MONTEREY, Calif. – A frequently interesting, occasionally controversial but usually entertaining on-track 2015 season for the Pirelli World Challenge comes to a close this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, along with the Mazda Road to Indy.
Both are usually on the undercard at Verizon IndyCar Series weekends, but with IndyCar having wrapped its season at Sonoma Raceway two weeks ago, both championships get the chance to shine on their own this weekend.
In World Challenge’s case, it’s via the usual onslaught of incredible GT3 cars, set for a 50-minute single round finale on Sunday that will see two sports car legends duke it out for the crown.
Johnny O’Connell leads Olivier Beretta by 26 points going into the weekend and will win his fourth straight GT class championship provided he either shades Beretta or doesn’t finish much worse than second or third on the weekend, if Beretta wins.
Beretta can overtake him most easily if he wins the race, as 30 points separate first from second in the World Challenge points system. The task becomes harder if the Monegasque driver finishes second or worse.
The subplot between the two comes as they’re former Corvette Racing teammates, but never drove the same car. They have had wild swings in the points this year and also had a controversial coming together at Long Beach, a race Beretta won. O’Connell has four wins to Beretta’s three this year going into the weekend.
Beretta, if he was to win and somehow tie on points with O’Connell, holds two tiebreakers by way of more second place (1-0) and third place (3-1) results entering Sunday’s race. A tie could occur if Beretta wins and O’Connell finishes second, but earns all in-race bonus points (three for most laps led, one for one lap led, and one for fastest lap).
James Davison and Ryan Dalziel also have remote mathematical chances, but either driver would need to score maximum points and have O’Connell and Beretta both score none.
Frankie Montecalvo and Colin Thompson have won the GTA and GT Cup presented by MOMO classes, respectively, and look to end their title-winning seasons with their eighth and 13th race wins of the year.
GTS is also a two-horse race, with Michael Cooper leading Andrew Aquilante by 107 points going into the race. Aquilante can only overtake Cooper with a win; if he finishes second, provided Cooper finishes the race and scores any points, he’ll take the crown.
Cooper, a GTS rookie, has also won a Touring Car class title in the series. If he wins, he’ll deliver Blackdog Speed Shop its third straight title, after Lawson Aschenbach won the last two.
While the GT and GTS ranks only have a single race on Sunday, the Touring Car classes (TC, TCA and TCB) have three, the first of which is already in the books.
Corey Fergus, Ernie Francis Jr. and Adam Poland will likely decide the TC title between themselves; meanwhile the driver on a roll in class is Vesko Kozarov, who has a class-high seven wins this season including the last five in a row between Mid-Ohio and Miller Motorsports Park going into Mazda Raceway.
Ex-open wheel shoe Jason Wolfe, who ran the last USF2000 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2013, looks for his second straight TCA class title. He leads Patrick Seguin in that category.
Johan Schwartz and Glenn Nixon will vie for the TCB title; Schwartz has a class-high nine wins, while Nixon has five himself and podiums in all 15 races.
Live Internet Telecast (on http://www.world-challengeTV.com):
Friday, Sept. 11:
2:25 p.m. – 3:10 p.m. Race # 1 TC/TCA/TCB
Saturday, Sept. 12:
1:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Race # 2 TC/TCA/TCB
Sunday, Sept. 13:
8:45 a.m. – 9:20 a.m. Race # 3 TC/TCA/TCB
10:35 a.m. – 11:25 a.m. GTS Race
1:35 p.m. – 2:25 p.m. GT/GTA/GT Cup Race
All times listed above Pacific