Over 105 Entries to Battle including Huge Touring Car Lineup
ALTON, VA. – An outstanding field of drivers and machines are primed for the 2017 SprintX season opener as part of the Pirelli World Challenge Nissan Grand Prix of VIR this weekend (April 28-30) at the beautiful VIRginia International Raceway with over 105 entries to battle on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit.
In addition to the 36 SprintX entries, fifty-five entries are set for the Touring Car opening rounds of the 2017 PWC campaign including 32 in the popular TC division which features auto makes such as Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lotus, Mazda, Nissan and Porsche.
Speaking of auto manufacturers, the SprintX 60-minute, two-driver format will feature sports cars from Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche in a doubleheader weekend that features one of the strongest driver lineups in Pirelli World Challenge history.
SprintX competitors will race in Round 1 and 2 at VIR this weekend as will the Touring Car divisions, while the GTS category will contest Round 3 and 4 in the 2017 PWC championship.
The PWC’s return to the popular Virginia permanent road course marks its first appearance at VIR since North America’s top GT Production-based road racing series competed there in 2010.
All of the races at VIR will be live streamed on www.motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com, and six feature races (SprintX, GTS and TC) will be shown on CBS Sports Network in May on a taped-delayed basis.
Thirty-six Two-Driver Teams Prepared for Challenging VIR circuit – SprintX Preview
The initial 2017 presentation of the SprintX format should provide some of the wildest and most-competitive action seen in the PWC series in a long time. However, it’s tough to beat last year’s GT final at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which took the series championship right down to the final lap.
Here is some of the driving talent ready for this weekend’s SprintX competition in the Pro-Pro, Pro/Am and Am/Am divisions.
Reigning GT champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal is no stranger to a two-driver race setup, having been successful in the SRO Blancpain GT series in Europe. Parente, winner of two 2017 GT races already in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S, will team up in the Pro/Pro class at VIR with young sports car Ben Barnicoat of England as the two racers have driven together in the past for McLaren GT. K-PAX Racing also has entered another solid pairing with veterans Bryan Sellers of Braselton, Ga., and Jonny Kane of Northern Ireland in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Parente and Sellers finished 1-3 in the most recent Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
St. Petersburg GT winner Patrick Long of Manhattan Beach, Calif., a multi-time endurance race winner, will bring the potent No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to VIR for the Pro/Pro category with another Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring winner, veteran Jörg Bergmeister of Germany, teaming up for a challenge team.
The Cadillac Racing SprintX lineup brings the current Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring winners to VIR with Ricky and Jordan Taylor of Florida matching up with PWC regulars Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., the four-time GT champion, and Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y., the two-time PWC titlist. Needless to say, the Cadillac Racing quartet will be a factor in the red No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R. and the blue No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R. this weekend at VIR.
Former Daytona champion Ryan Dalziel of Scotland will be teaming with Daniel Morad of Canada, a Daytona class winner in 2017, in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVibliss Mercedes AMG GT3, while Italy’s Daniel Mancinelli will team with veteran Andrea Montermini also of Italy in the No. 31 TC3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3.
Another Ferrari entry that should expect to battle at the front of the VIR field is the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 with Spain’s Alex Riberas and Canada’s Kyle Marcelli as a strong tandem. Riberas, who ranks third in the PWC GT points currently, won a pole position at St. Petersburg and has finished 3-4-5 in his first three PWC starts in 2017. Marcelli won the SprintX finale last year at Mazda Raceway.
The all-new Acura NSX program with RealTime Racing has been developing the new GT3 machine throughout the opening two races at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. The two regular RealTime Racing drivers, Ryan Eversley of Atlanta and Peter Kox of The Netherlands, will have Tom Dyer of Corte Madera, Calif., in Eversley’s No. 43 Acura NSX GT3 at VIR, while Canada’s Mark Wilkins will team up in Kox’s No. 93 Acura NSX GT3.
