Long Beach, Calif. – Twenty-four Pirelli World Challenge drivers across the series’ GT and GTA classes are set to battle it out April 15-17 on the Streets of Long Beach, part of the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. Drivers will race Round 5 of the 2016 season and the Replay XD Grand Prix at Long Beach presented by Cadillac. This weekend marks the 11th straight season PWC will race at the 11-turn 1.968-mile street course.
Cooper and O’Connell lead Championship Heading into Long Beach – GT 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.
Michael Cooper, the 2015 GTS Driver’s Champion, holds a slim two-point lead in the driver’s championship over his teammate Johnny O’Connell, the four-time and defending 2015 GT Driver’s Champion. Cooper, with 362 championship points heading into the weekend, will pilot the Cadillac Racing No. 8 ATS-V.R GT3, while O’Connell, with 360 points, will drive the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3. O’Connell won in Round 2 at Circuit of the Americas, while Cooper looks for his first career GT win.
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 has returned to the series piloting the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long won Round 1 at Circuit of the Americas, and the Manhattan Beach native comes into what is essentially his home race fifth overall in the championship. Long’s teammate – up-and-coming driver Michael Lewis – will drive the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Lewis, from Laguna Beach, California, comes off a tremendous St. Petersburg weekend where he scored back-to-back wins – his first two career GT wins. Lewis sits 3rd in the championship only 21 points behind Cooper. Long and Lewis will not only look to dethrone O’Connell, but help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer’s Champion in 2016. Porsche currently leads Cadillac by five points in the championship standings heading into Long Beach.
Nissan Motorsports and Always Evolving return with two GT-R GT3s for JD Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. Davison comes into the weekend sixth in Driver’s Championship points – he will pilot the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3. Fresno, California’s Heitkotter will drive the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R and comes into the weekend 11th in the championship points standings.
K-PAX Racing returns with three McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, McLaren GT Academy Driver and 2015 PWC 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 the2015 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. Parente is fourth in the championship points standings while Thompson sits eighth.
Sports car veteran Jon Fogarty 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 finished 3rd in Round 2 at COTA and comes into the weekend seventh in the championship.
Absolute Racing 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. Palmer currently sits ninth in the championship.
Rising sportscar racer Kyle Marcelli will drive the No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8. Marcelli sits 10th overall in the GT Driver’s Championship coming into the weekend.
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. Davis sits 13th in the driver’s championship.
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 will run the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT and sits 12th overall coming into the weekend. 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.
Rounding out the 18-car GT field is Villa Park, California’s James Sofronas, piloting the No. 14 GMG/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Los Angeles’ Duncan Ende, in the No. 67 Merchant Services LTD/Linospresso USA TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Sofronas won the Long Beach race back in 2009.
Fuentes Leads GTA Driver’s Championship after Sweeping COTA and St. Petersburg – 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 has had a great start to the 2016 season winning all four GTA races. He enters the weekend leading the GTA Driver’s Championship with 440 points and will pilot the No. 07 Hublot, Under Armour Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
The 2015 GTA Driver’s Champion Frankie Montecalvo sits second in the championship with 374 points 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 and will be sure to challenge Fuentes throughout the 2016 season.
The GTA field also includes Jorge De La Torre in the No. 4 De La Torre Racing Motor Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 (De La Torre sits sixth in the GTA championship coming into Long Beach); Bill Sweedler in the No. 11 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia; New Port, California’s Brent Holden, in the No. 44 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 and Santa Monica’s Tim Pappas in the No. 54 Papent.com Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R.
Streets of Long Beach: 11-turn 1.968-mile street course
Saturday, April 16
8:40 AM – 8:55 AM Pirelli World Challenge Qualifying Group 1
9:00 AM – 9:15 AM Pirelli World Challenge Qualifying Group 2
50 minutes (GT/GTA)
Sunday, April 17
GT/GTA Round 5: 10:00 AM – 10:50 AM
All times listed above Pacific
Television (on CBS Sports Network):
On CBS Sports Network
Sunday, April 17, 2pm Eastern