Long, Fuentes, Udell and Sandberg Lead Exciting Driver’s Championship Battles in GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS as Pirelli World Challenge Heads to Sonoma Raceway
SONOMA, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2016) – Tight driver’s championship battles in GT, GT Cup and GTS and a potential championship clinch in GTA will be featured when the Pirelli World Challenge races in the penultimate 2016 event weekend at Sonoma Raceway, September 16-18, part of the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Cadillac.
Fifty series drivers across four PWC classes return to the track that 27 years ago featured the first-ever World Challenge race. GT and GTA drivers will race Rounds 18 and 19, while GT Cup pilots are set to race in Rounds 17 and 18. Rounds 16 and 17 are scheduled in GTS. The race weekend marks the 17th time the Pirelli World Challenge will race at the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course.
Long, Parente and Cooper Set for Showdown in Sonoma – GT Preview
With over 10 world–renowned manufacturers represented by some of the top drivers in the world, the GT class features some of the best sports car racing on the planet. Porsche Factory driver and former PWC 2011 GT Champion Patrick Long reclaimed the lead in the Driver’s Championship coming out of the Utah Motorsports Campus weekend after scoring a pair of thirds in Rounds 15 and 16. The Manhattan Beach, California-based driver leads the championship coming into the weekend by a slim 21 points – Long will pilot the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Wright Motorsports. He will also look to help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer’s Champions in 2016 – Porsche comes into the weekend six points ahead of McLaren 119–113. Of note, Long has scored three career series GT wins at Sonoma, the most of any GT driver entered for the weekend. Additionally, a Porsche has won six times at Sonoma in the 17 races PWC has held at the northern California track – the most of any marque in the series.
McLaren Factory driver Alvaro Parente comes off a frustrating Utah weekend – after securing the pole for Round 15, he looked to be in a favorable position to stretch his points lead over Long. But first lap contact with fellow championship protagonist Michael Cooper led to a DNF and he only scored seven points for having secured the pole. Round 16 saw Parente score an 11th place finish. The No. 9 K–PAX Racing McLaren 650S pilot comes into the weekend second in the standings.
K–PAX Racing, based at Sonoma Raceway, also brings two McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Academy Driver and 2015 GT Cup Driver’s Champion Colin Thompson, and young up–and–comer Austin Cindric. 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. Cindric scored his first career PWC pole earlier this season at Mid-Ohio.
Cadillac Factory driver Cooper, the 2015 GTS Driver’s Champion, comes into the weekend third overall with 1328 points – only 65 points behind Long. Cooper will drive the Cadillac Racing No. 8 ATS–V.R GT3. Cooper’s teammate, four–time and defending 2015 GT Driver’s Champion Johnny O’Connell sits fourth in the Driver’s Championship heading into the weekend with 1231 points and will need to score top 3 results in both races this weekend to keep his championship hopes alive. He will pilot the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS–V.R GT3.
RealTime Racing comes into the weekend with a new look carried over from the Mid-Ohio and Utah weekends. Seven-time series Driver’s Champion Peter Cunningham owns almost every statistical record in PWC, but he’s moved out of his seat to allow another accomplished sports car veteran to race his Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing’s Acura TLX-GT. Veteran Peter Kox will pilot the No. 34 car. Teammate Ryan Eversley has been on a charge recently winning both races at Road America, finishing second in Round 15 at Mid-Ohio and fourth in Round 16 at Utah. He sits 5th in the championship standings and will pilot the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX–GT.
Nissan Motorsports and Always Evolving return with two GT–R GT3s for JD Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. Heitkotter comes off of a break-out Utah weekend after scoring back-to-back wins – his first career GT wins in the series. He will drive the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT– R and comes into the weekend 6th in the championship points standings. Davison comes into the weekend 9th in Driver’s Championship points – he will pilot the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT–R GT3.