The Audi stable has a strong two-driver effort for Magnus Racing in the Pro/Pro division with Germany’s Pierre Kaffer and Spencer Pumpelly of Atlanta in the No. 4 Audi RS8 LMS sports car at VIR, and Bentley brings PWC regular Adderly Fong of Hong Kong and sports car star Vincent Abril of Monaco in the No. 88 Absolute Racing Bentley Continental GT3.
In the big Pro/Am class, 2016 GT Cup champion Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Tex., and two-time SprintX winner Preston Calvert of Potomac, Md., will be one of the contending pairs at VIR in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics/GMG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, along with another two-time SprintX winner Michael Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif., and his partner, Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 98 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S.
Last year’s GTA champion Martin Fuentes of Mexico City returns to Pirelli World Challenge action with the No. 7 Hublot/Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 with former F1 and IndyCar driver Stefan Johansson of Sweden as his teammate at VIR, while Henrique Cisneros of Miami, Fla., also returns to PWC at VIR in Pro-Am with the MOMO/NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 and the co-driver is still yet to be announced.
Another former GTA series champion Frankie Montecalvo of Highlands, N.J., will team with Mexico’s Ricardo Sanchez in the No. 75 Always Evolving/AIM Autosport Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Pro/Am class along with former PWC GT race winner Mike Skeen of Charlotte, N.C., driving the No. 82 McCann Racing Audi RS 8 LMS with team owner Mike McCann of New Canton, Ohio.
Other contenders this weekend at VIR in the Pro/Am division will be Laurens Vanthoor/James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; Jan Heylen/Michael Schein in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; David Ostella/James Dayson in the No. 23 M1GT Audi R8 LMS Ultra; Marco Seefried/John Potter in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi RS 8 LMS; Jeroen Bleekemolen/Tim Pappas in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes AMG GT3; Aaron Povoledo/David Askew in the No. 63 Uaslco/DXDT Racing Mercedes AMG GT3; Alexandre Negrao/ Alexandre Negrao Sr. in the No. 92 MCC Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3; Jonathan Summerton/Michael Macs in the No. 111 Dime Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli/Lawrence Degeorge in the No. 07 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
The No. 007 Lasalle Solutions/Adobe Road Winery/TMG-AMR Aston Martin GT3 entry of Kris Wilson of Littleton, Colo., and Drew Regitz of Denver, Colo., lead the GT Am/Am category at VIR.
Others scheduled to compete in SprintX at VIR this weekend include GT Cup racers Allesandro Bressan/Yuki Haratz in the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo and Joe Toussaint/Cory Friedman in the Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, plus GTS competitors Kyle Tilley/Jerry Kaufman in the No. 09 Lasalle Solutions/Adobe Road Winery/TMG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4; Adam Merzon/Trent Hindman in the No. 017 Case-It Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Jason Hart/Matt Travis in the No. 47 NOLAsport Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Cameron Cassels/Phillip Bloom in the No. 018 Case-It Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; and Greg Liefooghe/Aristole Balogh in the No. 019 Stephan Cameron Racing Aston Martin GT4.
New GT4 Machines Take on Proven GTS Cars at VIR – GTS presented by Case-It Overview
The wild and highly-competitive GTS presented by Case-It class has always featured some of the best wheel–to–wheel action through a race weekend and the VIR collection of cars and drivers will again produce spectacular competition.
Pacing the charge for Chevrolet is four-time series and two-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach
piloting the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4R. Aschenbach just missed out in winning the 2016 GTS title despite scoring four race wins. Now, he comes to VIR after an impressive debut of the Camaro GT4R at St. Petersburg last month with two second place finishes.
The Flying Lizard Motorsports duo of Spain’s Rodrigo Baptista and 17-year-old Nate Stacy of Owasso, Okla., figure to be prime contenders at VIR with their No. 3 and No. 14 Flying Lizard Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR sports cars, respectively.
Another exciting new machine to the GTS ranks in 2017 is the popular No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT with veteran sports car racer Ian James of Paradise Valley, Ariz., at the controls. The new Panoz has shown potential in its initial outing at St. Petersburg.
