For Immediate Release
Austin, TX – Over one-hundred Pirelli World Challenge drivers across the series’ seven classes are set to take to the track for the 2016 season opener at the Circuit of the Americas, March 3-6. Drivers entered in the GT/GTA, GT Cup, GTS and TC/TCA/TCB classes will race Rounds 1 and 2 at the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas presented by VP Racing Fuels. For the second straight year, the Pirelli World Challenge opens its season as the beautiful 20-turn 3.4-mile road course.
O’Connell Begins Quest for Fifth Consecutive Championship. Former Champions, Host of Talented Challengers Look to Dethrone Him – GT Class Preview
The Pirelli World Challenge GT class features some of the best sports car racing on the planet – over 10 world-renowned manufacturers including Acura, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche are represented by some of the top drivers in the world.
With his fourth consecutive GT Driver’s Championship in 2015, Johnny O’Connell further cemented his place amongst the upper echelon of drivers in the series. O’Connell returns to defend his title piloting the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3. O’Connell will be joined by a new teammate in 2016 – Michael Cooper, the 2015 GTS Driver’s Champion, moves up the PWC driver’s ladder into GT and will pilot the Cadillac Racing No. 8 ATS-V.R GT3. Cooper had a tremendous 2015 winning four GTS races en route to his second career PWC Driver’s Championship – Cooper won the TC title in 2012.
You have to go back to 2011 to see another driver listed as the PWC GT champion. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long came out on top that season and he returns to the series to pilot the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long will team with up-and-coming driver Michael Lewis in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Last season, Lewis started in the GTA class, but was quickly promoted to GT after a number of podium results. Long and Lewis will not only look to dethrone O’Connell, but help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer’s Champion in 2016.
Nissan Motorsports and Always Evolving return with two GT-R GT3s for James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. Davison won at Barber and Road America last year and finished 4th in the Driver’s Championship – he will pilot the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3. Heitkotter, like the aforementioned Lewis, was promoted to GT from GTA after a number of podium finishes – he will drive the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R.
K-PAX Racing returns with three McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, McLaren GT Academy Driver and 2015 GT Cup Driver’s Champion Colin Thompson, and young up-and-comer Austin Cindric. Parente comes into the series with an impressive racing resume including winning the 2005 British Formula 3 Championship, the 2007 World Series by Renault Championship and the 2015 International GT Open Championship – he will drive the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. 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.
Absolute Racing joins the series and will run two Bentley Continental GT3s with Adderly Fong and Andrew Palmer piloting the cars. Fong won the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup and was Vice Champion of the 2015 GT Asia series, while Palmer returns to PWC last competing in the series in 2014 – Palmer was the 2015 North American Endurance Cup (LMPC) Driver’s Champion. Fong will drive the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, while Palmer drives the No. 87 machine.
Sports car veteran Jon Fogarty enters his second year in PWC in 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.
Calvert Dynamics Racing enters the No. 78 Phoenix Performance Porsche 911 GT3 R for Andrew Davis. Davis comes off a 2015 campaign that saw him co-drive the Championship-winning car in the GS Class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship. Among many racing accomplishments, the Athens, Georgia resident has an extensive history with Porsche, winning the 2011 Rolex GT Championship for the German manufacturer.
Seven-time series Driver’s Champion Peter Cunningham owns almost every statistical record in the series and will look to add to it in 2016 behind the wheel of the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing’s Acura TLX-GT. Cunningham’s teammate Ryan Eversley won at St. Petersburg last year and finished sixth overall in the GT Championship – he will run the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT. An additional note on the Acura TLX-GT – the platform is now in line with FIA GT3 standards and moves from an all-wheel to a rear-wheel drive platform matching all of the other platforms in the GT class.
The 2015 GTA Driver’s Champion Frankie Montecalvo moves up to GT for 2016 and will pilot the No. 66 DIME Racing Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Montecalvo put together a dominating second half of 2015 winning seven of the final nine races. As well, the team has entered the No. 21 car for a yet-to-be-named driver.
