PWC weekend wrap: Long, O’Connell split COTA wins

Sunday GT/GTA/GTC winners. Photo: PWC
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The two guys who opened as the headliners for the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT championship chase were the two top stories of the weekend at Circuit of The Americas: Patrick Long and Johnny O’Connell. They split the wins, with Long winning Saturday and O’Connell winning Sunday.

But the bigger story to emerge – unfortunately – was that Long’s EFFORT Racing is now in another race this week to repair its car ahead of next week’s St. Petersburg races.

In Saturday’s race, Always Evolving driver and past Nissan GT Academy champion Bryan Heitkotter delivered a rocket start in his Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and launched to the lead after starting sixth. But Long doggedly pursued him and as Heitkotter’s tires began to fall off, Long seized the moment and passed him at Turn 14 – a right-hander – barely keeping his wheels within the track limits to secure the lead and a win on his return to the series.

The win was the first worldwide for the new Porsche 911 GT3 R, which premiered at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Incidentally, Long finished best of the new Porsches there, second place in the Black Swan Racing entry he shared with Tim Pappas, Nicky Catsburg and Andy Pilgrim.

Sunday, though, things went awry for Long at the start. Heitkotter’s teammate James Davison contacted Long in the rear, which pitched Long into the outside wall and sustained heavy damage.

The video is below, followed by Davison’s take on the situation.

Davison received a stop-and-hold penalty for the avoidable contact and Heitkotter’s win chances ended later when O’Connell got by inside of 20 minutes to go.

Two popular podiums followed behind “Johnny Red,” who scored the first win for the new “Velocity Red” Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. Teammate Michael Cooper banked his second podium in as many races in his first weekend with Cadillac, while Jon Fogarty banked the first podium for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s new McLaren 650S GT3, and did so in front of hundreds of GAINSCO agents in the company and team’s home race.

Martin Fuentes swept the GTA class both days, while Alec Udell and Sloan Urry won in GT Cup on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Udell, from The Woodlands, Texas, scored a popular win on home soil while Urry ended his streak of “nearly” races with his first career win in class.

A stream crash meant most of the second race was hard if not impossible to watch, although an impromptu Periscope from the media center proved a capable backup plan.

GTS

Sandberg. Photo: PWC
Sandberg. Photo: PWC

The new-look GTS class had, like GT, a mix of old and new rise to the top of the table in its two races. Upon his return to the series, Lawson Aschenbach won Saturday’s race and finished second on Sunday in the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. The winner on Sunday was Brett Sandberg (right), a talented sports car veteran who added a GTS win to his past Touring Car wins, posting the first U.S. win for the new KTM X-BOW GT4 in the hands of ANSA Motorsports.

Outside of the on-track situation, there was disciplinary action taken against Mantella Autosport team principal Anthony Mantella, who allegedly got into an altercation with another team member and was both disqualified from Saturday’s race and excluded from participating on Sunday.

A statement from the series read: “Following the March 5 GTS Round 1, a competitor exhibited unsportsmanlike conduct governed under Rule 1.5.11 (Driver Conduct) leading to exclusion from Round 1 as well as the entire meeting as in Rule 1.30.1 (Disciplinary Action).  Any further disciplinary action will be reviewed by the SCCA Competition Board and announced in the future.”

TC

Grahovec. Photo: PWC
Grahovec. Photo: PWC

Two entertaining Touring Car races occurred as well, featuring the biggest fields of the weekend, among the TC, TCA and TCB classes.

Vesko Kozarov, Elivan Goulart and Ted Hough claimed the Friday wins in the respective categories. Of those, only Kozarov’s was straightforward; Goulart won after two-time TCA champ Jason Wolfe sputtered on the final lap and Hough inherited the TCB win after Will Rodgers’ car flunked post-race tech.

On Saturday, Toby Grahovec (right), Wolfe and Rodgers scored the class wins. Grahovec’s win was the first for the new BMW M235i while Wolfe and Rodgers atoned nicely from their Friday disappointments. Shea Holbrook also delivered her Shea Racing team’s first top-five of the year in her Bubba Burger Honda, fourth in TC following original third place driver Tony Rivera’s disqualification.

NEXT UP

GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS head to St. Petersburg next week, while the TC classes are off until Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, May 20-22.

RESULTS

GT

  • Race 1: 1. 31-Patrick Long (Porsche), 2. 05-Bryan Heitkotter (Nissan), 3. 8-Michael Cooper (Cadillac), Pole. 31-Long
  • Race 2: 1. 3-Johnny O’Connell (Cadillac), 2. 8-Cooper, 3. 99-Jon Fogarty (McLaren), Pole. 05-Heitkotter

GTA

  • Race 1: 1. 07-Martin Fuentes (Ferrari), 2. 46-Michael Mills (BMW), 3. 16-Michael Schein (Porsche)
  • Race 2: 1. 07-Fuentes, 2. 66-Frankie Montecalvo (Mercedes), 3. 46-Mills

GTC (all Porsche Cup)

  • Race 1: 1. 17-Alec Udell (GMG), 2. 20-Sloan Urry (TruSpeed), 3. 18-Will Hardeman (WPD/MooreSpeed), Pole. 20-Urry
  • Race 2: 1. 20-Urry, 2. 17-Udell, 3-18-Hardeman, Pole. 20-Urry

GTS

  • Race 1: 1. 10-Lawson Aschenbach (Chevrolet), 2. 14-Nate Stacy (Ford), 3. 19-Parker Chase (Ginetta), Pole. 46-Scott Dollahite (Lotus)
  • Race 2: 1. 13-Brett Sandberg (KTM), 2. 10-Aschenbach, 3. 46-Dollahite, Pole. 13-Sandberg

TC

  • Race 1: 1. 3-Vesko Kozarov (Nissan), 2. 26-Toby Grahovec (BMW), 3. 34-Carl Rydquist (Nissan), Pole. 91-Nick Wittmer (Honda)
  • Race 2: 1. 26-Grahovec, 2. 91-Wittmer, 3. 3-Kozarov, Pole. 34-Rydquist

TCA

  • Race 1: 1. 70-Elivan Goulart (Mazda), 2. 12-Jason Wolfe (Kia), 3. 23-Eric Powell (Mazda), Pole. 46-Johan Schwartz (Honda)
  • Race 2: 1. 12-Wolfe, 2. 70-Goulart, 3. 49-Joey Bickers (Mazda), Pole. 23-Powell

TCB

  • Race 1: 1. 68-Ted Hough (Mazda), 2. 94-Tom O’Gorman (Honda), 3. 14-Henry Morse (Mazda), Pole. 68-Hough
  • Race 2: 1. 65-Will Rodgers (Mazda) 2. 94-O’Gorman, 3. 14-Morse, Pole. 68-Hough

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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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