Wright won Lime Rock (pictured above at CTMP). Photo: PWC

PWC: Series completes May run with CTMP, Lime Rock double

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Three race weekends are in the books for Pirelli World Challenge’s SprintX format in 2017 and the results have been mixed, both on-track and procedurally, at times. The SprintX – for GT – serves as headlining act among all of PWC’s classes, which also includes GTS and three Touring Car classes (TC, TCA, TCB).

In the last two weeks, the series has headed to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park for what was meant to be two back-to-back doubleheaders.

However the second race at CTMP was scrapped owing to heavy rain and poor track conditions; a replacement round has not yet been scheduled, but there are still two more SprintX weekends to come at Utah Motorsports Campus (August 12-13) and Circuit of The Americas (Sept. 2-3). From a release:

Per PWC series chief steward Peter Roberts, the historic 2.458-mile, 10-turn road racing circuit had standing water around the racing surface including two sections of running water due to the constant rain system traveling through the Ontario area.

“The rain system was just too heavy to run the SprintX cars under safe conditions,” said Greg Gill, CEO and president of WC Vision, producers of the Pirelli World Challenge. “We will determine the makeup date and location in the near future.  We want to thank the racing fans who came to CTMP this weekend for their support.  We look forward to returning to CTMP in 2018.”

Bowmanville, ONT – May 20, 2017: The Pirelli World Challenge racers take to the track on Pirelli tires during the PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE AT CTMP at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Part in Bowmanville, ONT.

Alas, in the first CTMP race, Cadillac played a strategic spanner to perfection under yellow flag conditions. The No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R of Michael Cooper and Jordan Taylor pitted to switch drivers under a yellow, but where the pace car came out, it picked up the second placed No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister instead, and the Cadillac had nearly a lap lead as a result. PWC later updated the yellow flag protocol, per Sportscar365.

Lime Rock was a bit more straightforward with the Wright Porsche in the hands of Long and Marc Lieb, in at a one-off weekend with Bergmeister racing at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, winning the first race in dominant fashion.

However in race two, that Porsche and the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Ryan Dalziel and Daniel Morad) got speared by the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Daniel Mancinelli and Niccolo Schiro) immediately after the start. That Ferrari has had a number of controversial incidents with other cars this season and this only continued that streak; this one triggered a stop-and-go penalty.

Magnus Audi broke through at Lime Rock. Photo: PWC

A second straight one-off lineup of Spencer Pumpelly and Dane Cameron delivered Magnus Racing a popular victory on Saturday in their No. 4 Audi R8 LMS, and for Cameron, completed a day where he won two races in two classes. Cameron also returned to his former team Turner Motorsport and won a TC race in a BMW 235i. He was with Magnus, and subbed for Pierre Kaffer, also on Nürburgring duty. John Potter’s Magnus team has had a number of heartbreaks at Lime Rock over the years but won in IMSA GTD there last year, and now has a PWC win at the track on its record.

So in five SprintX races, there have been five different overall winners from five different manufacturers, with three of those five lineups not competing in the full season:

  • VIR: Race 1: 31-Mancinelli/Montermini (TR3 Ferrari)*; Race 2: 2-Dalziel/Morad (CRP Mercedes)
  • CTMP: Race 1: 8-Cooper/J. Taylor (Cadillac)
  • Lime Rock: Race 1: 58-Long/Lieb (Wright Porsche)*; Race 2: 4-Pumpelly/Cameron (Magnus Audi)*

*Montermini only raced VIR; Lieb and Cameron only scheduled to race Lime Rock

The provisional SprintX GT points are linked here. The Sprint points, since the last race at Long Beach, are linked here.

Elsewhere in PWC:

  • Rodrigo Baptista delivered the new-look Porsche Cayman GT4 MR its first two wins in PWC with Flying Lizard Motorsports at Lime Rock, in GTS. The first one came after edging the impressive Ian James in the new Panoz Esperante Avezzano by 0.178 seconds, while the second came after James incurred an engine failure. Baptista’s wins extend the legacy of the team at the track, who note: “From 2004 to 2013, Flying Lizard never finished outside the podium, earning six wins in the ten races. With drivers Rodrigo “Digo” Baptista and Nate Stacy, the Lizards celebrated two more wins and an additional podium finish to add to the record, marking the first Pirelli World Challenge GTS win for the California-based team.”
  • Baptista’s is the fourth straight weekend sweep in GTS to kick off the year, in the fourth different type of car, for the fourth different team. Jade Buford swept the GTS weekend for Jon Mirachi’s Racers Edge Motorsports in the SIN R1 GT4 at CTMP last week. Prior to that, Nico Jamin swept at VIR in Alain Nadal’s ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, and sports car veteran Andrew Aquilante swept St. Petersburg for his small, family-run Phoenix Performance team in the venerable Ford Mustang Boss 302. Oddly, it’s been Blackdog Speed Shop’s new Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R that is yet to break through and join the GTS winners group.
  • The TC classes have been in action too at both CTMP and Lime Rock. Event results pages are linked within the track listed in the previous sentence.

Standard sprint races weekends come next, at Road America and Mid-Ohio in the next couple months. SprintX is off until Utah in August.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.