The Canadian-based Mantella Autosport team of Anthony Mantella of Toronto in the No. 8 Mantella Autosport KTM Xbow and Martin Barkey of Huntsville, Ont., in the No. 80 MBRP Performance Exhaust KTM Xbow are expected to race for the lead at VIR after each scored GTS wins last year. The KTM Xbow, introduced last year in GTS, won the GTS drivers championship with ANSA Motorsports and Nico Jamin of France will pilot the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM Xbow at VIR.
Veteran PWC racer Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee, Wis., will bring his always-popular No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com Maserati GT4 to VIR for JCR Motorsports this weekend.
In the GTS Am class, Aschenbach’s Black Dog Speed shop teammate, Tony Gaples will lead the contenders in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4R. The veteran placed eighth in last year’s final GTS standings and record ten top-ten finishes.
The Case-It Racing teammates Adam Merzon of Greenwich, Conn., and Cameron Cassels of Coldstream, BC, Canada, figure to be in the GTS Am mix at VIR with their No. 017 and No. 018 Case-It Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR machines, as well as veteran racer Mark Klenin of Lone Tree, Colo., in the No. 62 KRP/Tender Belly McLaren 570S GT4. Another McLaren 570S GT4 in the GTS field will be George Kurtz of Paradise Valley, Ariz., in the No. 04 Crowdstrike/GMG sports car.
PWC newcomer Jason Bell of Tampa, Fla., turned in an impressive weekend in his GTS debut in the streets of St. Petersburg with an eighth overall in the No. 2 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4 machine, and Bell will team up on Racers Edge Motorsports effort with Chris Beaufait of Freeland, Wash., in the No. 45 SIN R1 GT4. Fred Roberts of Toronto is also entered in the GTS Am division in the No. 89 JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4 as well as Ricco Shlaimoun of Irvine, Calif., in the No. 25 ANSA Motorsports KTM Xbow.
The GTS presented by Case-It events will be 50-minute sprint contests on Saturday and Sunday at VIR.
2016 Champion Grahovec Set To Defend TC Title at VIR – Touring Car Preview
The off-season whirlwind of Touring Car activities has produced a stellar field of TC machines and drivers for this weekend at VIR including some 32 entries for the TC season opener for Round 1 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday.
A strong contingent of BWM M235iR cars are set to invade the pretty VIR landscape led by defending TC class champion, Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., in the No. 1 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR.
The former SCCA national champion was the model of consistency last year with two victories and 12 top-five finishes and the personable Chicago native plans to repeat the 2016 performance in 2017 with a strong showing at VIR. Grahovec tested earlier at the VIR facility and will be a challenger this weekend.
Contending with Grahovec will be last year’s series third place finisher, Montreal’s Nick Wittmer, who moves over to drive the new No. 91 ST Racing/GPI Inc./Laurel BMW of Westmont, Ill., BWM M235iR along with his teammate, college student Samantha Tan of Gormley, Ont., Canada, in the No. 38 ST Racing/GPI Inc./Laurel BMW of Westmont, Ill., BWM M235iR. Wittmer scored two TC victories in 2016.
Another strong two-car effort will come from Orlando-based Shea Racing with team owner/driver Shea Holbrook of Orlando and college student Jason Fichter of Jupiter, Fla., in their Honda Accords. Holbrook, a six-time PWC race winner, has been busy in the off-season with a four-car operation (two in TC, two TCA) but figures to be a series title challenger in the popular No. 67 Bubba Burgers/Lucas Oil Honda accord, while Fichter, 19, will be piloting the No. 7 Turn 7 Motorsports/Revant/DonateLife Honda Accord.
Returning in 2017 is TC ‘Rookie of the Year” Anthony Geraci, of Glen Cove, N.Y., in the new No. 69 S.A.C. Racing Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport sedan. Geraci finished sixth in the 2016 TC points and won his first PWC TC race last year at Lime Rock Park.
