Point Battles in TCA/TCB Classes Come Down to MRLS PWC Finale, Including teammates fighting for coveted championships
S.A.C Racing TCA pair Fassnacht, Goulart just 12 apart, Top Three in TCB separated by 3
SALINAS, Calif. – The coveted Touring Car championships will be on the line October 13-14 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Monterey and the TCA and TCB divisions figure to supply some wild action in the title fights.
The recent history of Pirelli World Challenge point championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has seen wheel-to-wheel battles down to the final race and, last year in a couple of classes, saw the title determined on the final lap.
Those scenarios could happen again in the TCA and TCB categories where six different drivers have won in the first ten events including the two challengers for the 2017 points crown – Matthew Fassnacht and Elivan Goulart, both in S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-R Cup cars.
In the TCB class, only three points separate the point leader Jake Pipal, P.J. Groenke and Canaan O’Connell with two 40-minute races remaining in the 2017 PWC schedule. All three have won in 2017 and expect to be bump-drafting the way to the front in both Saturday contests.
Fassnacht, the 48-year-old veteran from Madison, N.J., holds a 12-point advantage over the 2016 TCA champion Goulart from Shelton, N.J. Matthew began the 2017 PWC season with double victories at VIRginia International Raceway and has made the podium five additional times (3 seconds, 2 thirds) to secure the point leading the MRLS doubleheader set for Saturday, Oct. 14, at the legendary 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit east of Monterey, Calif.
Goulart, the 37-year-old former SCCA national champion, was impressive in 2016 with five wins and 12 top-fives, to secure his first PWC title and returned in 2017 with two victories and four runner-ups.
“We couldn’t ask for better battles in all three of our Touring Car classes this year,” said Jim Jordan, Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car class manager. “We have seen some of the finest door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper action in the TC categories ever in the Pirelli World Challenge in 2017. Each class has provided its own thrills and spills this year and now the championships are right down to the final two events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I’m sure the competition will be exciting for the racing fans as well.”
While Touring Car has its own four-driver battle for the title, TCA and TCB have experienced action-backed racing at each of its first ten races. Rounds 11 and 12 for TCA and TCB will take place Saturday, Oct. 14, at 9 a.m. PDT and 2:05 p.m. PDT at MRLS.
With Fassnacht and Goulart dueling for the TCA crown, past 2017 winners such as Kenny Murillo of Santa Rosa, Calif., Tom O’Gorman of Mason, Ohio, and Shea Holbrook of Orlando, Fla., could throw a large wrench in the battle for the TCA points championship. Murillo has won three times including one at Utah and twice at COTA on the Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup.
Other to contend in the TCA division will be Kevin Anderson of Huntington Station, N.Y.; Paul Whiting of Las Vegas, Nev., Tim Probert of Houston, Tex., Daniel Moen of Rindge, N.H., Cameron Parsons of Santa Ana, Calif., and Jeff Sexton of Austin, Tex.
Now for the TCB shootout, young (age 19) Pipal from nearby Oakdale, Calif., is no stranger to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, having come through the open-wheel ranks at the track as well other California road circuits. Jake has collected 220 points with three wins this year in his No. 6 Pipal Racing Honda Fit.
Groenke, the veteran from Richmond Hills, Ont., Canada, and O’Connell of Chandler, Ariz., son of four-time PWC GT champion Johnny O”Connell, come to MRLS driving identical TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonics (No. 25 and No. 24 respectively). Groenke has 218 points with one win, while O’Connell has 217 points and five victories in 2017. Either driver could take home the TCB title Saturday afternoon.
Challenging the three TCB point leaders will be Blake Thompson of Oak Creek, Wis., James Wilson of Kyle, Tex., Taylor Handwerk of Jim Thorpe, Pa., Jasper Drengler of Shawano, Wis., and Stephanie Andersen of Racine, Wis.
The Touring Car class champions will be honored on Saturday evening, Oct. 14, at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, Calif.
Practice for all three Touring Car divisions gets underway Friday, Oct. 13, with qualifying set for that afternoon at 2:40 p.m. PDT.
All Touring Car races from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be available for viewing on www.MotorTrendOnDemand.com and www.world-challenge.com.
2017 Pirelli World Challenge Points:
Touring Car A: (Wins)
- Matthew Fassnacht, Madison, N.J., S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup (2) 209
- Elivan Goulart, Shelton, Conn., S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-T Cup (2) 197
- Tom O’Gorman, Mason, Ohio, Shea Racing Honda Civic Si (1) 171
Touring Car B: (Wins)
- Jake Pipal, Oakdale, Calif., Jake Pipal Racing Honda Fit (3) 220
- P.J. Groenke, Richmond Hills, Ont., Canada, Tech Sport Racing Chevy Sonic (1) 219
- Canaan O’Connell, Chandler, Ariz., Tech Sport Racing Chevy Sonic (5) 217