Pirelli World Challenge has a lot of options for classes and race formats in 2017 and it’s the Sprint version for its premier GT class that is the headline this weekend at Road America.
It’s been since Long Beach on April 9, when a car hit a fire hydrant and flooded the street course, that PWC’s “legacy” 50-minute format of one driver, one car and an all-out sprint has taken place. Three SprintX weekends at VIR, Lime Rock and CTMP have followed, and seen five different winners in as many races.
Memories might be fuzzy, then, of what happened before in the Sprint races but there’s now both the GT and overall championships at play. Alvaro Parente has won Rounds 1 and 3 at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, while Patrick Long won Round 2 at St. Petersburg.
This leaves the K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 driver one point clear of the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driver, 70-69, heading into this weekend’s doubleheader.
With third-placed Sprint driver Alex Riberas in his No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 not expected to attend, it leaves an opening for the rest of the drivers behind him to move forward.
The overall GT championship, including the three SprintX weekends, has the top four drivers separated by 29 points. Michael Cooper in his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R leads that title overall with 145 points, with Long and Parente at 135, and Ryan Dalziel (No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) at 118.
It’s a home race for RealTime Racing with its new Acura NSX GT3s; Ryan Eversley and Peter Kox will look to bring home the bacon for Peter Cunningham’s team in its backyard. Eversley enjoyed a dream weekend here last year with a weekend sweep.
Beyond the 15 GT cars, there’s 11 GTA and 3 GT Cup entries making for a 29-car field for those two races, set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:55 a.m. Sunday.
The GTS season hasn’t really established a rhythm with Andrew Aquilante (St. Petersburg, Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302), Nico Jamin (VIR, ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4), Jade Buford (CTMP, Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4) and Rodrigo Baptista (Lime Rock, Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 MR) having swept the first four weekends. But only Baptista is active this weekend as the other three are part-timers.
Consistency and a bevy of podiums have kept Lawson Aschenbach at the top of the GTS standings with 173 points in his No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, as he looks for both his and the new car’s first victory of 2017. Aschenbach holds a 46-point lead over Martin Barkey of Mantella Autosport, driver of the No. 80 KTM.
There are 10 Touring Cars added to the field this weekend as the trio of TC classes did not continue on the schedule this weekend. Still, selected TC cars are running here in a non-points event to add to the GTS grid. Classic BMW driver Gino Carini of Milwaukee adds local flare, and is one of eight BMW M235iR cars in the 10-car TC field.
The breakdown of cars is 9 GTS, 14 GTSA and 10 TC cars for these two races, for a total of 33 cars. These two races are set for 5:45 p.m. Saturday and 2:45 p.m. Sunday.