Another top New York-based racing team is BERG Racing led by team owner John Weisberg of Webster, N.Y., who campaigns the No. 5 REDCOM Laboratories/Micro Precision Components/BERG Racing Mazda MX–5. Joining the BERG Racing team in 2017 is John Allen of Denver., Colo., in the No. 007 JA Racing/ Micro Precision Components/REDCOM Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport and Jason Coupal of Rochester, N.Y., in the 009 REDCOM Laboratories/Micro Precision Components/BERG Racing Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport.
A young driver to watch at VIR is Paul Holton of Orlando, who has been competing in Touring Cars in Europe, and now returns with the TC debut of the No. 71 C360R Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport. Holton is a three-time PWC race winner and expects to be in the fight for the TC title in 2017.
The 32-car field also features Gino Carini, in the No. 2 Palermos Screaming Sicilian Pizza/Marenzo Construction Group/Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; Dennis Hanratty Jr., in the No. 4 KRUGSPEED Lotus Exige; Rodrigo Sales, in the No. 8 Shogun Spirits/Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M235iR; Cody Ellsworth, in the No. 11 Racelink Porsche Cayman; Mason Filippi, in the No. 12 Shmib and Motorized Shade/Winding Road Team BMW M235iR; Randy Hale, in the No. 17 Hale Propeller/Transaero Mazda MX-5; Stefan Sajic, in the No. 18 ZIMA Motorsports BMW M235iR; Aristotle Balogh, in the No. 19 ART Racing BMW M235iR; Greg Liefooghe, in the No. 20 ART Racing BMW M235iR; Robert Nimkoff, in the 28 AutoTechnic Racing BMW M325iR; Justin Raphael, in the No. 29 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR;
Tony Rivera, in the No. 34 Brass Monkey Racing/Tiburon Motorsports Nissan 370Z; Chetan Purank, in the No. 36 ZIMA Motorsports BMW M235iR; Steve Kholi, in the No. 40 Parallax Racing/Billion Honda Honda Accord; Andrew Rains, in the No. 44 Rains Racing/APEX Pro/PLK Investment Partners Honda Accord Coupe; Cameron Maugeri, in the No. 72 KRUGSPEED Lotus Exige; Jeff Ricca, in the No. 78 GenRacer.com Hyundai Genesis Coupe; Anthony Magagnoli, in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M235iR; Henry Schmitt, in the No. 87 in the BMW of San Francisco BMW M235iR; Chris Ohmacht, in the No. 92 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; Joshua Foran, in the No. 93 Team HMA Honda Accord and Karl Wittmer, in the No. 99 Honda Ste-Rose Honda Accord.
2016 Champion Goulart returns in TCA against a strong field at VIR – TCA Class Preview
The TCA class action has always been exciting in the Pirelli World Challenge and the 2017 version should be no different with defending series champion Elivan Goulart returning to defend his crown.
Goulart, in the No. 70 S.A.C. Racing/SCDA1.com Mazda MX–5, had a dominating 2016 season with five of 12 TCA races and 12 top-five placings. Goulart’s performance also helped Mazda clinch the class Manufacturer’s Championship.
Battling Goulart at VIR will be the 2016 TCB series champion Tom O’Gorman of Mason, Ohio, who’ll drive the all-new No. 94 HPD/Black Armor Helmets/Gridlife Honda Civic Si for Shea Racing. O’Gorman was impressive in the Honda Fit in 2016 and hopes to continue his winning ways in the TCA division. Teaming up with O’Gorman on the Shea Racing effort will be young woman racer Sarah Montgomery of Lafayette, La., in the No. 65 Lemon of Love/Lafayette Travel Honda Civic Si.
Joining Goulart in the S.A.C. Racing team in 2017 will be Daniel Moen of Rindge, N.H., in the No. 73 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5, and Matthew Fassnacht of Madison, N.J., in the No. 74 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup, Fassnacht won the TCA “Rookie of the Year” in 2016 and finished fourth in the TCA standings.
Eric Powell, in the No. 23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX–5 Cup, returns with Tech Sport Racing after placing third in last year’s TCA points with one win, eight top-fives and ten top-tens. Powell teams with Michael Johnson of Austin, Tex., in the No. 21 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX–5 Cup, and team principal Kevin Anderson of Huntington Station, N.Y., in the No. 22 Tech Sport Racing Scion FR-S.
