PWC: Beretta, Estre lead winners in opening COTA weekend

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The Pirelli World Challenge got its 2015 season off and running this weekend at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. Some quick recaps below…

GT, GTA, GT Cup presented by MOMO

The marquee GT class witnessed both a last lap pass and a crushing performance in the two races.

Saturday’s Round 1 saw Olivier Beretta pull a sneaky but brilliant over/under move on Ryan Dalziel on the second-to-last lap exiting the final corner. Although Dalziel was briefly ahead, Beretta made the winning pass up the hill into Turn 1 to seal the win in the season opener.

The Ferrari led home Dalziel’s Porsche and Johnny O’Connell, the three-time defending series champion, to deliver the new Cadillac ATS-V.R a podium in its worldwide race debut.

Polesitter Nick Catsburg finished a hard luck 10th following a drive-through penalty issued for exceeding track limits.

Sunday’s Round 2 saw Kevin Estre utterly crush the field from start to finish. The Frenchman won by more than 30 seconds in the rain-drenched 50-minute race over Dalziel, to give the new McLaren 650S GT3 its first win in worldwide competition.

Catsburg finished third on Sunday. Besides Estre, a fellow driver with his last name starting with E impressed. Ryan Eversley posted a stellar 25th to fifth drive in the all-wheel drive Acura TLX-GT.

Michael Lewis (GTA) and Colin Thompson (GT Cup presented by MOMO) swept the weekend in their respective classes. Beretta joked after Saturday’s race that he felt “very young” flanked in the interview session by the two youngsters.

Unofficially Estre will lead Dalziel in the points, but it’s early days yet with only 2 of 20 races complete. St. Petersburg, the end of March, is next up.

GTS

The GTS races were split off from the GT/GTA/GT Cup races and featured two different winners, neither of whom was a GTS regular in 2014.

Kris Wilson, a last-minute fill-in for teammate Max Riddle, took Saturday’s opening race in his Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Riddle was ill and Wilson, his veteran co-driver in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, filled in nicely.

Meanwhile in Sunday’s rainy Round 2, Michael Cooper posted an impressive drive from ninth to first in two laps, to take the lead and ultimately the win in his Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. Cooper is a past Touring Car champion and this marked his first GTS win.

TC/TCA/TCB

The Touring Car classes got their seasons off and running with a triple header.

Cody Ellsworth, another rising star and late entry addition, took the first two TC wins (Porsche Cayman) with Vesko Kozarov, a further late entry (only added after his GTS car had problems) took the win on Sunday in his Nissan Altima coupe.

Tony Rivera (Scion FR-S) won the opening two TCA rounds with last year’s class champion Jason Wolfe (Kia Forte Koup) winning race three on Sunday.

Johan Schwartz made it look easy in TCB with a weekend sweep of the three races.

GTS will run next at St. Petersburg, while the TC classes are off until Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III