As announced last Friday, the Pirelli World Challenge Sonoma Raceway GTS event was supposed to be a key moment in the life of ANSA Motorsports, a team co-owned by Alain Nadal and Patrick Otto Madsen, and it was. The team, based in Miami Gardens, Florida, came to California with high expectations and the will to score maximum points, so ANSA Motorsports could continue its quest for team and driver championships.
Team drivers did an excellent job in Sonoma and fulfilled the dreams of Nadal and Madsen, capturing the two pole positions with Hugh Plumb (race 1) and Brett Sandberg (race 2) and scoring another podium finish for the team with Plumb in race 1 on Saturday and another win with Sandberg in race 2 on Sunday .
After 17 rounds completed in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GTS championship, ANSA Motorsports is now, more than ever, in the team- championship hunt. Following a great race weekend in California, the team scored its 10th pole position, third season win and 11th podium finish.
On Friday, Sandberg and Plumb were two of the drivers hoping to get the pole for race 1 (round 16). At the end, Plumb, driving the No. 12 ANSA KTM X-Bow GT4, scored his first Pirelli World Challenge GTS pole position. Sandberg was third fastest and Ziegler 16th.
Race 1 was not really a great one for Sandberg. The driver from Allendale, New Jersey, was hoping to score a podium and to finish ahead of Lawson Aschenbach. Sandberg was manhandled by some of the competitors and after being pushed once, he looked ready to move to the top spot in the race, when the point leader was hit again by another car and spun. Luckily, Sandberg was able to regain the track just ahead of Aschenbach to finish sixth. Bill Ziegler, driving the No. 9 Swisher Racing KTM X-Bow GT4, finished 12th in race 1 at Sonoma.
Plumb had a great showing in race 1. The driver from Unionville, Pennsylvania, was called at the last minute by ANSA Motorsports and managed to do the job he was hired to do. He scored a third-place finish and gained precious team points for the championship. “The ANSA Motorsports guys did a great job getting everything right for me,” Plumb said. “We had a good qualifying session with the pole position. I’m so happy to be back in Pirelli World Challenge. They do an amazing job. It’s very professional and some great racing, too.”
In race 2, Sandberg started on pole, thanks to his fastest time in race 1. This marked Sandberg’s ninth pole position of the season. He had a perfect race 2 and led from flag to flag and scored his third Pirelli World Challenge win of the season, and many points toward his first GTS driver championship.
“My standing start was super important,” Sandberg said. “On Saturday, we did everything we could to try to get around Nate Staci, but he drove a flawless race. I knew how important the race 2 start would be, and we nailed it. Overall, the ANSA Motorsports guys did a good job with a few changes from Saturday. It was cooler on Sunday than Saturday for race 1, so we made adjustments to help the car. We went more on the aggressive side, because we knew we needed a fast car early in the race. We have done a lot with the KTM X-Bow GT4 car this year and developed the chassis throughout the season. With the help of Reiter Engineering in Germany, it has been a process to get the car developed with each race, but overall it has been a fun year.”
Ziegler had a problem-free race 2 at Sonoma and finished 13th. Plumb did not have a great race 2. He was racing in the top-five, then was hit violently at the chicane by Kevin Marshall’s Lotus, and both cars were retired from the effort. Plumb was listed in 15th place in the final results of race 2.
ANSA Motorsports came to Sonoma Raceway third in the GTS team championship ranking, 46 points behind the leading team. With solid results acquired over the weekend by drivers Sandberg, Plumb and Ziegler, ANSA Motorsports bridged the gap with the team leading the championship and went from third to second, now only 6 points behind the team-championship leader. The final two races would now be decisive to clinch the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GTS team championship title.
Sandberg had a 66-point advantage entering the Sonoma event over his direct championship competitor. With his two convincing finishes, he was able to meet his Sonoma’s expectations and has now a 111-point advantage on the second- place Aschenbach. Like for ANSA Motorsports, the 2016 GTS driver championship will be decided in the final two rounds at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, California.
In the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GTS manufacturer championship, KTM continues to lead by 23 points over Ford and 31 points over Chevrolet, with two races to go.
CBS Sports Network’s broadcasts of GTS action from Sonoma Raceway start Sunday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m. EDT.
GTS action returns for Rounds 18 and 19, when Pirelli World Challenge heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, California, for the season finale Oct 7-9.
Follow ANSA Motorsports on Facebook.com/ansamotorsports and Twitter @AnsaMotorsports. Visit www.ansamotorsports.com. and on Instagram #AnsaMotorsports .
Photos by Chris Green and PWC, Copyright.