Rounding out the 19-car GT field is series veteran James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Racing/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club Porsche 911 GT3 R. Sofronas will make his 186 career PWC start at COTA and will share duties with teammate Brent Holden. CRP Racing has entered its No. 2 Audi R8 for a yet-to-be-named driver.
Mills Returns to Series Looking to Reclaim 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.
Michael Mills, the 2014 GTA Driver’s Champion returns to the series after a hiatus in 2015. He will pilot the No. 46 Mills Racing BMW Z4 GT3 and looks to once again reign supreme in the class.
Sure to challenge Mills at COTA and for the championship is Martin Fuentes returning to pilot the No. 07 Hublot, Under Armour Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia. Fuentes finished the 2015 season third overall in the GTA Driver’s Championship winning at Detroit.
Other drivers to watch in the eight-car GTA field include Jorge De La Torre in the No. 4 De La Torre Racing Motor Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3, Michael Schein in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3-R, Drew Regitz in the No. 19 iRACERCOACHING.com Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 GT3 LMS, Walt Bowlin, in the No. 23 M1 GT Racing Audi R8, Joseph Toussaint, in the No. 90 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 997 GT3R and Tim Pappas, in the No. 54 Papent.com Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R.
Fergus, Urry and Udell Among Challengers for Podium at COTA – GT Cup Preview
Entering its sophomore season in 2016, GT Cup is a spec class featuring drivers piloting the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Corey Fergus, the 2015 TC Driver’s Champion, moves up into the class and will pilot 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’ll look to carry that momentum into 2016.
Sure to battle Fergus is Sloan Urry, in the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Urry had 16 top 5 finishes in 18 starts in GT Cup in 2015 finishing second overall in the class championship. Up-and-coming driver Alec Udell, piloting the No. 19 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup looks to also make a push for the podium at COTA. Udell won his first career PWC race last year and went on to win two more races in 2015.
Other competitors to watch in the seven-car GT Cup field include Austin native Will Hardeman in the No. 18 Moorespeed WPD (Wholesale Parts Direct) machine, Preston Calvert who returns in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, Alex Welch in the No. 08 GMG/Red Beard Racing/Morgan Adams Foundation/Torque Branding Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and Anthony Imperato, in the No. 91 Henry Rifles Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Blackdog Speed Shop Begins Defense of its 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 will be no different with any of six or seven different drivers piloting machinery from any of six or seven different manufacturers having a shot to win a GTS race.
With defending GTS Driver’s Champion Cooper moving up to GT, four-time series and two-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach returns to pilot 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. He will team with series veteran Tony Gaples who will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Z28. Gaples will make his 150th career start at COTA. Aschenbach won the Round 1 GTS race at COTA back in 2013 en route to the driver’s championship and he will look to again get off to that same quick start the season opener.
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 and Stacy look to help Ford win its second consecutive Manufacturer’s Championship in 2016.
Mantella Autosport is one of a number of new teams joining the series and debuting a new platform in PWC. Anthony Mantella will pilot the No. 8 Gulf KTM XBow GT4 while teammate Martin Barkey pilots the No. 80 MBRP Sportlab Sawmill Creative car.
TRG-AMR brings two Aston Martin Vantage GT4’s to the GTS battle with Max Riddle driving the No. 07 car, and Derek DeBoer and Jason Alexandridis sharing duties in the No. 09 car.
Another team making its debut in the series is Racers Edge Motorsports. The team brings another new platform to PWC with Patrick Byrne piloting the No. 45 SIN Cars SIN R1 GT4.
JCR Motorsports and Jeff Courtney lead a number of teams bringing the Maserati GranTurismo GT4 into the series – Courtney will pilot the No. 99 RecStuff.com, Kenda machine, while SDR Motorsports and Scott Dollahite head a couple of teams bringing the Lotus Evora into GTS competition – Dollahite will pilot the No. 46 Lotus Evora.