Up–and–coming sports car racer Kyle Marcelli has been in the mix all season long and currently sits 7th in the championship with 1091 points. He will drive the No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8. Absolute Racing enters a Bentley Continental GT3 with Adderly Fong piloting the car. Fong won the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup and was Vice Champion of the 2015 GT Asia series. Fong will drive the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3. Fong sits 8th in the championship.
Sports car veteran Jon Fogarty, a former Petaluma, Calif., resident, enters his second year in PWC and will pilot 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’s best finish of the season so far was a third in Round 2 at COTA – he comes into the weekend 10th in the championship standings.
Calvert Dynamics Racing enters the No. 98 Calvert Dynamics/Curb Agajanian/Phoenix Performance/Brett King Designs/Boys Republic Porsche 911 GT3 R for Michael Lewis. Lewis joined the Calvert Dynamics team after his previous team, EFFORT Racing, announced a hiatus from competition in 2016. Lewis won back-to-back races earlier this year at St. Petersburg.
Alex Job Racing joins the series and will field the No. 97 Porsche 911 GT3 R for accomplished sports car racer Gunnar Jeannette. In 2011, Jeannette won the LMPC Championship in ALMS. He has a long history at LeMans after becoming the youngest finisher on record in 2000 at the age of 18. Rounding out the 16–car GT field is series veteran James Sofronas, in the No. 14 GMG/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club Porsche 911 GT3 R. Sofronas is set to make his 195th and 196th series starts this weekend.
Fuentes Looks to Clinch Championship – 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 set a series record to open the season with seven straight wins, and he scored his ninth win of the season at Utah in Round 17. He comes into the Sonoma weekend leading the GTA Driver’s Championship with 1662 points and will pilot the No. 07 Hublot, Under Armour Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia. With good results this coming weekend, he can mathematically secure the championship.
Throughout the season, Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, has continued his charge to close the gap on Fuentes winning six of the last 10 races. He sits second overall with 1390 points. Frankie Montecalvo, the 2015 GTA Driver’s Champion sits third with 1200 points and will pilot the No. 66 DIME Racing Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Montecalvo won his second race of the season in Round 16 at Utah. Rounding out the eight–car GTA field is Brent Holden in the No. 14 GMG/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, Drew Regitz in the No. 19 iRACERCOACHING.com Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3, Andy Wilzoch in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, Tim Pappas, in the No. 54 Papent.com Black Swan Racing Porsche and Cooper MacNeil in the No. 79 WeatherTech Alex Job Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R.
Udell and Urry Neck and Neck for Championship – GT Cup Preview
GT Cup is a spec class with drivers piloting the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – the 2016 season thus far has featured a tremendous battle between two young, up–and–coming sports car talents.
Alec Udell, piloting the No. 19 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, won back-to-back races at Mid-Ohio, and then won Round 16 at Utah and has now won the last six of seven races in the GT Cup class. With 1737 points he sits atop the GT Cup Driver’s Championship standings.
Sloan Urry, has won five races in 2016, with the latest coming in Round 15 at his hometown track in Utah in the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and is 94 points behind Udell in the battle for the championship.
Corey Fergus, the 2015 TC Driver’s Champion, pilots 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 sits 3rd in class driver’s championship points with 1318.
Rounding out the six-car GT Cup field is Alex Welch, in the No. 08 GMG/Red Beard Racing/Morgan Adams Foundation/Torque Branding Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Mike Hedlund in the No. 35 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup GT Cup, and Preston Calvert in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Phoenix Performance Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Sandberg Leads Aschenbach, Chase and Stacy in Close Battle for 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 has been no different with eight different drivers piloting machinery from five different manufacturers scoring GTS race wins thus far this season. ANSA Autosport is one of a number of teams that have entered the series bringing new platforms to PWC. Brett Sandberg comes into the weekend leading the GTS Driver’s Championship with 1280 points. He has won two races this season and will pilot the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4.
