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PWC: 50 cars set for a busy Barber weekend

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Following a somewhat hectic weekend at Long Beach, even despite limited track time, the Pirelli World Challenge heads to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for a copious amount of track time and a pair of doubleheader events.

After just the GT/GTA classes raced at Long Beach, GT Cup rejoins the GT/GTA ranks this weekend and the GTS class is back as well for a pair of races.

In the GT class, Alvaro Parente heads to Barber seeking to actually win his first race on course, after winning at Long Beach following a post-race penalty assessed to Johnny O’Connell.

Parente is one of the three K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3s, along with Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson. Parente is in the same No. 9 McLaren that won race two here last year, then driven by Kevin Estre, in a 1-2 finish for the team that features the Flying Lizard Motorsports crew.

Cindric’s No. 6 McLaren is repaired after suffering damage on three quarters from his accident at Long Beach, when he got hip-checked at Turn 8 by James Sofronas.

Meanwhile O’Connell looks for a double bit of redemption in his Velocity Red No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, both following Long Beach and at this event. The Long Beach penalty cost O’Connell his second win of the season; meanwhile the second race last year, O’Connell’s Cadillac suffered a blaze and required the use of another chassis for the next race weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

O’Connell leads Michael Lewis by 41 points (458-417); Lewis, the double St. Petersburg winner, looks for wins three and four in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. O’Connell’s teammate Michael Cooper is third in points with Parente and Patrick Long completing the top five in points. James Davison also won here last year in the No. 33 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, but lost all points following a post-race technical infraction.

Others to watch in GT: Bryan Heitkotter, Davison’s teammate at Always Evolving, in a repaired No. 05 Nissan, and Jon Fogarty, whose GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team has needed to perform a minor miracle on its No. 99 McLaren 650S GT3 to get it here and running.

Martin Fuentes and Sloan Urry look to continue respective win streaks in GTA and GTC, respectively.

Elsewhere in those two classes, a handful of drivers return to GTA for the first time since COTA in March, Alec Udell has a new paint scheme on his GMG entry in GTC and Corey Fergus has a new chassis in GTC after his St. Petersburg accident.

The GTS class features a 23-car field and beyond the three race winners this season (Lawson Aschenbach, Blackdog Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, Brett Sandberg, ANSA KTM X-BOW GT4 and Jack Roush Jr., Roush Ford Mustang Boss 302), others to watch include Ginetta driver Parker Chase and SIN driver Jade Buford, the latter of whom makes his car debut this weekend.

The full entry list is linked here.

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.