Another TCA contender could be the Las Vegas-based Paul Whiting and his No. 51 PWR/Honda West in the NW Honda Civic Si. Whiting was a contender in several TCA races in 2016 and placed ninth in points.
Others to watch in the 15–car TCA field include Glory Fernandez of Carolina, P.R., in the No. 52 Glory Racing/DBA USA Honda Civic Si; Spencer Patterson of Pittsburgh, Pa., in the No. 79 Patterson Racing/Regent Square Rentals Mazda MX-5 Cup; Jeff Sexton of Austin, Tex., in the No. 89 Winding Road Team Mazda MX-5 Cup; Brian Henderson of Falmouth, Mass., in the No. 97 Copeland Motorsports Mazda MX-5 Cup; Jason Connole of Raleigh, N.C., in the No. 155 Rossini Racing Products/Long Road Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; and Dean Copeland of Grasonville, Md., in the No. 07 Copeland Motorsports Mazda MX-5 Cup.
A wide-open title fight expected in 2017 in TCB – TCB Class Preview
Touring Car B–Spec or TCB features the most cost-effective class but the racing is some of the best in all of the Pirelli World Challenge with door–to–door racing and drafting bumper-to-bumper
With O’Gorman, the 2016 champion, moving to TCA in 2017, the series battle for the point title will be wide-open from Round 1 at VIR to the final at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.
Canadian P.J. Groenke of Richmond Hill, Ont., raced O’Gorman right down the final race before settling for second in the championship. Groenke scored six podium (top-three) finishes and ten top-five placements in 2016. He’ll compete at VIR this weekend in the No. 25 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic. Groenke’s teammate at VIR will be Johnny O’Connell’s son, Canaan, who’ll pilot the No. 24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic. Canaan scored a podium finish last year at Utah in his TCB class debut.
Other contenders in TCB at VIR this weekend include Jake Pipal of Oakdale, Calif., in the No. 6 Carbotech Brakes MINI Cooper; Travis Washay of Milford, Conn., in the No. 30 Indian Summer Racing MINI Cooper; Blake Thompson of Oak Creek, Wis., in the No. 37 ISellMiataParts.com Mazda 2; Taylor Handwerk of Jim Thorpe, Pa., in the Indian Summer Racing/Bimmertools.com MINI Cooper; Jasper Drengler of Shawano, Wis., in the No. 01 Drengler Racing/Chimney Mechanix Honda Fit; and Ted Sahley of Cleveland, Ohio, in the Believeland Motorsport Mazda 2.
17-turn 3.27-mile road course
Qualifying: (All times listed are EDT)
Saturday, April 29, 2017
9:30 AM – 10:05 AM Pirelli World Challenge TC (15 min.) TCA-TCB (15 min.)
10:15 AM – 10:30 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS
10:40 AM – 10:55 AM Pirelli World Challenge – Sprint X AM
11:05 AM – 11:20 AM Pirelli World Challenge – Sprint X PRO
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com):
Saturday, April 29, 2017 (All times listed are EDT)
1:05 PM – 1:45 PM Pirelli World Challenge – Touring Car Race 1 (40 minutes)
2:10 PM – 3:00 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GTS Race 1 (50 minutes)
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Pirelli World Challenge – SprintX Race 1 (60 minutes)
Sunday, April 30, 2017 (All times listed are EDT)
11:10 AM – 12:00 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GTS Race 2 (50 minutes)
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM Pirelli World Challenge – SprintX Race 2 (60 minutes)
2:40 PM – 3:20 PM Pirelli World Challenge – Touring Car Race 2 (40 minutes)
60 minutes (SprintX)
50 minutes (GTS)
40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)
Television (on CBS Sports Network): All times listed re: CBS broadcasts are Eastern.
SprintX: May 7, 6 PM
Touring Car: May 14, 4 PM
GTS: May 14, 5 PM