SALINAS, Calif. – Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, Ont., Canada and Drew Regitz of Denver, Colo., captured the wild Sprint GT-X 60-minute feature Saturday in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships presented by Nissan at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Andrew Aquilante of Chester Springs, Pa., and Kurt Rezzetano of Phoenixville, Pa., won the Sprint GTS-X division with David Askew of Salt Lake City, Utah and James Burke of Tooele, Utah taking the Sprint GT Cup-X class at the famed 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit.
Marcelli, driving the No. 19 Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 LM GT3, came from fifth after the driver switch with Regitz to charge down leader Mike Skeen of Charlotte, N.C., teaming with Dan Knox of Pilot Point, Tex., in the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R, on the next to last lap and win the 60-minute, two-driver event.
The Canadian racer fought his way through a talented field to give his team its first 2016 victory in a debut in the Sprint GT-X category. Skeen and Knox finished second at the checkered flag in GT-X followed by the pair of Cooper MacNeil of Hinsdale, Ill., and Gunnar Jeannette of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 79 WeatherTech/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Rounding out the top-five in the GT-X division were Michael Mills of Houston, Tex., and John Edwards of Charlotte in the No. 46 Mills Racing/Airtech Vacuum BMW Z4 GT3 and Michael Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Preston Calvert of Potomac, Md., in the No. 98 Calvert Dynamics/CurbAgajanian Porsche 911 GT3 R.
In the 60-minute event, the Sportsman drivers started the event with the Professional racers finishing the race with a driver change set between the 25 and 35-minute mark. On Saturday, an incident between George Kurtz of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Harry Gottsacker of San Antonio, Tex., brought out the red flag and a stoppage of the race. Neither driver was injured in the mishap.
At the race restart, the teams pitted their cars and made the driver change from the Sportsman drivers to the Professionals. Wild action ensued as Marcelli drove his way past
Edwards, Jeannette and finally Skeen in a daring pass in turn ten on lap 35 of the 36-lap event.
“That (outside pass) was a Hail Mary,” said Marcelli of his move for the lead. “The red flag helped us out a lot; it pretty much put the race in a 35-minute sprint. I think we left the pits in 5th spot and I didn’t really know what we had, but it took me two or three laps just to get familiar with the car again. Once I caught Edwards in the BMW and got by him I thought we must have a part of the fight here. Jeannette and Skeen were six or seven seconds up the road and we were able to close the gap. I was always three or four car lengths behind Skeen. I figured I would just go for it, he gave me great racing room, and I made the pass. I’m happy to be here with Cameron Racing and Drew Regitz.”
Regitz said, “The goal was to just try to keep it clean, especially off the start. The starts here can be quite hectic, people turning in on other people. I just wanted to hold a position and if I could gain a position – great. I just wanted to give Kyle a good car to take over the second half of the race. He has been obviously great and I’ll be working with him this whole weekend.”
In the GTS-X category, Rezzetano and Aquilante proved to be the class of the field in their No. 37 Calvert Dynamic/Phoenix Performance Ford Boss 302 in defeating the team of Max Riddle of Vancouver, B.C., Canada and Kris Wilson of Littleton, Colo., in the No. 07 Adobe Road Winery/LaSalle Solutions/TRG Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and the pair of James Sofronas of Villa Park, Calif., and Matt Halliday of Los Angeles in the No. 4 GMG Racing Porsche Clubsport GT4.
“The red flag caught everybody off guard and that was an unknown,”said Aquilante. “We stuck out there for a lap thinking that everyone was going to dive into pit lane and Kurt would have a free pass to run hard. The (pit) stop went smooth, we changed the tire which was kind of a last minute call by Kurt. He felt we needed to do that and with the break it let the rear cool down so it matched up pretty good. We got out there and got a pretty good dice with the GMG Porsche Cayman (Sofronas and Halliday) and that was fun for a few laps. But I was focused on was getting out front and then set sail. I have to thank Preston Calvert for the opportunity to do this and all the guys. This was a last minute idea and it was a bit of a ‘Cannonball Run’ to get the truck across the country. But it’s cool to be back and win.”
Rezzetano said, “It was interesting because we were trying to manage gas between cars and trying to keep the tires on the car. Our car is big and heavy so tire wear is a huge deal for us. I was trying to manage the lead, get a little bit of a gap so we had some buffer for the pit stop and the driver change. I was trying to do that without tearing the tires off the car, basically.”
Meanwhile, in the GT Cup-X, Askew and Burke drove the No. 63 DXDT Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo to victory over their teammates, Jeff Burton of Salt Lake City and Enrique Bernoldi of Miami, Fla., in the No. 10 DXDT Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo, and the team of Ludovico Manifedi of Miami and local star Jonathan Summerton of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 27 ANSA Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Round 5 Sprint X additional rewards and recognitions were determined as follows:
The Optima Batteries Best Start award was given to No. 29 Harry Gottsacker in the Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4 for his 6-position gain at the start of the race.
The KIA Turning Point was determined to be the race’s red flag condition for the incident between No. 04 and 29.
The Cadillac Best Move award was the No. 19 Kyle Marcelli in the Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 for the pass for the lead.
The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger award was given to No. 80 Mike Skeen/Dan Knox for eight spots gained.
Fast lap of the race went to No. 19 Marcelli in GT-X at 1:25.782; No. 37 Aquilante in GTS-X at 1:32.254 and No. 10 Bernoldi at 1:27.906.
SprintX action returns to the track Sunday at 3:15 pm PDT for Round 6. The SprintX race will be televised live online at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing and scoring at http://livetiming.net/pwc/.