SONOMA, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., the veteran sports car champion in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, used his experience to make a last lap pass on 18-year-old Austin Cindric in winning the exciting Pirelli World Challenge GT round 18 event at Sonoma Raceway Saturday. Michael Schein of Glen Cove, N.Y., drove his No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R to the GTA victory with Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Texas, capturing his 11th GT Cup win in the No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
O’Connell, the defending four-time GT titleholder, started third and stalked the pole winner Cindric, the high-school senior from Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S from the drop of the green flag until the final lap when the four-time LeMans winner made the inside move in turn seven on the youngster to steal a possible first GT win from the talented Cindric. The 54-year-old O’Connell managed his Pirelli tires throughout the 31-lap, 50-minute event at the 2.38-mile, 12-turn permanent circuit and saw Cindric’s McLaren lose a slight bit of traction in turn six to make the lead pass. O’Connell defeated Cindric by 0.716-seconds.
The victory for O’Connell was his 19th in Pirelli World Challenge competition and 60th overall as a GM driver. Johnny won in Round 2 last March at the Circuit of the Americas.
It was a tough loss for Cindric, son of Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and the grandson of the late Jim Trueman, the 1986 Indy 500-winning team owner. After setting a new qualifying track record of 93.110 miles per hour earlier in the day, Austin jumped to the top spot at the green flag and held the advantage with O’Connell waiting for a mistake. That mistake never occurred and Johnny dove to the inside on the 31st circuit with his chance for the lead. The move forced Cindric to the outside of turn seven and to the runner-up position at the checkered flag. Cindric also placed second earlier this year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
O’Connell explained, “The entire race I was sizing up the McLaren, seeing where (Cindric) was strong and where our Cadillac was strong. We were faster in the carousel and I thought if I see him wiggle and I am close enough I can make a move into turn 7 and that is what happened. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone at Cadillac Racing. I had what I thought was my 60th win for GM at Long Beach and it got taken away, so this one is legit. I have so many laps here at Sonoma Raceway after teaching for many years in the Bob Bondurant Driving School. So my experience paid off today. Austin did a tremendous job and didn’t make a mistake. I just followed him throughout the race and saw a place to make the pass. It was my only chance and it worked.”
“I knew going through traffic I had to be strong in the two places where Johnny O’Connell was showing more strength,” Cindric said. “Everywhere else, I felt like I was running the same as him, or just a little bit better. I really had to work on managing my tires. After lap five or six, I could tell I was losing the tail of the car. I caught the eye in turn three just at the wrong time. It was one of those things where you have to commit to the pass, and I slid through 3A and 3B. With warm tires there, it’s pretty much game over. I did everything I could through the carousel, but I had a nice drift out of there. That’s where it ended for me. It’s very disappointing to lead every lap except for the one that counts.” He concluded, “I worked very hard to be here this year and I don’t expect myself to stop working hard. This will make me work even harder, if that’s possible. It’s really cool for K-PAX Racing and Flying Lizard to have a strong performance at their home event.”
Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y., O’Connell’s Cadillac Racing teammate and a two-time 2016 GT winner, made it a three-way battle for the victory as last year’s GTS champion piloted his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. to a tremendous late-race charge to round out the podium from his fourth starting spot. Closing out the top five was five-time GT winner Alvaro Parente of Porto, Portugal in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S and St. Petersburg double-winner Michael Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif., in the No. 98 Calvert Dynamics/CurbAgajanian Porsche 911 GT3R.
GT class point leader Patrick Long of Manhattan Beach, Calif., finished eighth Saturday in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R.
Long’s Wright Motorsports teammate, Schein, started second in the GTA grid and jumped to the front early, leading every lap with his Porsche 911 GT3R while GTA point leader Martin Fuentes of Mexico City, Mex., trailed in the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia and young Cooper MacNeil of Hinsdale, Ill., brought up third in the No. 79 WeatherTech/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3R. Fuentes, with nine GTA wins in 2016, needed a solid finish to clinch the GTA driver’s championship and the personable racer followed Schein throughout the 50-minute race for the runner-up position. MacNeil, the Colorado University senior, was impressive in his first PWC start in 2016.
“The conditions were not easy today,” Schein remarked. “The heat in the track surface made it hard on everyone. I’m very happy for the Wright Motorsports team today. They have given me a great Porsche machine all year and today was no different. It’s always exciting to win.” On the series win for Fuentes, Schein said, “I want to congratulate Martin (Fuentes) for clinching the championship also. We have raced hard against each other in 2016 and it has been fun.”
On the championship win, Fuentes said, “I’m so thrilled to win the GTA driver’s championship. The Scuderia Corsa Ferrari team was outstanding the entire season and winning nine races is just unbelievable. I want to thank them for their effort. I will now just race hard on Sunday to win with the championship clinched.”
