Petersburg, FL – The Pirelli World Challenge’s 2015 season continues March 26-29 with GT, GTA, GT Cup presented by MOMO, and GTS teams and drivers heading to St. Petersburg to compete on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course. Sixty-three drivers will take to the track for Rounds 3 and 4 and the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend.
Since 1990, the series has competed at St. Petersburg 10 times; the 2015 visit marks the sixth straight year and the 11th time the series will race at the Florida street course. With 43 cars entered in the GT/GTA/GT Cup classes, it will be interesting to see how drivers transition from racing at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) – a circuit that was designed with a deliberate widening of corners, to encourage drivers to follow multiple racing lines – to the narrow confines and concrete barriers of the street circuit at St. Petersburg. In GTS, there should be some great battles among the highly talented 20 drivers entered. Qualifying will be important as seven of the last nine GT wins from 2010-14 have come from the pole. In GTS, the nine-race average race winner’s starting position is 2.777.
Pirelli World Challenge GT: Estre Enters Weekend as Points Leader
Kevin Estre, of Lochau, Austria, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 comes into St. Petersburg as the points leader in class, after a dominating Round 2 win at COTA. In rainy conditions, Estre gapped second place finisher EFFORT Racing’s Ryan Dalziel, of Windermere, FL by more than 30 seconds to take the checkered. Estre had a very good debut weekend in Pirelli World Challenge registering a fourth in Round 1. Estre enters the weekend with 230 GT drivers’ points. Teammate Robert Thorne, of Littleton, CO, will pilot the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3.
Dalziel in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing/World PMO Porsche 911 GT3R comes into the weekend trailing Estre by six points after back-to-back second place finishes at COTA. R. Ferri Motorsport’s Olivier Beretta, of Monte Carlo, in the No. 61 Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia won the Round 1 race and comes into the race weekend third in GT drivers’ points with 209.
Nicky Catsburg, of Voorthuizen, Netherlands in the No. 25 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2 made his Pirelli World Challenge debut at COTA starting on pole for both races but ended up finishing 10th and 3rd respectively. He comes into St. Pete fourth in drivers’ standings.
Defending Pirelli World Challenge 2014 GT champion Johnny O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, GA., enters the weekend 5th overall in drivers’ points after a very respectable debut in his all-new No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. O’Connell finished 3rd and 7th at COTA. O’Connell has had success at St. Petersburg in the past having won the 2012 race. Teammate Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, FL., will be in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, NC, the 2014 runner up to O’Connell, will pilot CRP Racing’s No. 2 DeVilbiss/Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra. Skeen sits 8th in drivers’ points coming into the Round 3 and 4 races.
Bentley Team Dyson Racing enters St. Petersburg with veteran racer Butch Leitzinger, of Rebersburg, PA and teammate Chris Dyson, of Pleasant Valley, NY, piloting two Bentley Continental GT3s. Leitzinger, will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3 while Dyson will pilot the No. 16 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3. Both drivers recorded results outside the top 10 at COTA and look to bounce back at St. Petersburg.
Seven-time Drivers’ Champion Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, WI, comes off a hard luck COTA weekend. After a good start in Round 1, the No. 42 Acura TLX-GT was hit and had to retire because of resulting suspension damage – damage that was not repairable for Round 2. Cunningham will drive the RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD Acura TLX-GT. Teammate Ryan Eversley, of Atlanta, GA, also encountered bad luck in Round 1 after contact resulted in suspension damage, but the team was able to fix the No. 43 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD car. In Round 2 Eversley rocketed up from his starting position of 25th to finish 5th on the day.
Always Evolving (AE) has a GT Academy-NISMO Nissan GT-R GT3 race car entered for open wheel and GT star JD Davison. Davison, of St. Petersburg, FL, will pilot the No. 33 AE/ReplayXD/NISSAN NISMO GT-R GT3. He recorded a sixth and a 16th at COTA.
A former winner at St. Petersburg (2013), series veteran GMG Racing’s James Sofronas, of Pound Ridge, NY, returns in the No. 14 GMG Racing/Spyder/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS Ultra. Sofronas sits 10th overall in GT drivers’ standings.
Rounding out the 16-car GT field are the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italias with Mike Hedlund, and Duncan Ende piloting the cars. Hedlund, of Woodside, CA, will pilot the No. 65 machine, while Ende, of Los Angeles, CA, will pilot the No. 64 Merchant Services LTD/Linospresso USA car.
Pirelli World Challenge GTA: Can Michael Lewis Continue His Win Streak at St. Pete?
