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

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi take their storied rivalry to a new level at Daytona

Pfaff Motorsports returns to Rolex 24 in premier parking spot punching above its weight

Cadillac, Acura battle for top of the speed charts

Herta, Rahal team up with BMW in pursuit of overall win at Rolex 24

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close