Yet another team bringing a new platform to PWC is the Performance Motorsports Group. Rookie Parker Chase teams with series veteran Nick Esayian in the team’s No. 19 and No. 29 Ginetta GT4’s. Parker will make his first career PWC start at COTA while Esayian will make his 151st start.
Rounding out the 18-car field is Kevin Marshall, in the No. 44 VSA Motorsports Lotus GT4, Mark Klenin, in the No. 62 Schomp/Premiere Copy Klenin Performance Racing Maserati GranTurismo, Ron Ballard, in the No. 93 AK&J SealantsRT Motorsports, LLC Maserati GranTurismo, Brett Sandberg, in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM XBow GT4 (Sandberg won in Touring Car at COTA back in 2013), and teammate Dore Chaponick Jr. in the No. 12 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4.
Stacked Field Ready for Battle in Austin – Touring Car Preview
With 2015 class champion Fergus moving up to GT Cup, a new champion will be crowned in 2016 from the 23 very talented racers entered in the class for COTA.
Ernie Francis Jr., knocked on the championship door last season only to finish second. He returns to pilot the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5 – the same car he won four races in last year.
Adam Poland returns to pilot the No. 33 Doghouse Performance Mazda MX-5. Poland won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and scored 11 top 5’s to finish third overall in last year’s class championship. Both Francis Jr. and Poland look to help Mazda repeat as class Manufacturer’s Championship this season.
Vesko Kozarov won an impressive six races in 2015 – including Round 3 last year at COTA – but ended up finishing fourth overall in the driver’s championship. He returns to pilot the No. 3 CA Sport Nissan 370Z.
Shea Holbrook returns to run a full season in the No. 67 Shea Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe. In 2015, Holbrook ran a limited schedule while managing her race team. In 2014, Holbrook won five races in TCA and finished second overall in class.
Nick Wittmer returns to PWC to run a full campaign in the series. Wittmer will pilot the No. 91 Honda Ste-Rose Racing Honda Accord. He brings an impressive resume having previously won a number of sports car racing championships including back-to-back Canadian Touring Car Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Other drivers to watch in the field include Joey Jordan in the No. 47 Hale Motorsports Mazda MX-5; Toby Grahovec in the No. 26 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW; Paul Street, in the No. 93 Team HMA Honda/HPD/Megan Racing/RV6 Performance/Garage 56 Performance/SPEC Clutch/PR2/MOMO Honda Accord V-6 Coupe; Kevin Krauss, in the No. 88 Outlier/Scion Group Porsche Cayman; Anthony Geraci, in the No. 69 S.A.C. Racing/European Granite & Marble Group, Inc. Mazda MX-5; Daniel Moen, in the No. 73 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5; Patrick Gallagher, in the No. 54 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5; Austin Snader, in the No. 64 Mazdaspeed/SR Enterprises Snader Racing Mazda MX-5; Dinah Weisberg in the No. 50 REDCOM Laboratories/Red Line Oil/Power Brake BERG Racing Mazda MX-5; Steve Kohli, No. 40 Honda, NDA Parallax Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe; Steve Burns, in the No. 43 VP Racing Fuels/Works Garage Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang; Andrew Rains in the No. 44 National Bank of Commerce/PLK Investment Partners/Honda Motorsports Alabama Rains Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe; Gino Carini, in the No. 27 Palermos Screaming Sicilian Pizza/Marenzo Construction Group/Classic BMW Motorsports BMW; John Weisberg, in the No. 5 Power Brake/REDCOM/Red Line Oil/Powerflex/Mann’s/Miller/MCS BERG Racing Mazda MX-5; Jason Fichter in the No. 7 Shea Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe; Ricardo Flores, No. 10 Breathless Racing Ford Mustang; and Randy Hale, No. 17 TransAero, Inc. Hale Motorsports Mazda MX-5. CA Sport has also entered the No. 34 Nissan/Nismo/Stance Nissan 370Z for a yet-to-be-named driver.
Wolfe and Seguin Lead Talented TCA Field into COTA – TCA Class Preview
Two-time TCA Driver’s Champion Jason Wolfe returns in the No. 12 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup. Wolfe had an impressive performance in 2015 recording eight wins en route to his second straight class championship.
