Photo: PWC

PWC: Parente (GT), James (GTS) capture Sunday Mid-Ohio wins

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Alvaro Parente (GT) and Ian James (GTS) captured Sunday’s wins for the Pirelli World Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

GT

Parente completes his first weekend sweep of the year after a second successive authoritative drive from pole to victory in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3.

The wins were his third and fourth of the year in the Sprint season and saw him close even further on Sprint championship leader Patrick Long, who finished second in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R this afternoon (unofficially within five points).

Impressing in third with his first overall podium in GT only competition is series veteran Alec Udell of GMG Racing, driving the No. 17 Porsche. The native of The Woodlands, Texas is still only in his early 20s but has starred in the series’ GTS, GT Cup and GTA classes and classifications. Today, he drove a heady race beyond his years matched up against many of the series’ veterans, and held off a hard charging Kyle Marcelli in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3.

Udell’s overall podium capped off a banner weekend for GMG; James Sofronas won his second straight GTA race in his No. 14 Porsche while George Kurtz did the same with his No. 04 McLaren 570S GT4 in the GTS Am division.

GTS

Photo: PWC

The string of one manufacturer sweeping the weekend in GTS finally ended in Mid-Ohio. After Lawson Aschenbach took the spoils on Saturday in his No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, his season long sparring partner Ian James took Sunday’s win in his No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT.

James got past Aschenbach after hounding him the first 18 laps of the 35-lap contest before taking the lead on the 19th lap Sunday, and extended his margin to 1.917 seconds at the checkered flag.

This is James’ third win of the year, the first driver to reach that mark, and he now sits second in points behind Aschenbach. With races in Utah, Circuit of The Americas and Sonoma Raceway to come over the next couple months, it’ll be interesting to see of Aschenbach’s consistent run of podiums keeps him at a margin similar to the 267-181 score, as it is now.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.