Late race pass pays off for Aschenbach Sunday at Sonoma Raceway in Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 18 Finale

Top 6 finishers are in 6 different auto makes in 50-minute feature

SONOMA, Calif. – Newly-crowned GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., made a dramatic late-race pass for the lead Sunday in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 18 50-minute race at Sonoma Raceway and drove the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R to his second 2017 win.

Aschenbach, a three-time GTS titleholder, grabbed the lead in turn two from pole-sitter and Saturday race winner Ian James of Paradise Valley, Ariz., on a restart on lap 15 and drove to a 1.537-second victory. Aschenbach clinched his GTS series title after Round 16 in the COTA PWC weekend two weeks ago.

Starting third Sunday, Aschenbach stayed with James for the six laps before the Panoz driver extended his advantage in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT sports car. Lawson then had to fight off Martin Barkey of Huntsville, Ont., Canada in the No. 80 Mantella Autosport KTM X-Bow and 16-year-old Parker Chase of New Braunsfels, Tex., in the No. 19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta G55.

After a spin in turn 12 by Bob Michaelian brought out the yellow flag, the field bunched up for a restart and Aschenbach took advantage of an opening by James and never looked back on the 2.35-mile, 12-turn road circuit. Rodrigo Baptista of Brazil finished third in the No. 3 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR.

“Any time you get into a season, the first thing you think about is race wins and that’s what we’re here for,” said Aschenbach. “As a driver, we want to win races and forget about the championship until the end of the year. It was really frustrating since we were always running second or third. You can look at it as a bad thing or you can also look at it as the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R is really strong at a variety of tracks. I’m just really pleased with the season and to be able to wrap up Manufacturer’s championship is a huge feat. I would give up Drivers or Team championships to win the Manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet because that’s what’s more important to us. I felt that if I could get a good run at the restart, I might have a chance to pass Ian (James).”

“I got a little bit of gap off the standing start and then Lawson (Aschenbach) had his mirrors full from the KTM (Barkey),” said James. “That allowed me to get a little bit of a gap. We were pushing hard but it seemed under control. On the restart, Lawson’s Camaro got around me on the inside. We try to race each other clean so I left him a lane and he took it. It was a good move. At the beginning of the year, we were really struggling. The run we’ve had is great. I’ve enjoyed racing in this class with these guys and everybody else out there. The cars are fun to drive, wheel-to-wheel. As a racing driver, you want to win races. We’re all fortunate to be able to do it and race at these great tracks. It’s been ten years since I raced here and it’s a hell of a track.”

“It was a great race for our car,” said Baptista. “I don’t think our car is the best here because of the power, but I did the best that I could. I’m happy to finish the year with a podium. This is a great first year for me. I came here to check out the tracks, not really ready to go straight for a championship. I saw that I had a chance to go for the championship which was more than I ever expected.”

The race was halted at lap 19 Sunday when GTS Am race leader Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., made contact in turn eight with Derek DeBoer of Ashland, Ore., in the No. 007 TRG-AMG Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and Gaples slammed the outside wall hard. Gaples was able to walk away from his No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R following the incident. He was transported to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., for observation.

With the race concluded after the incident, the finish order was returned to lap 18 where Gaples was awarded the GTS Am victory, his first GTS class win in 186 starts in Pirelli World Challenge competition.

DeBoer placed second in the GTS Am division Sunday with third going to George Kurtz also of Paradise Valley, Ariz., in the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG McLaren 570S. Kurtz, who won nine races in the GTS Am category, easily won the GTS Am drivers’ championship over Gaples and Mark Klenin of Lone Tree, Colo., in the No. 62 Tender Belly/KPR McLaren 570S.

Aschenback totaled 366 points for his GTS drivers title over James at 303 and Barkey at 267. The Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche teammates Rodrigo Baptista of Brazil and Nate Stacy of Owasso, Okla., placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Chevrolet captured its fifth Pirelli World Challenge Manfacturers championship today with Aschenbach’s victory, as Chevrolet scored 120 to Panoz’ 111 and Porsche’s 107.

The Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro squad won the GTS Team point crown with 364 followed by Flying Lizard Motorsports at 322 and Team Panoz Racing at 299.

Aschenbach, Kurtz and other Pirelli World Challenge champions will be awarded Sunday night (Sept. 17) at The Doubletee in Rohnert Park, Calif.

SONOMA, Calif. – Race results for Sunday’s Pirelli World Challenge GTS 50-minute Round 18 event at the PWC Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. All results are provisional until posted Final.

Pos,PIC,Class,Name,Hometown,Car,Laps,Status,Race Time,Gap
1,1, Pro,Lawson ASCHENBACH,Palm Beach Gardens, FL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,18,Running,37:47.505,
2,2, Pro,Ian JAMES,Paradise Valley, AZ,Panoz Avezzano GT,18,Running,37:49.042,1.537
3,3, Pro,Rodrigo BAPTISTA,Sao Paulo, Brazil,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,18,Running,37:49.774,2.269
4,4, Pro,Nate STACY,Tulsa, OK,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,18,Running,37:51.904,4.399
5,5, Pro,Drew STAVELEY,Salt Lake City, UT,Ginetta G55,18,Running,37:53.295,5.790
6,1, Am,Tony GAPLES,Libertyville, IL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,18,Running,37:55.588,8.083
7,2, Am,Derek DeBOER,Ashland, OR,Aston Martin Vantage GT4,18,Running,37:56.313,8.808
8,6, Pro,Parker CHASE,New Braunsfels, TX,Ginetta G55,18,Running,37:57.687,10.182
9,3, Am,George KURTZ,Paradise Valley, AZ,McLaren 570s GT4,18,Running,37:58.192,10.687
10,4, Am,Mark KLENIN,Lone Tree, CO,McLaren 570S GT4,18,Running,38:00.428,12.923
11,7, Pro,Alex LLOYD,Livermore, CA,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,18,Running,38:00.780,13.275
12,5, Am,Carter YEUNG,Los Angeles, CA,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,18,Running,38:03.817,16.312
13,8, Pro,Martin BARKEY,Huntsville, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,18,Running,38:42.100,54.595
14,6, Am,Frank GANNETT,Steamboat Springs, CO,Ginetta G55,11,Not Running,21:07.994,7 LAPS
15,7, Am,Bob MICHAELIAN,Seal Beach, CA,SIN R1 GT4,8,Not Running,14:16.846,10 LAPS