Patrick Seguin comes into COTA as one of the drivers who could dethrone Wolfe. Seguin finished second in the driver’s championship last year scoring 12 top 5 finishes. He will pilot the No. 32 Team Ost Racing Honda Civic SI. Seguin will also look to get off to a fast start in Austin to help Honda repeat as class Manufacturer Champions. Seguin leads a three-car team that includes Samantha Tan in the No. 38 GPI Global machine and brother Marc-Andre Seguin in the No. 39 machine.
TCB 2015 Driver’s Champion Johan Schwartz will surely challenge Wolfe and Seguin for the podium at COTA. Schwartz had an incredible 2015 winning nine races en route to the championship. Schwartz will pilot the No. 46 CAS Group/Instrumart/PCAP/ZERO Cancer Prostate Cancer/Awareness/B.P.R.Honda Civic Si.
Others to watch in the 15-car TCA field include Elivan Goulart in the No. 70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup (Goulart won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year); Kris Wright in the No. 35 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup, Kevin Anderson, in the No. 22 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; Jay Salinsky, in the No. 16 Fuse Lenses/Regenexx Cayman/Red Line Oil/Redcom/BERG Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; Eric Powell, in the No. 23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; rookie Daniel Williams in the No. 36 S.A.C racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; Joey Bickers, in the No. 49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup; rookie Paul Whiting in the No. 51 PWR & LDL Speed Shop Honda Civic SI; and Matthew Fassnacht, in the No. 74 S.A.C. Racing/Equity Residence Mazda MX-5 Cup. Tech Sport Racing has also entered their No. 21 Mazda MX-5 Cup for a yet-to-be-named driver.
Groenke Leads Nine-Car Field into COTA – TCB Class Preview
Touring Car B-Spec or TCB is the most cost-effective class category of the series and features some of the most entertaining door-to-door racing on the planet.
With 2015 Class Champion Johan Schwartz moving into TCA, P.J. Groenke in the No. 24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic enters the season-opener as the most experienced competitor in class – Groenke finished sixth overall in the TCB championship last year and is set to make his 49th PWC career start in Austin.
Kyle, Texas native James Wilson in the No. 55 Black Armor Helmets Mazda 2 made nine TCB starts in 2015 finishing 12th in class. Wilson leads a team of four including Blake Thompson in the No. 37 Black Armor Helmets Mazda 2, Steve Taake in the No. 75 machine, and Tom O’Gorman, in the No. 94 TNIA machine.
Rounding out the field are rookie Henry Morse in the No. 14 Hale Motorsports MorseGPS powered by CalAmp/MazdaSpeed/FreeM USA/Corksport Performance/Rolling Hills Prep Mazda 2; Patrick Wilmot in the No. 18 The Precision Motorsports Group MINI Cooper; Ted Hough in the No. 68 Breathless Racing Mazda 2; and Jasper Drengler, in the No. 01 Drengler Racing Chimney Mechanix Honda Fit.
Circuit of the Americas: 20-turn 3.4-mile road course
Friday, March 4
10:30 AM: TC-TCA-TCB Qualifying
Saturday, March 5
8 AM: GTS Qualifying
9:45 AM: GT – GTA – GT Cup Qualifying (group2)
10:30 AM: GT – GTA – GT Cup Qualifying (group1)
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS), 40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com):
Friday, March 4
4:30 PM: Race # 1, TC-TCA-TCB
Saturday, March 5
11:45 AM: Race #2, TC – TCA – TCB
2:30 PM: Race # 1, GT-GTA-GT Cup
4:15 PM: Race # 1 GTS
Sunday, March 6
11 AM: Race # 2 GTS
2:15 PM: Race # 2 GT-GTA-GT Cup
All times listed above Central
Television (on CBS Sports Network):
On CBS Sports Network
GT: Sunday, March 13, 10:30 AM ET
TC: Thursday, March 17, 8 PM ET
GTS: Thursday, March 17, 9 PM ET