PWC: Weekend winners, plus other Mid-Ohio weekend notes

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Editor’s Note: The Pirelli World Challenge races from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course air Sunday, August 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The GT, GT-A, and GTS classes ran Saturday and Sunday for 50-minute sprint races; the TC, TCA and TCB classes ran Friday and Saturday for 40 minutes apiece. If you don’t want to know who won the races, we’d advise you read no further. 

The GT, GT-A and GTS double at Mid-Ohio saw a trio of drivers complete doubleheader weekend sweeps. EFFORT Racing won both Saturday and Sunday in GT and GT-A, to cap off a perfect weekend for the Houston-based team in its pair of Porsche GT3 Rs.

Ryan Dalziel, making his return to the Pirelli World Challenge for the first time since 2013, took Saturday’s rain-shortened race as he was classified as the race leader when the race was red flagged due to a deluge. Johnny O’Connell and Mike Skeen rounded out the GT podium. Dalziel’s teammate, Michael Mills, won his second straight and third GT-A race of the year. Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach took the GTS win in his Chevrolet Camaro over Alec Udell and Nic Jonsson.

Podiums were similar in the all-dry race two, Round 12, on Sunday with Dalziel leading Skeen and Anthony Lazzaro in GT. The podium order was reversed in GT-A – Mills won but Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Jim Taggart swapped second and third; the German came second on Sunday with Taggart third. Aschenbach beat the Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports teammates of Jonsson and Mark Wilkins in GTS.

O’Connell (GT) and Wilkins (GTS) lead the respective points standings, as do their manufacturer’s (Cadillac, GT; Kia, GTS) with just four races and two race weekends to go. Mills leads the GT-A classified drivers.

The pair of Touring Car races were exciting both days; Friday’s featured a mix of wet/dry conditions while Saturday’s, all dry, was a thrill ride from start to finish.

Winners on Friday were Michael DiMeo (TC), Jason Wolfe (TCA) and Tyler Palmer (TCB). Wolfe’s drive was particularly impressive; the Mid-Ohio track instructor came from 14th overall on the grid up to second overall in his Kia Forte Koup, ultimately ending third overall behind DiMeo and Nissan driver Steven Doherty, who barely held onto his Nissan Altima Coupe in a wicked series of slides.

Saturday’s race two (Round 10) was a classic scrap between DiMeo and Adam Poland in TC, with DiMeo prevailing again for his eighth win in 10 races. Shea Holbrook secured her fifth win of the year in TCA in a nice bounce back, with Chase Pelletier winning in TCB. Hondas swept the win category there.

Points leaders in these classes are DiMeo (TC), Wolfe (TCA) and Brian Price (TCB); Wolfe and Holbrook are neck-and-neck for the TCA lead.

Dalziel’s pair of wins was enough for him to be confirmed for the remainder of the Pirelli World Challenge season in the No. 31 GT entry, as outlined in a video produced by EFFORT Racing. Nick Tandy had replaced prior driver Tim Bergmeister at Toronto, with Dalziel in for Mid-Ohio.

Former IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Alex Lloyd made his professional racing return in CRP Racing’s No. 12 Emkay Fleet Management/Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. In race one he drove from 24th to 11th; in race two he stalled on the grid, took his start, had to serve a drive-through penalty, carved through the field and then had a mechanical issue. He recaps the weekend here for Yahoo Autos (it includes helmet cam. It’s good.).

There were two charity entries competing this weekend, with Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Scott Bove and 15-year-old rising star Austin Cindric sharing the No. 55 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Ford Mustang Boss in GTS, and Leo Parente and Dan Goodman sharing the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500 in TCB.

Bove (25th to 20th, race one) and Cindric (22nd to 14th, race two) each made passes in their respective races; the net total of 13, plus other flat donations, made for more than $13,500 raised in total. More here from the series website. Cindric completed his weekend – “The Quad” – with racing in all three USF2000 races plus the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 12. In the USF2000 races, Cindric finished 18th in race one, then sixth in both races two and three in the 21-car field.

More info will follow from Parente’s and Goodman’s respective outings soon.

After a couple-week break, the Pirelli World Challenge GT classes head to Sonoma Raceway on August 22-24 for a doubleheader, while the TC ones are next in action at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota August 29-31 for a doubleheader there.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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