SONOMA, Calif. – The second-to-last weekend for Pirelli World Challenge sees the GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS classes in action at Sonoma Raceway.
And on Saturday, the two winners spanned the age gap. The 54-year-old cagey veteran, Johnny O’Connell, won overall in GT on the final lap, beating a teenager in rising star Austin Cindric, just 18. Meanwhile a pair of teenagers ended 1-2 in GTS, Nate Stacy scoring his first class win ahead of Parker Chase. Stacy is 16, Chase just 15.
Here’s quick recaps on the pair of races.
An otherwise flawless drive from Austin Cindric in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3, who looked poised to secure his first series win after leading the first 30 laps in the 50-minute race, came undone on the final lap when Cindric left the door open at the final major passing opportunity.
The 18-year-old ceded the position to the cagier, relentless veteran, 54-year-old four-time defending champion Johnny O’Connell, who darted to the inside at Turn 7 to secure his second win of the season in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R (Circuit of The Americas Round 2 in March).
It’s O’Connell’s third win on the road, having also won the series’ most recent race in California in Long Beach back in April, but having later lost the win following post-race technical inspection for an infraction found. Alvaro Parente inherited the win there.
Cindric was left to secure a hard-luck second place, his second runner-up finish of the season, with the second Cadillac of Michael Cooper in third in the No. 8 Cadillac.
Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX McLaren, finished fourth, with Michael Lewis top Porsche in the No. 98 Calvert Dynamics entry.
Parente closes the championship gap on title rival Patrick Long in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R unofficially to five points (1461-1456).
Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Porsche, won the GTA race but second-in-class Martin Fuentes has enough points to wrap the GTA class title in the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Cooper MacNeil took a debut podium in PWC in the No. 79 WeatherTech-backed Alex Job Racing Porsche in third.
Alec Udell won another close-fought battle in GT Cup in his No. 17 GMG Porsche over season-long sparring partner Sloan Urry, the No. 20 TruSpeed Autosport entry.
A racelong battle between Stacy, in the No. 14 Rehagen Racing/Roush Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 and points leader Brett Sandberg, in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, saw Stacy defend against Sandberg’s advances for nearly the entirety of the race.
And then Lap 26 happened in the 29-lap, 50-minute race, that saw the race – and potentially the title – turn on its head.
Martin Barkey, in the No. 80 Mantella Autosport KTM, made a move to the inside of Chase, in the No. 19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4, for third place at the chicane. Barkey cleared Chase but his momentum on the inside of the right-hander carried him past on the left-hander and into Sandberg, in the No. 13 KTM, which speared the points leader and took him out of win contention.
It left Stacy, who has past class wins in the TC class, to bring home the bacon for the rest of the race – holding off Chase, who inherited second as a result of the KTM-on-KTM violence.
Hugh Plumb, the polesitter in a third ANSA KTM, finished third in the No. 12 car with Barkey in fourth and Scott Heckert in fifth in the No. 54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4.
Kevin Marshall was sixth in a Lotus while Sandberg fell to seventh, one spot ahead of Lawson Aschenbach, who made it back to Sonoma in time for the first of two GTS races.
The four-time World Challenge champion, Aschenbach started last in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R but arrived in time following a private jet and helicopter ride, and made it up to eighth place – just one spot behind his closest rival in the championship. He finished 12th in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin earlier in the day, co-driving the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS with Matt Bell in IMSA’s GT Daytona class.
Both classes have their second race of the weekend tomorrow.