Pirelli World Challenge primer: Sonoma

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Title fights in the GT and Touring Car B-Spec classes are at the forefront this weekend as the Pirelli World Challenge tackles the challenging and scenic Sonoma Raceway in northern California.

The Touring Car and TCB categories will stage Rounds 11 and 12 tomorrow afternoon, while the GT and GTS categories will have its 13th round on Sunday.

In TCB, the championship battle features Ernie Francis Jr. (No. 98 Mazda 2) and Robbie Davis (No. 37 Mini Cooper), who both split a pair of wins last time out at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and are separated by a mere two points; Francis holds a 1036-1034 lead over Davis.

Needless to say, this weekend’s TC/TCB doubleheader will be critical for both men, as well as for third-place Joel Lipperini (948 points), whose hopes of driving to a TCB crown in the No. 81 Honda Fit are also still alive.

Meanwhile, GT sees Johnny O’Connell (No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V.R) holding a slim 14-point lead, 1278-1265, over James Sofronas (No. 14 Audi R8 LMS). A pair of third-place efforts from Sofronas at Mid-Ohio has helped him trim the gap to O’Connell, who will look to bounce back after a damaged radiator knocked him out of GT/GTS Round 12 at that track.

However, O’Connell and Sofronas will not only have to contend with each other but also Alex Figge (No. 9 Volvo S60), who rides into Sonoma with momentum fully at his back after sweeping both GT races at M-O. He’s also the defending GT race winner at Sonoma and could easily be a threat again.

Additionally, GTS class leader Jack Baldwin (No. 73 Porsche Cayman S) will look to keep his strong 2013 campaign going and stay ahead of his closest rivals, Mark Wilkins (-87 points) and Lawson Aschenbach (-105 points) – both of whom split class wins at M-O.  In TC, Ryan Winchester (No. 72 Honda Civic Si) won’t be able to clinch that title this weekend, but with a hearty 231-point lead in the standings, he can still take further steps toward sewing it up.

The weekend’s races will be streamed live on World-ChallengeTV.com, with Saturday’s TC/TCB events airing at 6:55 p.m. ET and Sunday’s GT/GTS event airing at 1:45 p.m. ET. In addition, NBCSN will broadcast the Sonoma rounds on Sun., Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Toyota victorious in Bahrain on Porsche’s LMP1 swansong

Toyota Motorsport GmbH
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SAKHIR, Bahrain – Toyota denied Porsche a swansong victory in its final LMP1 appearance in the FIA World Endurance Championship by taking a commanding win in the 6 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday.

Porsche started from pole in the last competitive outing for the three-time Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid car, only to lose out to Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi within the first half an hour of the race.

Porsche lost one of its cars from contention for victory after an errant bollard got stuck underneath Timo Bernhard’s No. 2 entry, leaving Nick Tandy to lead its charge in the No. 1 car.

Tandy moved into the lead just past half distance after a bold strategy call from Porsche to triple-stint the Briton after a fuel-only stop, vaulting him ahead of Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota.

Tandy’s win hopes were soon dashed when he tangled with a GTE-Am backmarker at Turn 1, sustaining damage that forced Porsche into an unplanned pit stop that put the car a lap down.

With the No. 7 Toyota losing two laps following a clash with a GTE-Pro car earlier on, Davidson, Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima went unchallenged en route to the car’s fifth victory of the season.

Porsche rounded out the podium with its cars, with the No. 2 leading home the No. 1, leaving Toyota’s No. 7 car to settle for P4 at the checkered flag.

Vaillante Rebellion clinched the title in LMP2 after a stunning fightback led by Bruno Senna, with the Brazilian securing his maiden motorsport championship win in the process.

GTE-Pro saw AF Corse complete a hat-trick of titles in 2017, with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi wining the class’ first world championship recognized by the FIA, while Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda sewed up the GTE-Am title.