A wild opening lap in Sunday’s GT/GTS Round 13 of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway had multiple repercussions upon the championship in both classes.
GT points leader Johnny O’Connell stalled off the start, but was able to get his No. 3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R going – only to collide with GTS points leader Jack Baldwin and seven-time PWC champion Peter Cunningham in Turn 5.
O’Connell finished 12th, while teammate Andy Pilgrim led all 27 laps around Sonoma to win the race in GT ahead of Duncan Ende (No. 24 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS) and James Sofronas (No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS). By virtue of his podium finish, Sofronas took over the GT championship lead by 21 points, 1360-1339.
There was a bit of controversy involving second place in GT. Mike Skeen (No. 2 CRP Chevrolet Corvette) took the checkered flag in that position but PWC officials stopped scoring him at Lap 18, as Skeen’s team had ignored requests to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact on the first lap; Skeen was eventually relegated to 11th.
Meanwhile, Baldwin’s opening-lap run-in – which rendered him unable to continue – allowed his rivals to tighten up the GTS championship.
Brandon Davis earned the class win in his No. 27 TRG Aston Martin Vantage GT4, while Lawson Aschenbach (No. 10 Blackdog Chevrolet Camaro) earned his 10th podium finish of the season with a third-place run behind runner-up Andy Lee (No. 20 Chevrolet Camaro).
Aschenbach’s podium allowed him to close within 46 points of Baldwin, 1297-1251, with Mark Wilkins 47 points behind after finishing sixth on Sunday.
Saturday saw the Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec classes stage Rounds 11 and 12, and the points leaders in both of those classes – Ryan Winchester in TC and Ernie Francis, Jr. in TCB – bolstered their title bids with weekend sweeps in their categories.
Round 11 saw Winchester take the TC checkered flag by a safe margin, but the final lap in TCB was a thriller between Francis and pole sitter Robbie Davis.
Francis, running second, was able to get a run on Davis going into the Turn 9 chicane. Davis tried to stop Francis from making the inside move come off, but was unable to do so and after a brief run into the dirt for both of them, Francis emerged with the lead and held on to it in the final few corners.
In Round 12, Francis had an easier run to his second TCB win of the weekend, ahead of Tyler Palmer and Joel Lipperini. As for TC, Winchester turned back a charge from teammate Brett Sandberg and led wire-to-wire.
Both Winchester and Francis extended their championship leads, with the former now holding a 297-point edge over Sandberg (1452-1155) in TC, and the latter now up 81 points on Davis (1322-1241) in TCB.
NBCSN will air the Pirelli World Challenge races from Sonoma on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s a rundown of times and notes from Saturday at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder had their first day of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A link to Friday’s notebook is here.
Drivers and teams alike have raved about the pace, and the rather loud sound, of the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda. Reports from private testing had the new car rather close to Indy Lights pace at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and rather quicker than the old car at Road America. The first tangible evidence of that occurred today as all 10 of the Pro Mazda drivers who got representative laps (second BN Racing car of Leonard Hoogenboom ran only a few laps in session four after engine issues all day) supplanted the Pro Mazda lap record at IMS – 1:22.8800 by Pato O’Ward in 2016 – easily. Oliver Askew’s best time of 1:19.8920 in the second session was nearly a full three seconds quicker on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
Of the 11 Pro Mazda drivers that ran today, only Carlos Cunha, Robert Megennis, Nikita Lastochkin, Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb ran in the 2017 season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all five of them running full-time in 2018 for what would be each of their second seasons in the championship, as returning sophomores along with what should be a glut of strong rookies. Wright, who also races sports cars, looks poised to add a second program of some other series to a planned Pro Mazda full season.
Megennis is planning to test with other teams in the weeks to come, as he tests for Juncos this week after racing in USF2000 with Pelfrey the last two years. Both he and Robb missed portions of sessions today with new car issues.
Several Indy Lights spins and off-course excursions occurred but none produced any serious issues. Rinus Veekay and Anthony Martin were among those to test the course limits but kept on going unharmed. Veekay had a spin in session three on new tires, then promptly laid down the fastest lap of the session for Belardi later on.
His teammate this weekend, Nico Jamin, wound up with the fastest lap of the day in Indy Lights – although he wasn’t quickest in the cool evening session, the fourth of the day, when most of the field ran some sticker tire runs on their Cooper tires.
Pro Mazda title combatants Victor Franzoni (Juncos) and Anthony Martin (Andretti) made their Indy Lights test debuts. The perpetually happy Franzoni wrote on Instagram, “Awesome day!! We finished the day in P3!! The most import we learned a lot!! Tomorrow will be even better!!” Martin, meanwhile, said this: “It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce, so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. You don’t want to push yourself too early, so we’re working up to a few things. You have to do things a lot quicker and you have to use a lot more brake pressure.”
In USF2000, it was an excellent day at the office for Pabst Racing with Andres Gutierrez – who impressed in a pair of weekends with DE Force Racing this year – leading three of four sessions, while teammates Hunter McElrea and Lucas Kohl were also in the top-five. Pabst has been busy running cars in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda this weekend.
Beyond Pabst, Newman Wachs Racing also had an excellent day, mainly with sophomore Darren Keane and Californian rookie Jake Craig. Keane, who’s coached by Ozz Negri, led the fourth and final session of the day, and stands as a driver who could make a big leap forward in performance if he secures a full season in 2018.
Another team of note today was BN Racing, with Callan O’Keefe – Keane’s teammate when both drove for Team BENIK at this race weekend last May – second best on the day. The South African is poised to be that team’s lead driver next season. Teammates Elliott Finlayson and Zoey Edenholm are working towards seasons of their own; Finlayson having coming off a recent Super Sweep in SCCA Runoffs competition at IMS last month and Edenholm having only just graduated from karts into cars just this month.
While the USF2000 field was primarily rookie-dominated, two-year series veteran Aaron Telitz made a cameo return today with RJB Motorsports, and brought the ex-ArmsUp chassis its best pace yet in RJB’s hands as the Wisconsinite ran with Mirl Swan and Alex Barron’s crew support. Past RJB driver and two-time Team USA Scholarship, Michai Stephens, was also on site today.
Speaking of ArmsUp, its top rookie from 2017, Devin Wojcik was on hand today making the rounds as well, although wasn’t in a car. He looks to return to USF2000 for a second season in 2018.
USF2000 boasted some good diversity with Pabst, BN, Newman Wachs, Exclusive, Pelfrey, BENIK and RJB teams in the top 10 today, but there’s one notable omission: Cape Motorsports. The seven-time defending champions in the series are not testing in USF2000 this weekend, and has just a single Pro Mazda car on site for Oliver Askew. Granted, the team is also at Circuit of The Americas this weekend for F4 U.S. Championship action, where Kyle Kirkwood has taken that series’ championship. DE Force, which also ran in USF2000 this year, is also not here this weekend as it’s at COTA. ArmsUp isn’t here this weekend either.