Top GT Sports Car Teams, Drivers Ready for the Physically-demanding Course
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Many of the world’s top sports car manufacturers will contest one of the toughest road circuits in North America this weekend (July 28-30) when the Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS teams and drivers attack the demanding 2.258, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Professional racers from around the world will be competing in two 50-minute sprint races this Saturday and Sunday as a spectacular field includes the likes of Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in the highly-competitive GT division at the PWC Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio presenting by Honda Racing.
Road America winner Patrick Long of Manhattan Beach, Calif., leads the GT Sprint point standings entering the Mid-Ohio doubleheader as the factory Porsche driver brings his Ohio-based Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R sports car to the team’s home track. Long, with triumphs this year at St. Petersburg, Lime Rock and Road America, is a former winner at Mid-Ohio and figures to a favorite.
In the popular GTS division, the well-known “muscle cars” such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Panoz Avezzano GT will take on the world’s GT4 sports cars represented by the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, KTM X-Bow, McLaren 570S, SIN CAR 1 GT4, Maserati GT4 and Ginetta G55 in two 50-minute Sprint events at the Mid-Ohio “Honda 200” weekend.
GT Preview – Long has big list of contenders for tough Mid-Ohio circuit
Reigning GT champion and Mid-Ohio race winner Alvaro Parente of Portugal made a dramatic debut in the Pirelli World Challenge last year with six wins and five poles en route to the coveted GT championship. Parente already has two wins (St. Petersburg and Long Beach) this year and trails Long in the GT Sprint standings by 17 points with four GT Sprint events remaining. In addition, Long is currently tied with Cadillac’s Michael Cooper in the overall GT points which includes the GT Sprint and GT SprintX divisions with 183 each. Parente ranks third overall at 165 in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S.
Battling Long and Parente at Mid-Ohio will be the young driver Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., who returns with his popular No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. which he drove to a Mid-Ohio feature win last year. Cooper, teaming with endurance star Jordan Taylor, won the GT SprintX round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May.
One of Pirelli World Challenge all-time winners and most popular drivers, Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., could be the X factor at Mid-Ohio this weekend with his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. as the sports car legend and four-time PWC champion looks for his first GT win of the 2017 campaign. O’Connell has won at Mid-Ohio in a variety of cars during his career, and, even at age 55, consistently tops drives half his age.
In addition to Long in the Porsche contingent this weekend will be multi-time sports car champion Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stalling Racing “Red Dragon” Porsche 911 GT3 R as the Oregon driver enters his second season in the GT division. Fogarty returns to PWC action after experiencing a frightening crash at Road America last month. Clemson University mechanical engineer student Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Tex., comes to Mid-Ohio in the No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 R. Udell won the GT Cup title in 2016 including both victories at Mid-Ohio.
Look for former Mid-Ohio PWC double winner Ryan Dalziel, the Scotland native who now resides in Windermere, Fla., to be in the hunt with the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes AMG GT3. Dalziel is a SprintX winner this year already at VIRginia International Raceway with Canadian Daniel Morad.
Figured to be popular entries at the Honda 200 weekend with thousands of Honda employees in attendance will be RealTime Racing with drivers Ryan Eversley of Atlanta and Peter Kox of The Netherlands in the new Acura NSX GT3 sports cars. Eversley, driving the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3, finished second last year at Mid-Ohio in his RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT. Kox, in the No. 93 RealTime Acura NSX GT3, debuted the Acura NSX GT3 last year in testing and practice at Mid-Ohio.
Personable Bryan Sellers of Braselton, Ga., will be Parente’s K-PAX Racing teammate at Mid-Ohio in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S and will be a contender this weekend as will Spencer Pumpelly of Atlanta at the wheel of the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS in the double header Sprint events. Sellers placed on the podium at Long Beach in April, while Pumpelly, with Dane Cameron, won the SprintX race at Lime Rock in May.
Always a favorite at Mid-Ohio are the Ferraris and two leading challengers this weekend will be VIR SprintX winner Daniel Mancinelli of Italy in the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 and talented Kyle Marcelli of Canada, last year’s SprintX finale winner, in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3.
GTA Preview – Wright Motorsports’ Schein seeks another double win weekend at Mid-Ohio
Last year’s Mid-Ohio double winner Michael Schein of Glen Cove, N.Y., comes to the track as a local favorite in the Ohio-based No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, a team car to Long’s Porsche. Last year, Schein captured eight wins and made a late season run at champion Martin Fuentes but fell short for second. In 2017, Schein has won numerous times in SprintX with professional racer Jan Heylen and figures to be a favorite this weekend in GTA.
Veteran GTA competitor James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, is the current GTA point leader after a double win last month at Road America. Sofronas is second in the most starts in Pirelli World Challenge history at 206 races, trailing behind Peter Cunningham’s 265. Sofronas is a successful team owner with GMG Motorsports, fielding three cars in PWC in 2017.
