This past weekend, Pirelli World Challenge’s GT, GTA and GT Cup classes raced on the undercard to the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Kohler Grand Prix. Both races were quite interesting in their own right.
Race No. 1
On Saturday, Adderly Fong led flag-to-flag to pick up his first career Pirelli World Challenge victory and the first PWC win for Absolute Racing. However, it was not a clean race for the 27-year old racer out of Hong Kong.
On the first lap of the race, Fong faced a stiff challenge from fellow front row starter Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac. The two drivers fought fiercely for the lead on the first lap. At turn 5, the two had contact, resulting in O’Connell spinning out his Cadillac while Fong continued. No penalty was assessed based on the contact.
Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long moved up into second as a result of the incident. As the race went on, Fong was able to extend his lead over the Porsche factory driver. Later on as the tires wore, Long was able to reel Fong back in. However, he was unable to catch Fong’s Bentley. The victory was Bentley’s first win in Pirelli World Challenge since 2015.
Behind Fong and Long was Cadillac Racing’s Michael Cooper in third after starting sixth. TR3 Racing’s Daniel Mancinelli finished a relatively quiet fourth, while RealTime Racing’s Peter Kox was fifth. Sprint points leader Àlvaro Parente was held up significantly when O’Connell spun, dropping all the way back to 15th. In the remaining 49 minutes, Parente drove up to a sixth-place finish.
In GTA, Michael Schein chose to sit out Race No. 1, creating a big opportunity for his closest competitors. Perfect timing for GMG Racing’s James Sofronas. Sofronas started from the class pole and proceeded to lead flag-to-flag to take the GTA subclass victory in 13th overall.
Sofronas was 10.742 seconds ahead of Magnus Racing’s John Potter at the finish. Black Swan Racing’s Tim Pappas was third, followed by Dr. Preston Calvert and Mike McCann. Yuki Harata claimed an easy victory in GT Cup after Precision Driving’s Marko Radisic dropped out with mechanical issues.
Race No. 2
On Sunday, Long was able to use a great start to get past Fong entering turn 1 on the first lap. From there, Long was able to hold off the charging Fong to take his second win of 2017.
By no means was the victory easy for Long. He had to squeeze everything out of his Porsche 911 GT3 R that he could.
“These PWC weekends, it’s so close between all the manufacturers so you have to seize track position by getting a qualifying lap in that first race which is unique in this championship,” Long said after the race. “Then every single lap there wasn’t a millimeter of road left to try to stay ahead of Adderly since he was on his game all weekend. I think he had the car to beat. Sometimes, it’s the scenario that gives you that rewarding feeling over a weekend and certainly I think we squeezed a little bit extra out of the car. That’s how we’re going to try to put a championship together. Michael (Cooper) and Johnny (O’Connell) were strong all weekend and it could have gone Michael’s way just as easily for points.”
Despite the great racing up front, that was not the biggest moment of Race No. 2. Early on, the race was red-flagged for 18 minutes due to a huge crash in the braking zone for turn 5. Jon Fogarty, Ryan Eversley and Kox were three-wide coming into the braking zone when Eversley got squeezed and made contact with Fogarty’s right rear. Fogarty spun his Porsche into the wall, leaving Kox with nowhere to go but directly into Fogarty. Further back, Calvert spun his Porsche and suffered some damage of his own. The track was covered in debris and some wall repairs were necessary as well.
In GTA, Sofronas led flag-to-flag to sweep the weekend in the subclass. Potter was second again, followed by Pappas. R. Ferri Motorsports’ Marc Muzzo was fourth and McCann was fifth. In GT Cup, Radisic got his Ferrari Challenge Evo on pace and out-dueled Harata to pick up the victory.
Pirelli World Challenge teams take the next month off before returning to action at Mid-Ohio Sports-Car Course at the end of July. Only the GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS classes will be in action as the series once again will run in support of INDYCAR.