It may not be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge will be in action this weekend at two of North America’s most iconic and historic road courses.
For the TUDOR Championship, it’s a trip to Watkins Glen International for the third round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. A six-hour enduro is often one of the tougher tests of the season and will see all four of the series’ classes – Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona – all back together for only the fourth time this season (Daytona, Sebring, Monterey).
Meanwhile World Challenge heads to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. for an all-class weekend to showcase more than 100 cars from 21 different manufacturers. It’s the third all-class weekend of the year (COTA, Mosport) and marks the return of PWC to Road America as a featured event; last year, it ran with the NASCAR Xfinity (then Nationwide) Series.
The conflict has meant there are a handful of drivers or staff who will be at one instead of the other, since some work in both series.
Alas, it will be a treat for fans, who will have 10+ hours of racing to digest between all class races this weekend.
After banking his first career win on Saturday, Neil Alberico repeated the feat on Sunday for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Alberico turned in a second successive dominant drive, which put the cherry on top of a weekend that was lat in even materializing.
“We didn’t get much testing in the offseason, since the deal came together at the last minute,” said the Rising Star Racing-backed driver. “We were a little behind the eight-ball, since the other drivers had more time behind the wheel and more momentum. For me, just to be on the grid to start the season was going to be great. So to have this kind of result for everyone who has supported me was incredible.”
Jose Gutierrez was second for Juncos Racing, while Alberico’s Cape teammate Daniel Burkett scored a long overdue first podium in the Mazda Road to Indy with third.
“Dude it’s been a while,” Burkett exhaled to MotorSportsTalk. “I had a few good runs at Mid-O in USF. I thought I could get it at Sonoma. To be on the podium with my teammate, is surreal. (This car) is right in the middle (of USF2000 and Atlantic, which he raced in 2014), which is just what we were going for.”
The second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race of the weekend was much the same as Saturday’s, with Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) completing a pole-to-win, flag-to-flag sweep of the day. As they were on Saturday, two more Cape drivers – Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin – followed Eidson home.
“You talk about having weekends like this, but to actually have one is definitely easier said than done,” Eidson said. “Everyone at Pabst Racing has worked so hard, especially since Winterfest. We weren’t sure what kind of results we were going to have – obviously we were aiming for the win – but to actually execute it is a relief.”
PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE
Like Saturday’s Round 3, Round 4 for the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup presented by MOMO classes was marred by extended yellow-flag periods. Sunday’s occurred as a spin by Dan Knox’s Viper forced Tim Pappas to lock the brakes of his Mercedes and avoid hitting the spun car at the exit of Turn 2. The problem occurred when three GT Cup cars barreled into the accident scene and caused further damage, blocking the track and putting the race under yellow for more than half an hour of the 50-minute race.
Olivier Beretta, who had made a dynamic start in his Ferrari, survived the remaining green flag running en route to his second win of the season, winning from Nick Catsburg (Lamborghini) and Kevin Estre (McLaren). Ryan Dalziel (Porsche) finished fourth, in his first non-podium result of the season.
STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS
Sometimes pictures do a better job of capturing a weekend than words do, so here’s some from SST on Sunday, where Burt Jenner won.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend is one of the busiest on the calendar. Although the Verizon IndyCar Series is the headliner there’s plenty of other action to look forward to over the course of the 40th running:
TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. What a shift it will be for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which goes from 36 hours of racing in Florida to kick off the year to 100 minutes of racing at the historic streets. With only 21 cars entered, traffic shouldn’t be an issue nearly as bad as the 60-plus cars combined of the series’ four classes. Just P and GT Le Mans race this weekend, and there should be a bevy of action for both in Saturday’s race.
Pirelli World Challenge. Also down in car count from its season opener, but like the TUDOR Championship, it’s due to limited available paddock space in Long Beach. As it is, there’s still going to be 40 cars – 20 apiece between GT and GTS – ringing their necks out in the 50-minute sprint race Sunday following the IndyCar race. Some great battles emerged at St. Pete; although overall winner Tomas Enge isn’t competing due to a prior conflict, still plenty of cars and stars to watch.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The only rung of the Mazda Road to Indy that makes the trip out to Long Beach, there’s been a wealth of success achieved by eventual series champions in this race. Nine drivers won Long Beach and later won the title that same year: Paul Tracy (1990), Eric Bachelart (’91), Steve Robertson (’94), Greg Moore (’95), David Empringham (’96), Cristiano da Matta (’98), Scott Dixon (2000), Townsend Bell (’01) and, most recently, J.R. Hildebrand in 2009. Of the 12 drivers entered, only St. Petersburg winner Zach Veach, Gabby Chaves and Juan Pablo Garcia have past track experience – the other nine are all making their track debuts.
Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Always a highlight of the weekend, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race Saturday afternoon is both a great charity fundraiser and a chance for potential carnage, although things have cleaned up in recent years. The entry list is linked here.
SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks. Robby Gordon’s series makes an encore to the streets of Long Beach on Sunday afternoon. The jumps surrounding the 1.968-mile street course are going to be pounded as the trucks hit them.
Super Drift. The night-cap on Friday and Saturday provides a bit of action to match the Southern California car culture. Drifting is always a treat to watch around the streets of Long Beach.