No. 58 Porsche led the PWC field in 2017. Photo: PWC

PWC: List of 2017 champions following Monterey

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This weekend saw not just the California 8 Hours, the Intercontinental GT Challenge round held in the U.S. that featured predominately Pirelli World Challenge teams, but also the final two rounds (four races) for PWC’s three Touring Car classes, thus bringing an end to those seasons as well. PWC wrapped its SprintX season at Circuit of The Americas on Labor Day weekend, and its Sprint season for the GT and GTS classes at Sonoma two weeks later in mid-September.

World Challenge has, in recent years, evolved from a purely sprint series with only two classes to a combination sprint and semi-endurance series that has added a wealth of classes and quality drivers, teams and manufacturers along with them.

Here’s a rundown of champions, with final standings listed next to the class. No, everyone doesn’t get a trophy, but there was a significant trophy budget factored into the 2017 season:

OVERALL (Sprint and SprintX combination)

The Wright Motorsports team. Photo: PWC

Patrick Long’s combined results from the Sprint and SprintX races netted him the overall PWC title this season. The Californian and Porsche’s lone factory driver co-drove with Joerg Bergmeister in the SprintX rounds save for Lime Rock Park, when Marc Lieb filled in as Bergmeister was on another assignment. After winning the 2011 GT title, Long called this 2017 title sweeter because of the enhanced competition he and Wright Motorsports beat.

  • Drivers: Patrick Long, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; Manufacturer: Porsche

SPRINT (GT and GTS)

Aschenbach’s Camaro ended ahead of Ian James’ Panoz in GTS. Photo: PWC

While Long also captured the Sprint title at Sonoma, other champs of note here include PWC veteran Sofronas in GTA and his customer Kurtz in GTSA, and Aschenbach with his fifth PWC title (three in GTS, joining 2013 and 2014 titles with Blackdog in previous generation Camaros, along with one GT and one TC title).

  • GT: DriversPatrick Long, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; Team: Wright Motorsports
  • GTA: DriversJames Sofronas, No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GT Cup: DriversYuki Harata, No. 55 Dream Racing Competition Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2; Team: Dream Racing Competition
  • GTS: Drivers: Lawson Aschenbach, No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R; Team: Blackdog Speed Shop; Manufacturer: Chevrolet
  • GTSA: Drivers: George Kurtz, No. 04 GMG Racing McLaren 570S GT4

SPRINT (TC, TCA, TCB)

Holton and the C360R Audi won PWC TC title this year. Photo: PWC

Success here for two stalwart drivers and one stalwart team within PWC. Holton and Groenke used to be teammates with Shea Racing in 2014 in TCB, with Shea Holbrook’s team serving as their starting point and place of development before they have grown since. Holton, who now races with Karl Thomson’s successful C360R outfit in both PWC and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – and has won races in both – brought home the TC crown in a new Audi this year, while Groenke’s perseverance was rewarded after years of near-misses in TCB, in that class’ last year. Fassnacht ensured Mazda didn’t go home empty-handed this year, with the TCA title.

  • TC: DriversPaul Holton, No. 71 C360R Audi RS3 LMS; Team: C360R; Manufacturer: BMW
  • TCA: DriversMatthew Fassnacht, No. 74 S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup; Team: S.A.C. Racing; Manufacturer: Mazda
  • TCB: DriversP.J. Groenke, No. 25 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic; Team: Tech Sport Racing

SPRINTX (GT and GTS)

Taylor and Cooper. Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

In the SprintX series, the Taylor/Cooper combination ensured Cadillac got another title to add to its sterling resume in PWC before the manufacturer announced its departure at the end of the year. Sofronas and Harata, meanwhile, won titles in both Sprint and SprintX formats this year.

  • GT: Pro/ProJordan Taylor, Michael Cooper, No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R; Team: Cadillac Racing
  • GT: Pro/AmJames Sofronas, No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GT: Am/AmHenrique Cisneros, No. 30 MOMO NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 (GT Sportsman Cup)
  • GT Cup: Pro/AmAlessandro Bressan, Yuki Harata, No. 55 Dream Racing Competition Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2; Team: Dream Racing Competition
  • GT Cup: Am/AmJoe Toussaint, Corey Friedman, No. 90 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GTS: Pro/AmAdam Merzon, Trent Hindman, No. 017 Case-it Racing Porsche GT4 Cayman Clubsport; Manufacturer: Porsche
  • GTS: Am/AmGreg Liefooghe, Aristotle Balogh, No. 019 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M3 E46; Team: Stephen Cameron Racing

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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