At Lime Rock Park, the action has been fast and furious all day. Pirelli World Challenge’s GT-class saw parity with 12 drivers (including GTA-class pole sitter Martin Fuentes) all qualifying within a half-second of the pole position. It seemed like Round No. 10 for the GT and GTA-classes (Round No. 9 for GT Cup only) was going to be close. For part of the day, it was.
Alvaro Parente started from the pole in his K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 with Bentley Team Absolute‘s Andrew Palmer alongside. On the start, Palmer was able to gain the edge and swooped to the outside at the track’s Big Bend to take the lead. Parente followed, along with Wright Motorsports‘ Patrick Long and CRP Racing‘s Kyle Marcelli in the race’s sole Audi. Together, the quartet pulled away from the rest of the field.
Parente stalked Palmer for the first ten laps of the race. Then, coming off of the Diving Turn (turn 7) on lap 11, Parente got a big run and got to the inside of Palmer. Palmer attempted to defend, but Parente was able to complete the pass in Big Bend. That turned out to be the winning move as the K-PAX Racing car scooted ahead the rest of the way.
For Parente, getting the lead back was a matter of playing the waiting game and pouncing at the right moment.
“I took advantage of [Palmer] getting a little bit stuck in the last corner with a slower car,” Parente said after the race. “I took that advantage [and] got a good run on him onto the main straight. He defended well, but I pressured him in the first corner. He braked a little too late and I was able to sneak to the inside.”
Parente admitted that it was a lucky break for Palmer to catch slower traffic at such a crucial place on the track.
Palmer was able to stick with Parente for the next few laps. However, the leaders encountered lapped traffic on the 1.474-mile road course. Parente was able to deal with the slower cars a little better than Palmer and emerged with a couple of seconds over the field. As the race continued on, that advantage increased up to eight seconds.
Meanwhile, Palmer ended up in a battle of his own for second with Long and Marcelli. The battle continued until Long and Palmer had contact entering Big Bend with approximately eight minutes to go. The contact sent Palmer off the road and into the grass, while Long swept past. Palmer would drop back to sixth as a result. The move was considered controversial and Pirelli World Challenge officials chose to investigate.
A couple of laps later, Long was called into the pits to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Just before Long served the drive-through, Marcelli was able to pass Long under braking for the chicane to take second place. By that point, there were only a few minutes left and Parente was able to cruise to his third win of the season.
Afterwards, Parente credited K-PAX Racing’s preparation as the big key to earning the win.
“We had a great test on Tuesday,” Parente continued. “We worked on the race pace and the car was perfectly set up for the track.”
Cadillac Racing‘s Johnny O’Connell finished third, eight seconds off the lead. Bentley Team Absolute’s Adderly Fong was fourth while Palmer had to settle for fifth. Ryan Eversley, driving the RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT normally driven by teammate/car owner Peter Cunningham finished sixth. Long, after his penalty, was forced to settle for seventh.
In GTA, pole-sitter Martin Fuentes led for the vast majority of the race, maintaining a three-second advantage over Wright Motorsports’ Michael Schein. The other two competitors, Jorge De La Torre and Frankie Montecalvo, were not in the hunt. De La Torre was not on pace and ended up nearly four laps down at the finish. Meanwhile, Montecalvo dropped out early on with suspension failure.
66-Montecalvo has stopped outside of the chicane. pic.twitter.com/9ux96W2sO3
— Phil Allaway (@Critic84) May 27, 2016
Late in the race, Schein was able to quickly run down Fuentes, who spent much of the race dueling with GT-class machinery. With two laps to go, Schein was able to get past Fuentes and pulled away from there to take his third consecutive GTA-class win.
In GT Cup, Sloan Urry may have been driving with a broken left wrist, but it didn’t seem to affect his form on-track. Urry qualified on pole, then walked away from the field. Urry actually spent much of the race mixing it up with some of the GT and GTA-class drivers and eventually stretched his lead up to 15 seconds.
Towards the end of the event, Alec Udell ripped off a series of fast laps that cut significantly into Urry’s lead. However, Urry was able to hold on to take his fourth win of the year. Udell was 3.375 seconds back in second, while Corey Fergus was third.
The grid for Race No. 2 (Round 11 for the GT and GTA classes, Round 10 for the GT Cup class) will be formed based on the fastest laps in this race. Palmer’s lap of 52.814 seconds was the fastest of the event, so he will start on pole. Parente will start second, followed by Long, O’Connell, Marcelli, the Always Evolving Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 of Bryan Heitkotter, Fong, Michael Cooper in the second Cadillac, Eversley and Austin Cindric. Fuentes will start on the GTA pole, while Urry will be back on the GT Cup pole.
Race No. 2 for the GT, GTA and GT Cup Classes will be 50 minutes in length and is scheduled to start Saturday at 4 p.m. The race will be live-streamed at world-challenge.com and can be viewed there for free.