After a string of podium finishes to kick off the season, Tom O’Gorman earns a pair of victories in Pirelli World Challenge Rounds 7 & 8 to sweep the weekend at Road America.
Each weekend of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season presents it’s own unique storyline, but maybe none are bigger than this year’s visit to Road America – America’s National Park of Speed. All seven Pirelli World Challenge classes joined the Verizon IndyCar series, which made it’s return Road America after nearly a decade hiatus. The highly anticipated return to the historic track promised billboard crowds for four solid days of racing action.
The TOMO Racing team arrived at Road America with high hopes and high expectations, set to make the Pirelli World Challenge TCB debut of their new 2015 Black Armor Helmets, SCCA Track Night In America, Carbotech Brakes, KTuner, Honda Racing/HPD Honda Fit.
“I haven’t had much time to test the new car myself, but we’re lucky in that my teammate David Daughtery has already completed most of his season in SCCA Club Racing, so we have a lot of great data on the car. He even raced here [at Road America] just a few days ago,” tells O’Gorman. “I was able to run the car briefly before an SCCA Track Night In America event a few weeks ago, and was blown away with the improvements Honda Racing/HPD was able to make over the previous generation car. The biggest difference is absolutely the handling; this 2015 car is just stellar.”
A compacted schedule provided an added challenge for the TOMO Racing crew, with Official Practice, Qualifying, and Race 1 all taking place on Thursday of the packed race weekend. However, O’Gorman was able to put his teammate’s data to good use, setting the pace early and leading the first Official Practice session of the weekend. He would go on to claim his first career PWC pole in Qualifying, resetting the track record along the way.
“It’s my first time driving Road America and I’m pretty blown away with the track – I’ve visited a few times and turned many laps in simulators, but neither of those do the speed of the track justice, even with our TCB cars,” O’Gorman laughs. “I’m excited to get my first pole in PWC, our session was interesting with all the TC/TCA cars on track with us, and an early red flag put the pressure on to deliver a time in a minimal number of laps. I definitely lucked out though, my teammate raced our car here 4 days ago and was able to give me all the data I could ask for, so I could apply that and be on pace right away.”
Race 1 came later that afternoon, with nearly 50 TC/TCA/TCB cars taking the rolling start. O’Gorman claimed the lead early, but teammates Michael Johnson and P.J. Groenke in the pair of Tech Sport Racing Chevy Sonics worked together to challenge for the top spot all the way to the checkered flag. The race saw dozens of lead changes, but it was O’Gorman who crossed the line first, earning his first career pro racing victory.
“I had the Tech Sport teammates (Groenke and Johnson) working together against me today,” said O’Gorman. “I had to hold them off and was able to use the traffic just at the right time to take that advantage over them. I’m an autocrosser and I used to say that nothing would give me the shakes like an autocross run. But I have the shakes today. I’m so happy for my first Pirelli World Challenge win – it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. Last year here at Road America I shadowed a team to learn about the Pirelli World Challenge. Now a year later, I won my first race here. It’s special to come back to Road America and win. I can’t thank Honda Racing/HPD enough for the development on this new 2015 Honda Fit, Carbotech Brakes for the stopping power I needed to stay out front, Black Armor Helmets and KTuner for the protection and support, and everyone who has ever donated their time and effort to get me to this point. It means the world to me.”
Friday was the second and final day on track for the TC/TCA/TCB competitors, with Race 2 taking place late in the evening at 6PM. With the intense battling the day before, O’Gorman was able to set the 3rd fastest race lap and would start from that position come race time. Race 2 also featured the trademark Pirelli World Challenge standing start, one of O’Gorman’s favorite aspects of the series. At the start, O’Gorman and pole sitter Noah Grey (#65 Mazda2) were able to break away from the pack, and a transmission issue for Grey left O’Gorman leading by a sizable margin until a full course caution. The race would finish with an action-packed green-white-checker dash, with TC and TCA cars buried in the TCB pack adding to the excitement, but O’Gorman was able to hold on for another victory to sweep the weekend.
“Today’s race was very different than yesterday,” said O’Gorman. “We got a great start and I was able to hook up with Noah [Grey] and pull away a bit. He missed a shift in the middle of the race and I was able to go to the lead. I kept my head down and got a good gap until the full course yellow. We had a wild restart with TC, TCA and TCB all mixing it up on the front straight. It was a little of bit of madness. Everyone [in TCB] raced with each other on the restart and I was able to get away again. It’s incredible to win again today. It is one year since I started in the Pirelli World Challenge and I was able to score a double win this weekend. I was always fighting a bit of pace with my last car but the 2015 Honda Fit was what I needed to push me over the edge and get to the top of the podium.”
O’Gorman’s sweep at Road America slots him into 3rd place in the Driver’s Championship points standings. A scheduling change left teams with the option to race at Lime Rock Park in May or score double points at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October. Both drivers ahead of O’Gorman raced at Lime Rock, while O’Gorman hopes for strong finishes in October to solidify his championship run, putting him a weekend behind on points at this time. “We’re in a great spot right now. We can only aim for more consistent finishes to round out the year – and hopefully more weekends like this one,” says O’Gorman. O’Gorman’s team, Black Armor Helmets, also maintains 3rd position in the Team Championship.
Rounds 7 & 8 of the PWC Championship will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network Thursday, July 7 at 8:00PM EST, with live streams of Round 8 available at world-challenge.com and motortrendondemand.com. The Pirelli World Challenge TC/TCA/TCB teams hit the track next at Utah Motorsports Campus, August 11-14. Follow Tom O’Gorman and TOMO Racing’s adventures online at tomoracing.com, Facebook (TOMO Racing), and Instagram/Twitter (@tomoracing).