Udell, the Clemson University mechanical engineering student, set a new qualifying record with an 88.302 m.p.h. and fought off his GT Cup rival Sloan Urry of Salt Lake City, Utah in the No. 20 TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for his 11th win of the season. Still fighting Urry for the coveted GT Cup point title, Udell took the checkered flag in front of Urry by less than a second with local racer Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., joining the pair on the GT Cup podium in the No. 35 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Udell explained, “The GMG Porsche was very good again and it’s always great to win the race. Sloan gave me a battle like he has all season long. It is not easy watching in your mirror for the faster GT cars and they fight their way through sometimes. But we had a good race car and I feel we can do it again on Sunday.”
Best laps, used to determine pole sitters for the next competition rounds on Sunday, were obtained by the following:
In GT Class, Austin Cindric in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren turned a 1:34.768-second best lap.
GTA Best Lap was run by No. 16 Michael Schein at 1:36.619-seconds, which also provisionally set the track record for best GTA Race lap.
GT Cup Best Lap was run by No. 17 Alec Udell at 1:38.963-seconds.
Other race awards and recognitions were issued as follows:
The Optima Batteries Best Start Award was given to GT No. 13 Colin Thompson in the K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 for his 4 position gain at the start of the race.
The Cadillac Move of the Race was awarded to O’Connell for his last-lap pass of Cindric in Turn 7 to move into first place.
The KIA Turning Point of the Race was also determined to be O’Connell’s passing of Cindric in the last lap.
The MotorTrendOnDemand.com Clean Pass award was given to GTA No. 79 Cooper MacNeil in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 991 GT3R for his pass of GT No. 34 Peter Kox in the RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT in Chicaine Turn 9 on Lap 15.
The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award was given to GTA No. 16 Michael Schein in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R for his six-position gain.
Round 19 for the GT and GTA categories and round 18 for the GT Cup will take place Sunday at Sonoma Raceway at 1:15 p.m PDT for the 50-minute sprint contest. Live streaming of the race will be available at MotorTrendOnDemand.com/watch-live. Live timing can be viewed at LiveTiming.net/PWC/. All links are available from the event page at World-Challenge.com.
Sonoma, CA – Results from Saturday, Sep 17, 2016 Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT-GTA Round 18 GT Cup Round 17 Race, part of the Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway Presented by Cadillac.
Pos. PIC, Class, Name, Hometown, Car, Laps, Status
1. 1, GT, Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch GA, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 31, Running
2. 2, GT, Austin Cindric, Charlotte NC, McLaren 650S GT3, 31, Running
3. 3, GT, Michael Cooper, Syosset NY, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 31, Running
4. 4, GT, Alvaro Parente, Porto Portugal, McLaren 650S GT3, 31, Running
5. 5, GT, Michael Lewis, Laguna Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 31, Running
6. 6, GT, Jon Fogarty, Bend OR, McLaren 650S GT3, 31, Running
7. 7, GT, Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno CA, Nissan GTR GT3, 31, Running
8. 8, GT, Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 31, Running
9. 9, GT, Adderly Fong, Hong Kong, Bentley Continental GT3, 31, Running
10. 10, GT, Ryan Eversley, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 31, Running
11. 11, GT, JD Davison, Denver CO, Nissan GTR GT3, 31, Running
12. 1, GTA, Michael Schein, Glen Cove NY, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 31, Running
13. 2, GTA, Martin Fuentes, Mexico City Mexico, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, 31, Running
14. 3, GTA, Cooper MacNeil/Cooper MacNeil, Hinsdale IL, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 31, Running
15. 15, GT, Peter Kox, Eindhoven NL, Acura TLX-GT, 31, Running
16. 4, GTA, Tim Pappas, Boston MA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 31, Running
17. 5, GTA, Andy Wilzoch, Aurora CO, Porsche GT3R, 31, Running
18. 6, GTA, Andrew Kim/Andrew Kim, Seoul South Korea, Bentley Continental GT3, 31, Running
19. 19, GT, Jonathan Summerton, Highlands NJ, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 31, Running
20. 7, GTA, Drew Regitz, Denver CO, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 30, Running
21. 21, GT, Gunner Jeannette/Gunner Jeannette, Salt Lake City UT, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 30, Running
22. 22, GT, Kyle Marcelli, Barrie ON, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 30, Running
23. 1, GT Cup, Alec Udell, The Woodlands TX, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 30, Running
24. 2, GT Cup, Sloan Urry, Park City UT, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 30, Running
25. 3, GT Cup, Mike Hedlund/Mike Hedlund, Redwood City CA, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 30, Running
26. 4, GT Cup, Corey Fergus, Columbus OH, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 29, Running
27. 5, GT Cup, Preston Calvert, Potomac MD, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 27, Running
28. 8, GTA, Brent Holden, Newport Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 23, MissedSeveralLaps
29. 24, GT, Colin Thompson, Doylestown PA, McLaren 650S GT3, 14, Not Running