Pirelli World Challenge’s GT, GTA and GT Cup classes weren’t the only ones having at it on Saturday. Four other classes were on track first.
In the GTS class event, Brett Sandberg started his ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 on pole with Lawson Aschenbach alongside in the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. This was a battle between completely different machinery.
Prior to the race, Aschenbach was worried about his Pirelli tires going off due to all of the extra weight that the Camaro carries compared to the nimble KTM. These worries were to the point that Aschenbach believed that he had no chance to win. He was wrong.
On the opening lap, Aschenbach swept past on the outside entering Big Bend (turn 1) and took over the lead. Sandberg kept close and gave chase. Behind the leaders, Scott Dollahite in the race’s only Lotus Evora and Scott Heckert in the No. 54 SIN R1 GT4 for Racers Edge Motorsports. Together, these four drove away from the pack. Meanwhile, Aschenbach’s teammate Tony Gaples had a blown tire on his No. 11 Chevrolet, forcing him to pit for a new tire and significant repairs. He would eventually finish 13 laps off the pace after finishing at a reduced pace.
The race’s only yellow flew due to a crash for Mark Klenin in his Maserati exiting turn 4. Klenin spun and hit the barriers, bashing in the right rear corner of the Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo and shearing the diffuser off of the car. Klenin continued, but the diffuser did not. It actually spent much of the remainder of the race on the track, but off-line.
The yellow gave Aschenbach a chance to cool his tires for the run to the finish. Sandberg was there every step of the way, alternating from pressuring the Camaro and backing off to cool the tires.
Meanwhile, Dollahite ran the tires off of the Evora and fell into the clutches of Heckert. The former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regular made short work of Dollahite to move up to third, but continued to drop back from the battling leaders.
In the closing laps, Sandberg tried everything that he could to get past the Camaro. On the final lap, Sandberg closed to Aschenbach’s rear bumper, but could not get alongside as Aschenbach held him off to take his third win of the year by .269 of a second. Heckert was third, while Dollahite finished 15 seconds back in fourth. Jack Roush, Jr. was fifth in his Ford Mustang BOSS 302R.
Similar to the GT/GTA/GT Cup race on Friday, each driver’s fastest lap time sets the grid for Saturday’s Race No. 2. Here, Sandberg’s lap of 56.873 seconds was the fastest lap of the race. As a result, he will start on pole for Race No. 2 at Noon. Aschenbach will be back alongside, followed by Heckert, Mantella Autosport‘s Martin Barkey, who finished 13th on Friday, and Performance Motorsports Group‘s Parker Chase.
In the Touring Car event, Adam Poland qualified his No. 33 Mazda MX-5 on the pole. However, he had a mechanical issue on the pace lap. As the field was coming to take the green flag for the 40 minute race, Poland pulled into the pits. There, his crew popped the hood and attempted to make repairs. Poland was effectively done for the day.
The move technically elevated outside pole sitter Dennis Hanratty to the pole in his Lotus Exige, but Nick Wittmer was able to take the lead in Big Bend from third on the grid. From there, Wittmer was able to lead handily over Hanratty. The Exige did show significant pace during the race. Hanratty, in only his second start in Pirelli World Challenge, turned in the fastest lap of the race and will start Saturday’s race from the pole as a result. Later, Hanratty was forced to serve a drive-through penalty and eventually finished sixth.
Tony Rivera, a late entry to the field in his Nissan 370Z, was strong early on as well. However, the engine turned traitor in the Nissan, bringing a premature end to Rivera’s day. Rivera laid down a significant amount of fluid on track when the 370Z started smoking, leading to the change in course condition flag (yellow with red vertical stripes) being shown. No full-course yellow was thrown because of the oil.
During the race, there was a brief rain shower that lasted for about 15 minutes that created some chaos with multiple spins. Eventually, the yellow was brought out to neutralize the race.
Once the green came back out, the race came down to a duel between Wittmer in his Honda Accord Coupe and the Mazda MX-5’s driven by Anthony Geraci and John Weisberg. The MX-5’s are much smaller and more nimble cars than the Accord, but Wittmer was able to use his extra power to hold on to take the win. Geraci and John Weisberg were second and third, while points leader Toby Grahovec was fourth in a BMW and Daniel Moen was fifth in another MX-5.
In TCA, the domination of the class by S.A.C. Racing‘s Elivan Goulart continued. Goulart started from the pole, led every lap and took his third straight win and fourth of the year in five races. Tech Sport Racing teammates Eric Powell and Kevin Anderson were second and third, nearly five seconds back. Goulart also turned in the fastest lap of the class and will start race No. 2 on pole as well. He is well positioned for a second weekend sweep in as many weekends.
TCB saw Travis Washay start from the pole in his MINI, but the race turned into a duel between Washay and CTMP Race No. 2 winner Will Rodgers. The two exchanged the lead multiple times during the feature.
Jasper Drengler, driving the sole Honda Fit in the field, went off at turn 1 early in the race and impacted the tires in Big Bend. Drengler was able to get himself back underway, but had damage to the left front corner that was causing a tire rub. Henry Morse was in the hunt as well in his Mazda2 until the car slowed suddenly, nearly causing a big stack-up. He would eventually finish two laps down.
Rodgers was able to hold off Washay and take his second straight win and third of the year. Washay was second, but turned the fastest lap of the race and will start on pole Saturday.
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