After a somewhat disappointing race on Saturday, Wright Motorsports’ Scott Hargrove and Patrick Long were able to claim victory Sunday (June 9) in Race No. 2 for Blancpain GT World Challenge America at Sonoma Raceway. It’s the perfect medicine for a team that’s been down in the dumps lately.
“I feel like it’s been a hard luck year [for us], and now it’s over,” Hargrove said after the race. “Pat [Long] had an awesome qualifying [session] and held it in third. We did a great job in the pits and managed to jump the Ferrari. Our Porsche was absolutely on rails and I’m just so happy to be back in victory lane.”
Wright Motorsports’ Pro-Am entry with Matt Campbell at the wheel started on the overall pole and led early. Unlike Saturday’s race, this event would not be clean.
On the first lap of the race, Andy Lally spun his One11 Competition Ferrari in turn 4 after getting hit in the right rear by K-PAX Racing’s Maxime Soulet. That contact broke some suspension parts in his 488 GT3, resulting in the right rear pointing inward. That forced Lally to pull off in turn 5 and bring out a full course caution. Lally was ok, but done for the day.
When the green came back out, Campbell was able to open up a three-second lead over R. Ferri Motorsport’s Toni Vilander. Meanwhile, there were plenty of problems for Alegra Motorsports’ Michael de Quesada. First, his Porsche developed a nasty vibration. The car was visibly porpoising on-track, which was very uncomfortable. Later on, de Quesada went straight at the turns 9a-b chicane, dropping him out of the top 10 overall.
By the time the pit window opened, Campbell’s lead was up to eight seconds on Vilander. With the pit window being 10 minutes in length, the Wright Motorsports team chose to keep Campbell out as long as possible. Meanwhile, Long, who was running right behind Vilander, pitted at the first possible opportunity to swap in Hargrove.
K-PAX Racing had trouble during the pit stop sequence when Rodrigo Baptista had issues trying to leave. An electrical issue in his Bentley Continental GT3 led to Baptista simply being unable to move for well over a minute after his stop was completed. He was ultimately able to continue, but lost a lap to the field as a result.
Campbell waited until the last minute to make his stop to switch over to Anthony Imperato. When the stops were completed, Imperato maintained the overall lead in the No. 91, while Hargrove jumped over the No. 61 Ferrari to claim second. It did not take long for Hargrove to run down Imperato, who is the amateur half of the No. 91’s Pro-Am driver pairing.
Imperato ended up losing a significant amount of time stuck behind the slower Mercedes of George Kurtz. That gave Hargrove all he needed to make the move for the overall lead with 34 minutes to go entering turn 7.
The second and final full course caution flew with 20 minutes to go after RealTime Racing’s Mike Hedlund and Squadra Corse Garage Italia’s Caesar Bacarella collided exiting turn 3a. The contact damaged the right front corner of Bacarella’s Ferrari, which also shed bodywork on the track. After spinning out, Bacarella tried to drive back to the pits, but stopped on-track to draw the yellow.
As for Hedlund, he was able to continue with left front damage. He did take a souvenir of the contact with him, though.
— Mike Hedlund (@mike_hedlund) June 9, 2019
Shortly after the restart, DXDT Racing’s David Askew lost control exiting turn 6 and spun into the wall to bring out the third and final caution. Askew was ok, but his Mercedes was done for the day.
The crash set up a Green-White-Checker restart with Hargrove having to do battle with R. Ferri Motorsport’s Miguel Molina and K-PAX Racing’s Andy Soucek. Despite being right up on Hargrove’s rear wing, Molina could do nothing to prevent Hargrove from snagging the victory.
Hargrove and Long’s margin of victory was 1.332 seconds over Molina and Vilander. Soucek and Àlvaro Parente finished third in their Bentley, followed by Alegra Motorsports’ Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer. Daniel Morad made a late comeback to get himself and de Quesada up to a fifth-place finish.
In Pro-Am, the No. 91 Porsche dominated the proceedings for much of the race. The caution due to the Bacarella-Hedlund contact eliminated Imperato’s lead and brought GMG Racing’s Porsche for James Sofronas and Dirk Werner into play. With two laps to go, Imperato went wide in turn 6. That allowed Sofronas to dip to the inside and take the class lead. From there, Sofronas was able to pull away to take the win.
Sofronas and Werner ended up sixth overall in their Porsche. Their margin of victory was 2.816 seconds over the RealTime Racing Acura of Hedlund and Dane Cameron. Despite his left front damage from the Bacarella incident, Hedlund was able to get past Imperato on the final lap. Imperato and Campbell settled for third, followed by the Acura of Racers Edge Motorsports’ Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli. Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer and Marc Miller were fifth.
There is a long layoff before Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams are back in action. Round No. 9 will be Aug. 31 at Watkins Glen International in New York.
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