Teaming up with Sandberg is Dore Chaponick Jr. in the No. 12 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4, and Bill Ziegler who will drive the No. 9 ANSA Motorsports KTM X–Bow GT4. Sandberg’s performance thus far has helped KTM stay in the lead in GTS Manufacturer’s Points with 109, 19 points ahead of Chevrolet coming into the weekend (90 points).
Leading the charge for Chevrolet is four-time series and two-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach piloting 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 started off the season with a win at COTA in Round 1, and has since been victorious three more times including in Round 13 at Mid-Ohio. He comes into the weekend only 66 points behind Sandberg with 1214.
He will team with series veteran Tony Gaples who will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Z28 – Gaples sits ninth in the class championship with 745 points.
Another team that has entered a new platform in the series is the Performance Motorsports Group. Fifteen–year–old rookie Parker Chase pilots the team’s No. 19 Ginetta GT4 and has had an impressive season thus far – he sits third overall in the championship with 1145 points. Parker’s best PWC finish of the season has been a second – a result he achieved in Round 6 at Barber and in Round 8 at CTMP. He will look to score his first PWC career series win this coming weekend. Parker will team with Harry Gottsacker, in the No. 29 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4.
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 won back–to–back races at St. Petersburg and comes into the weekend 7th in the standings with 801 points. Stacy finished second in Round 15 at Utah matching his previous best result of the season (second at COTA in Round 1, second at Mid-Ohio Round 13). Like Chase, Stacy will look to score his first GTS PWC victory this weekend in Utah – with 1113 points he sits fourth in the run for the class championship.
Scott Dollahite, piloting the No. 46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora, comes into the weekend fifth with 856 points. Dollahite has been a model of consistency this season recording eight top 5 finishes in 13 starts. Scott Heckert scored his first PWC career win in Round 15 at Utah. He will pilot the No. 54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN Cars/Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4.
Teaming with Heckert is Jade Buford who has won three races in six starts this season in the No. 45 SIN Cars SIN R1 GT4. Heckert sits 6th in the championship standings, while Buford sits 12th.
Canadian team Mantella Autosport Inc. brings a two–car effort to Sonoma with Anthony Mantella in the No. 8 Gulf KTM X–Bow GT4, and teammate Martin Barkey in the No. 80 MBRP Sportlab Sawmill Creative car. Mantella scored his first career PWC win in Round 14 at Utah and sits 11th in the championship.
TRG–AMR brings three Aston Martin Vantage GT4s to Sonoma – the No. 09 BRM Chronographes/Rebounderz/Rohnert Park/Racing for Cancer/Pirata Della Strada/Simon Ward machine for the team of Derek DeBoer and Jason Alexandridis, (DeBoer was victorious in Round 11 at Road America), the No. 04 Crowd Strike machine for George Kurtz, and the No. 77 car for Greg Milzcik.
The 21-car GTS field includes 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; Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 RecStuff.com, Kenda JCR Motorsports Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo; and Ron Ballard in the No. 93 AK&J Sealants RT Motorsports, LLC Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo.
Sonoma Raceway: 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course
Qualifying: Saturday, September 17:
9:55 AM – 10:40 AM Pirelli World Challenge GT-GTA-GT Cup Qualifying
12:45 PM – 1:15 PM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Qualifying
Race Lengths: 50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS)
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com):
Saturday, September 18
1:30 PM – 1:45 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT-GTA-GT Cup Pre-Race
1:45 PM – 2:45 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 1
4:35 PM – 4:50 PM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Pre-Race
4:50 PM – 5:50 PM Pirelli World Challenger GTS Race # 1
Sunday, September 18, 2016
10:00 AM – 10:15 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Pre-Race
10:15 AM – 11:15 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Race # 2
1:00 PM – 1:15 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT-GTA-GT Cup Pre- Race # 2
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 2
All times listed above are Pacific
Television (on CBS Sports Network):
GT: Sunday, September 25, 4 pm. GTS: Thursday, Sept. 29, 10 pm.
All times listed re: CBS broadcasts are Eastern.