free at World-Challenge.com and MotorTrendOnDemand.com.


SALINAS, Calif. – Qualifying results for Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Round 11 races starting at 9:00 a.m. Results are provisional until posted Final.

Pos,PIC,Class,Name,Hometown,Car,,Fastest Lap Time,Fastest Lap Avg. Speed
1,1, ,Paul HOLTON,Orlando, FL,Audi RS 3 LMS Club Sport,1:35.474,84.3
2,2, ,Greg LIEFOOGHE,San Francisco, CA,BMW M235iR,,1:35.652,84.2
3,3, ,Mark DRENNAN,San Jose, CA,Mazda MX-5,,1:35.698,84.1
4,4, ,Nick WITTMER,Montreal, Quebec, CA,BMW M235iR,7,1:35.751,84.1
5,5, ,Karl WITTMER,Montreal, Quebec, CA,Honda Accord,1:36.252,83.7
6,6, ,Mason FILIPPI,Alamo, CA,BMW M235iR,1:36.254,83.7
7,7, ,Pierre KLEINUBING,Coconut Creek, FL,BMW M235iR,1:36.343,83.6
8,8, ,Anthony MAGAGNOLI,Dexter, MI,BMW M235iR,1:36.761,83.2
9,9, ,Tony RIVERA,Oceanside, CA,Nissan 370Z,1:36.863,83.1
10,10, ,Toby GRAHOVEC,Celina, TX,BMW M235iR,1:36.913,83.1
11,11, ,Johan SCHWARTZ,Huntersville, NC,BMW M235iR,1:36.945,83.1
12,12, ,John WEISBERG,Webster, NY,Mazda MX-5,1:37.333,82.7
13,13, ,Anthony GERACI,Glen Cove, NY,Audi RS 3 LMS Club Sport,1:37.575,82.5
14,14, ,Nicolai ELGHANAYAN,Laguna Beach, CA,Lotus Exige,1:37.743,82.4
15,15, ,Aristotle BALOGH,Palo Alto, CA,BMW M235iR,1:37.762,82.4
16,16, ,JT COUPAL,Rochester, NY,Audi RS 3 LMS Club Sport,1:37.822,82.3
17,17, ,Jayson CLUNIE,Prince Albert, SK, CA,BMW M235iR,1:37.828,82.3
18,18, ,Travis WASHAY,Milford, CT,Audi RS 3 LMS Club Sport,1:37.863,82.3
19,19, ,Rodrigo SALES,Incline Village, NV,BMW M235iR,1:37.977,82.2
20,20, ,Henry SCHMITT,San Francisco, CA,BMW M235iR,1:38.034,82.1
21,21, ,Samantha TAN,Gormley, Ontario, CA,BMW M235iR,1:38.590,81.7
22,22, ,Scott THOMAS,Oklahoma City, OK,BMW M235iR,1:38.717,81.6
23,23, ,Chris OHMACHT,Franklin Lakes, NJ,BMW M235iR,1:39.389,81.0
24,24, ,Daren JORGENSEN,Austin, TX,BMW M235iR,1:39.662,80.8
25,25, ,Joshua FORAN,Odenville, AL,Honda Accord,1:39.789,80.7
26,26, ,Randy HALE,Haddam, CT,Mazda MX-5,1:40.160,80.4
27,1, A,Eric POWELL,Orlando, FL,Scion FR-S,1:41.680,79.2
28,2, A,Kenny MURILLO,Santa Rosa, CA,Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car,1:41.788,79.1
29,3, A,Elivan GOULART,Shelton, CT,Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car,1:41.795,79.1
30,4, A,Matthew FASSNACHT,Madison, NJ,Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car,1:41.918,79.0
31,5, A,Jeff SEXTON,Austin, TX,Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car,1:43.681,77.7
32,6, A,Shea HOLBROOK,Orlando, FL,Honda Civic Si,1:44.273,77.2
33,7, A,Kevin ANDERSON,Huntington Station, NY,Scion FR-S,1:46.048,75.9
34,8, A,Cameron PARSONS,Santa Ana, CA,Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car,1:47.990,74.6
35,9, A,Daniel MOEN,Rindge, NH,Mazda MX-5,1:49.704,73.4
36,10,A, Tom O’GORMAN,Mason, OH,Honda Civic Si,No Time
37,1, B,Canaan O’CONNELL,Chandler, AZ,Chevrolet Sonic,1:51.488,72.2
38,2, B,Jake PIPAL,Oakdale, CA,Honda Fit,1:52.036,71.9
39,3, B,P.J. GROENKE,Richmond Hill, Ontario, CA,Chevrolet Sonic,1:53.124,71.2
41,4, B,Damon SURZYSHYN,Winnipeg, MB,Mazda 2,1:56.635,69.0
42,5, B,Jasper DRENGLER,Shawano, WI,Honda Fit,1:56.648,69.0
43,6, B,James WILSON,Kyle, TX,Mazda 2,1:57.027,68.8
44,7, B,Stephanie ANDERSEN,Racine, WI,Mazda 2,1:59.276,67.5