MONTEREY, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell entered the Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a 26-point lead and has ended it with a 61-point lead over title rival Olivier Beretta to claim his fourth straight GT class championship.
Yet that points gain does not tell the story of what was a dramatic, tense, action-packed 20th and final race.
While the pair of NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s dominated the race – Alessandro Balzan winning from Alessandro Pier Guidi – the story of the title came down to O’Connell and Beretta, after Beretta had cleanly driven from 12th place up to fourth in the 50-minute race.
On Lap 25, Beretta made a passing attempt of O’Connell at the Corkscrew, with O’Connell concerned the damage would be too much to knock him out of the race.
Beretta seemed to poise to seize the title at that point, but was issued a drive-through penalty from Race Control for avoidable contact.
Beretta then retired at Turn 11 with just over five minutes remaining, and O’Connell’s title was secured, despite a 12th place finish.
In the race, Balzan beat Pier Guidi, Ryan Dalziel, Andy Pilgrim and Michael Lewis. Eric Lux (GT) and Colin Thompson (GT Cup) claimed additional class victories.
The title for O’Connell marks his fourth consecutive championship in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing entry, although first in the first year of the new FIA GT3-spec Cadillac ATS-V.R.
Frankie Montecalvo (GTA) and Thompson (GTC) secured the other class titles.
The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.
IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.
This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.
INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists
IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.
“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.
“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.