Michael Lewis, of Laguna Beach, CA, had a tremendous debut weekend in Pirelli World Challenge at COTA winning both GTA Rounds convincingly and leading the points chase in class with 144. Can the driver of the No. 41 EFFORT Racing/Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3R continue his hot streak at St. Petersburg? The statistics show that a Porsche has won four of the last nine races at St. Petersburg.
A pair of Ferrari drivers look to dethrone Lewis. Henrique Cisneros, of Miami, FL trails Lewis with 108 points after two 12th overall GT finishes at COTA. Cisneros will drive the No. 30 MOMO NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458. Martin Fuentes, of Mexico City, MX, will pilot the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Hublot Ferrari 458 and he sits fourth in class.
DragonSpeed fields three Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 for Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Frank Montecalvo of Highlands, NJ and Eric Lux, of Buffalo, NY. Montecalvo, who sits fifth in class drivers’ points, will pilot the No. 66 Bayshore Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3, while Lux, will drive the No. 08 Rembrandt Charms/Monticello Motor Club Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3. Hedman will pilot the No. 10 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3.
Nissan GT Academy North America 2011 winner Bryan Heitkotter, of Fresno, CA, will drive the No. 05 Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R-GT3. Heitkotter made his GTA debut at COTA. He comes into St. Pete 6th in the GTA drivers’ standings.
Marcelo Hahn, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, will drive the No. 0 Blau Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo R_EX. Teammate Maximilian Voelker, of Witten, Germany will drive the No. 37 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2.
Also entered for St. Petersburg are Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, TX, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing/Lone Star Racing Dodge Viper GT3R, Tim Pappas, of Boston, MA, in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 and Stephen Cameron Racing’s No. 19 www.iracercoaching.com Audi R8 LMS Ultra with Drew Regitz, of Denver, CO, behind the wheel.
Sofronas’ GMG team has one car entered in GTA., with Brent Holden, of Newport Beach, CA piloting the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS Ultra.
Turner Motorsport will field two BMW E89 Z4 GT3 in GTA at St. Pete. Bret Curtis, of Austin, TX, will be in the No. 32 Spectra Resources/United Steel Supply Turner Motorsport BMW E89 Z4 GT3, while Bill Ziegler of Ponte Verda, FL will drive the No. 95 Swisher Racing machine.
TRG-AMR fields an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for St. Petersburg. The No. 7 Orion/Royal Purple/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA Aston Martin Vantage GT3 will be piloted by Christina Nielsen of Aarhus, Denmark.
Series veteran Jeff Courtney brings his Audi to the GTA mix. Courtney, of Milwaukee, WI., will drive the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra.
Rounding out the GTA field for St. Petersburg is Walt Bowlin in the No. 23 Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers M1 Racing LLC Audi R8 LMS ultra.
Pirelli World Challenge GT Cup presented by MOMO: Can Colin Thompson Continue His Win Streak at St. Petersburg?
Like Lewis in GTA, Colin Thompson, of Doylestown, PA, debuted in Pirelli World Challenge at COTA with back-to-back convincing wins and he will look to carry that momentum into the St. Petersburg weekend piloting the No. 11 Porsche of Bucks County/Penn Valley Constructors/Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes/Austin Hatcher Foundation Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Thompson leads in the GT Cup drivers’ standings with 303 points.
Sloan Urry, of Salt Lake City, UT, comes into the weekend second in class points with 202, after recording two 2nd place finishes in the 02 Engel & Volkers TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup at COTA. Alec Udell of The Woodlands, TX. follows Urry with 190 points. Udell will pilot the No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
The nine-car field will also feature Mitch Landry of Lake Charles, LA entered in the No. 97 Deep South/VersaCrane Landry Racing Porsche 991 GT3 Cup; Lorenzo Trefethen, of Napa, CA in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports Trefethen Family Vineyards Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; Phil Fogg, Jr. of Portland, OR in the No. 13 Zoro TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; Eduardo Cisneros, of Miami, FL in the No. 29 MOMO NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; the No. 77 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Preston Calvert of Potomac, MD; and Victor Gomez, of San Juan, Puerto Rico in the No. 81 Porsche San Juan DragonSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Pirelli World Challenge GTS: Can Jack Baldwin Regain his St. Pete Magic? Can Michael Cooper Carry Momentum Gained at COTA?
Michael Cooper, of Syosset, NY, in the No. 10 Blackdog Speedshop Chevrolet Camaro Z28, comes into the St. Petersburg weekend sitting in second place in the GTS Drivers’ Championship with 212 points. Cooper recorded an impressive Round 2 win in rainy conditions rocketing up from ninth on the grid to take the lead by the end of lap 1 and never being challenged to take the win. Cooper’s teammate and series veteran Tony Gaples will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speedshop Chevrolet Camaro Z28.
Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, GA, the back-to-back winner in 2013 at St. Petersburg, experienced mechanical issues at COTA with his No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman. If the team can get things sorted out with the car, look for Baldwin to be in the thick of things this weekend. Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, FL will again team with Baldwin as the pilot of the No. 72 RESET-MD GTSport Racing Porsche Cayman.
Prior to Baldwin’s back-to-back wins in 2013, four consecutive GTS wins went to drivers piloting Mustangs. Dean Martin, of Westland, MI, leads a group of more than a half dozen Mustangs running in GTS. Martin finished fourth overall in the Drivers’ Championship last year with street course wins at Detroit and Toronto and will pilot the No. 50 Rehagen Racing/Picture Cars East Ford Boss 302. Jack Roush Jr. of Livonia, MI will pilot the No. 60 ROUSH Performance Ford Boss 302. Capaldi Racing also enters a car for series veteran Nick Esayian, of San Diego, CA, who will pilot the No. 34 Travel Clean/Ford Motorsports/Derma 3/Special Operations Warrior Foundation/3D Carbon Capaldi Racing Boss 302. Dan Martinson of Medina, MN is set to run the No. 33 Gear Tie/Nite Ize Capaldi Racing Ford Boss 302 this coming weekend.
A Mustang driver that could figure prominently this coming weekend is Spencer Pumpelly, of Atlanta, GA piloting the No. 87 DWW Motorsports iTrackzone.com Ford Mustang Boss 302. Pumpelly has competed at the top levels of sportscar racing for over a decade, garnering multiple victories in various series, including two GT class wins at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Pumpelly makes his first start in the series since running a couple of GT races in 2009.
Another Mustang pilot to watch is Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, PA who has rejoined the series after last starting races in TC in 2009, piloting the No. 32 Calvert Dynamics Phoenix American Motorsports Boss 302. Aquilante had a strong couple of races at COTA and comes into the weekend 3rd in GTS drivers’ standings. Phoenix American Motorsports will also campaign the No. 35 Calvert Dynamics Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 with Preston Calvert behind the wheel and Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, PA in the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302.
Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, ON, comes into the race weekend 8th in points. The pilot of the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima will be partnered with teammate Ben Clucas, of Northampton London. Clucas will pilot the No. 36 Kinetic Motorsports DonorsChoose.Org Kia Optima. Clucas finished second in Round 2 and comes into the weekend fourth in drivers’ standings with 191 points.
Also campaigning the iconic Chevrolet Camaro Z28 in the series is Best IT Racing. Talented driver Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, CO, in the No. 20 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 returns along with teammate Geoff Reeves, of Cleveland, OH in the No. 40 Shadow Works BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro Z28.
TRG-AMR brings two Aston Martin Vantage GT4’s to the GTS battle with Derek DeBoer and Max Riddle behind the wheels. Riddle, of Vancouver, BC takes over the 07 Orion/Royal Purple/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA car from Kris Wilson, who piloted the car at COTA. Wilson, a sportscar veteran, showed the 07 GT4 is a competitive car winning Round 1 and finished 9th in Round 2. DeBoer, of Ashland, OR, will pilot the No. 09 BlackRiderRacing/Lex Tempus/BRM Chronographes car.
Mark Klenin, of Lone Tree, CO, returns to GTS with his own team. Klenin will pilot the No. 62 Schomp Auto/Invisible Glass/Premier Copier Klenin Performance Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Rounding out the GTS field is three-time champion Lou Gigliotti. He will drive the No. 28 LG Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Streets of St. Petersburg, 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course
Thursday, March 26: GTS Qualifying, 6:15 p.m.
Friday, March 27: GT/GTA/GT Cup Qualifying, 5:45 p.m.
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS)
Live Internet Telecast (on www.world-challengeTV.com and www.torque.tv):
Friday, March 27:
• GTS Race 1: 10:15 a.m.
Saturday, March 28:
• Pre-Race Show: 10:55 a.m.
• GT/GTA/GT Cup Race 1: 11:20 a.m.
• GTS Race 2: 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, March 29:
• Pre-Race Show: 10:25 a.m.
• GT/GTA/GT Cup Race 2: 10:50 a.m.
Television (on CBS Sports Network):
Sunday, April 5, 5 p.m.: GT/GTA, GT Cup presented by MOMO, and GTS
Times listed above are Eastern