Other leading GTA veterans at Mid-Ohio will include Tim Pappas in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 and John Potter in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS; these experienced challengers will make it difficult for Schein and Sofronas at Mid-Ohio in the GTA category.
Other racers entered in the GTA division at Mid-Ohio will be former SprintX and GT Cup winner Preston Calvert in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911, GT3 Jorge de la Torre in the No. 04 De la Torre Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, veteran Mike McCann in the No. 82 McCann Racing McLaren 650S GTS, and former Indy Lights racer Pablo Perez Companc in the No. 69 Champ 1 Mercedes AMG GT3.
GT Cup Preview – Ferrari vs Lamborghini this weekend at Mid-Ohio
The GT Cup division will have two entries at Mid-Ohio this weekend with Serbia’s Marko Radisic in the popular No. 11 Precision Driving Ferrari Challenge Evo taking on the Lamborghini of Japan’s Yuki Harata in the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo.
GTS Presented by Case-It Preview – Popular drivers and cars set for Mid-Ohio this weekend
In 2016, the GTS class witnessed the introduction of new GT4 machinery such as the KTM Xbow, Ginetta G55, SIN R1 GT4 and Lotus Evora against the muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. In 2017, new GT4/GTS cars include the McLaren 570S GT4, Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4, Panoz Avezzano GT, the new Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, and the Ford Mustang GT4.
Four-time PWC champion Lawson Aschenbach won the Mid-Ohio round last year in GTS and now sports the new No. 10 Chevy Camaro GT4.R sports car for the legendary Blackdog Speed Shop operation from Chicago. Aschenbach captured four races in 2016 but the Vanderbilt University grad hasn’t won yet in 2017 and holds a large lead in the GTS standings. He has been on the podium nine of ten races this year and seeks his first 2017 win this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Challenging Aschenbach at Mid-Ohio will be double Road America winning entry of the new Panoz platform with veteran Ian James at the controls. James dominated both Road America races in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT car and scored podium showings at Lime Rock Park. Another Mid-Ohio contender will be two-time 2017 pole winner Martin Barkey in the No. 80 KTM XBow.
Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee brings his popular No. 99 RecStuff.com/Kenda/JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4 to Mid-Ohio, nearly to his sponsor’s home base in Columbus. At VIR, Courtney scored a pole position and two runner-up finishes.
Lime Rock Park double GTS race winner Rodrigo Baptista of Spain in the No. 3 Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4 was impressive at Road America and will contend for the GTS win at Mid-Ohio. Seventeen-year-old phenom Nate Stacy of Oklahoma, who placed second in the final standings and became the youngest GTS class winner last year, teams up with Baptista at Mid-Ohio with No. 14 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4.
High schooler Parker Chase, in the No. 19 PMG Ginetta GT4, nearly won GTS races in 2016 as a 15-year-old and has a tremendous future in sports car racing. Chase has also been racing in Europe this year. Ernie Francis Jr., in the No. 40 PF Racing/ Breathless Racing Ford Mustang GT4, is another sensational teenager running at Mid-Ohio who has won races in a variety of categories despite his youth.
Long-time PWC competitor Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., is Aschenbach’s teammate for Blackdog Speed Shop in the No. 11 Chevy Camaro GT4.R. and leads the GTS Am division in the current PWC points.
Cybersecurity entrepreneur George Kurtz of Arizona comes to Mid-Ohio for the first time with his No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG McLaren 570S after an impressive double win weekend at Road America. Kurtz trails Gaples by three points with veteran Mark Klenin of Lone Tree, Colo., a Lime Rock winner, just another three points back with his No. 62 Tender Belly/KPR McLaren 570S. Klenin is a darkhorse at Mid-Ohio as well.
Other drivers in the GTS Am category at Mid-Ohio will be VIR race winner Jason Bell in the No. 2 Racer’s Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4; Adam Merzon in the No. 017 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Cameron Cassels in the No. 018 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Bill Ziegler in the No. 9 Ziegler Racing/ANSA Motorsports KTM X-bow GT4; James Pesek in the No. 40 PF Racing Ford Mustang; Chris Beaufait in the No. 45 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4; and Fred Roberts in the No. 89 JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 13-turn 2.258-mile permanent road course
Friday, July 28
4:35 PM – 5:05 PM: GTS Qualifying
5:20 PM – 6:05 PM: GT/GTA/GT Cup Qualifying
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS)
Races: (all races at EDT)
Saturday, July 29
10:55 AM – 11:45 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Race # 1
4:45 PM – 5:35 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup Race # 1
Sunday, July 30
9:05 AM – 9:55 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS Race # 2
12:00 PM – 12:55 PM Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup Race # 2
Television (on CBS Sports Network): All times listed re: CBS broadcasts are Eastern.
GT/GTA/GT Cup: July 30, 2:00 PM (Same-day coverage)
GTS: August 9, 7:00 PM
All races on Saturday will be live streamed on www.motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com.