Fogarty Puts ‘Red Dragon” McLaren on Podium at COTA in Opening Pirelli World Challenge Weekend
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 8, 2016) – Veteran racing driver Jon Fogarty has enjoyed one of the most celebrated careers in both open-wheel and sports car competitions.
The 40-year-old father of three from Bend, Ore., has sprayed champagne in winner’s circles from Watkins Glen to Mexico City and from Portland to Daytona and at famed tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway. Street circuits of Denver, Toronto, Monterrey and Montreal are on his win list too.
But, this weekend, Fogarty will be learning a race track for the first time, the streets of St. Petersburg and the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary circuit that includes the Albert Whitted Airport runway, in preparation for the Pirelli World Challenge St. Petersburg Grand Prix presented by Cadillac doubleheader events this weekend, part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Fogarty is coming off an impressive third place finish last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex., in his first weekend of GT class action with the popular GAINSCO “Red Dragon” McLaren 650S sports car. Yes, the same McLaren company that builds race cars and competes in Formula One.
“It was a tremendous race at COTA for the GAINSCO team and their large group of employees on hand last Sunday,” said Fogarty, a four-time series champion in open-wheel and sports car racing. “We came from tenth on the grid and had some very good racing in the 50-minute race. Now, we go from a Formula One type-track to a street course that I have not seen before. It’s a major contrast. Being on a street circuit, there isn’t a lot of room to explore the limits too.”
Fogarty won’t have access to an actual simulator to learn the St. Petersburg street circuit but he knows studying hours of video footage from the past St. Petersburg races will assist him in his learning process.
“Luckily, there is a lot of video of in-car cameras which I can study over the next few days,” Fogarty admits. “In the past, you would walk the track and see how the turns work and the bumps in the streets. We will still do that process but I’ll have a better idea of how the circuit goes with the video in-car footage. I’ll work with a driver consultant (Mike Zemicki) who also knows the track very well. And I’ll even ride a bicycle to check out the track surface.”
Fogarty knows that the best way to learn the track will be driving his “Red Dragon” in the first practice round set for Thursday afternoon.
“Obviously, I’ll know where to turn left and right and how the straightaways will bend,” said Fogarty. “But the only way to learn the nuances of the track is really only to drive it. It’s kind of like the old days of going to a new street course.”
Fogarty jumped into the GT category for the first time last weekend in the doubleheader action of the Pirelli World Challenge. Saturday’s feature saw the California native sitting on the side of the track due to some wild driving by his competitors and contact with his cars.
“I wasn’t too happy after Saturday’s race,” said Fogarty. “I felt some of the drivers were just too aggressive in certain portions of the track. And I lost out by getting spun off the track. I was a little more prepared for the driving styles of some guys on Sunday and I was able to avoid the mishaps.”
Sunday’s third place finish for Fogarty behind the Cadillac duo of Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper was a sensational performance for his initial PWC GT action. Fogarty and his GAINSCO team are still learning about the ins and outs of the impressive McLaren sports car.
“I had some good battles with several guys in Sunday’s race and it was good, clean racing,” Fogarty explained. “I’m just happy we could put the new ‘Red Dragon’ on the podium in our first weekend of GT racing in the Pirelli World Challenge. This class is highly-competitive with a variety of cars and outstanding drivers. It has many factory drivers who have raced GT sports cars for many years. We are new to this form of GT racing and we’ll continue to improve.”
Fogarty and 25 other drivers will compete in two separate Pirelli World Challenge GT features (Rounds 3 and 4) at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Saturday’s 50-minute race is set for 9:35 am EST with Sunday’s contest scheduled for 3:15 p.m., immediately following the Verizon IndyCar Series opener.
Watch live streaming of the races at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing and scoring at world-challenge.com.
Contact: Tom Blattler, 317-525-5692, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Drimmie, 416- 835-6601, email@example.com