Tony Rivera, Joey Bickers and Tom O’Gorman scored victories in TC, TCA and TCB Round 7, respectively, at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Road America presented by Cadillac.
With the green flag out on the rolling start, second-on-the-grid Toby Grahovec, in the No. 26 BMW M235iR for Classic BMW Motorsports, drag raced side-by-side down the long Road America front straight with pole sitter Rivera, in the No. 97 Brass Monkey Racing Tiburon Motorsports Nissan 370Z with the driver of the BMW taking lead on an outside pass through turn 1. Rivera reclaimed the lead later in the lap and as they crossed the line to complete the first lap he led over Grahovec with Nick Wittmer, in the No. 91 Honda Ste-Rose Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe, slotting into third.
In TCA, polesitter Bickers, in the No. 49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup, launched cleanly into the lead on the start and maintained his position as Eric Powell, in the No. 23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup, and Kris Wright, in the No. 35 Kinetic Motorsports Wright Automotive Group Kia Forte Koup, followed in second and third on the opening lap. Sam Adams, in the No. 48 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5, fell back to fourth in the early going after starting from second.
In TCB, it was pole winner O’Gorman, in the No. 94 Black Armor Helmets TNIA Honda Fit, out front over Michael Johnson, in the No. 24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic, while P.J. Groenke, in the No. 25 Tech Sport Racing Verax.ca/Tundra/Clorox Pool & Spa/Cabano’s Comfort Food/Clairhaven, Ltd/Martinrea Intl Inc/Pelto Agri Investments/Ro-Ro Property Management Corp./Warp Speed Computers Inc. Chevrolet Sonic, moved into third from fourth on the opening lap.
By lap three the trio of leaders in TC separated themselves from the rest of the field, with Rivera leading Grahovec and Wittmer in a three-car train. Meanwhile, Vesko Kozarov, driving the No. 3 CA Sport Nissan/Nismo/Stance Nissan 370Z, had moved up to fourth in class ahead of Patrick Gallagher, driving the No. 54 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5.
A full-course caution came out at the 10-minute mark on lap four of the race with a report of cars off in turn five. As the safety car collected the field, it was Rivera leading Grahovec and Wittmer in TC. Gallagher was in fourth, with Shea Holbook, in the No. 67 Shea Racing BUBBABurger/LucasOil/KoniShockAbsorbers Honda Accord V-6 Coupe, rounding out the top five.
In TCA, Bickers led Powell with Elivan Goulart, in the No. 70, S.A.C. Racing/SCDA1.com Mazda MX-5 Cup, in third. In TCB, O’Gorman had regained the lead after a massive battle with Johnson and Groenke, while Noah Grey, in the No. 65 Hale Motorsports Solvang Brewing Co/Kelly Benefit Strategies/Foundation Fighting Blindness Mazda 2, ran in fourth place.
When the green flag flew to restart the race for lap seven, Rivera launched cleanly to hold down the race lead in TC, while Wittmer moved past Grahovec for second spot.
Bickers, meanwhile, continued to lead in TCA with Goulart moving up to second with Adams in third, while Powell dropped through the field and came into the pits. TCB action saw O’Gorman narrowly maintain his race lead ahead of Groenke and Johnson.
On lap nine, the action dialed up at the front of the field as Wittmer jumped into the lead and fought off challenges from both Grahovec and Rivera.
Bickers continued to pull a gap in TCA, three seconds up on Goulart, while in TCB, O’Gorman’s margin of lead was just .151 seconds before falling victim to Groenke, who passed him for the lead as the TCB field continued to fight it out.
A lap later, Grahovec got a taste of the lead in his BMW, pulling ahead of Rivera and Wittmer, while Gallagher looked on from 4.7 seconds away in fourth, and Holbrook completed the top five ahead of teammate Jason Fichter, in the No.7 Shea Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe.
TCA saw further changes too, with Adams passing Goulart for second, while O’Gorman had found his way back around Groenke in the TCB class.
On lap 11, Rivera took the lead back and pulled the largest gap of the TC race at that point over Wittmer and Grahovec.
With the white flag out, Rivera led by a handful of car lengths over Grahovec, who had moved into second over Wittmer. Rivera would cross the stripe for the victory with Grahovec in second, Wittmer in third, and Gallagher and Holbrook completing the top five. It is Rivera’s fourth consecutive Pirelli World Challenge TCA win at Road America.
“I lost a friend here in 2009 and there is just something about this track now that is so special to me,” Rivera said. “Since then it’s been an emotional place for me. This is the one track where I go and shut everything else out. I just concentrate on roll in the speed in the corners. I love this track because everyone gets caught up in the idea that it’s a horsepower track and I think it is the exact opposite.
“Realistically I’m out of the championship with four DNFs in the last four races but this is what I love to do. And on Monday I have to get back to my day job. And the pressure is off and I am going to go out to have fun. Just take it one race at a time.”
In TCA, Bickers took his first career Pirelli World Challenge victory in a flag-to-flag effort over Goulart, who had regained second place, and Adams, who finished in third.
“I got a little bit of lead today and I didn’t have to fight with too many guys,” Bickers said. “I was just trying to make every lap consistent today. It was scary at the start because there was some light rain. And we don’t have rain tires. We would have had to run on slicks (tires) and we just aren’t prepared for that. I am glad that the weather held off and we could run in the dry today. I know how special it is to win here. Just yesterday, I was watching an on-board camera with Nigel Mansell here back in the CART days in Champ Car. That is a cool video. It is worth checking out. It’s a fast track and very exciting to race here. So it is a nice win.”
In TCB on the white flag lap, both Groenke and Johnson swept around the outside of turn 5 passing O’Gorman with Groenke moving into the lead. But both lost their momentum slightly and by turn 6, O’Gorman who had maintained speed jumped back into the lead. As they crossed the stripe, O’Gorman scored his first career Pirelli World Challenge win in a hard-fought battle over Groenke and Johnson.
“I had the Tech Sport teammates (Groenke and Johnson) working together against me today,” said O’Gorman. “I had to hold them off. I caught the traffic just at the right time to take that advantage over them. I’m an autocrosser and I used to say that nothing would give me the shakes like an autocross run. But I have the shakes today. I’m so happy for my first Pirelli World Challenge win. The win hasn’t sunk in yet. Last year here at Road America I shadowed a team to learn about the Pirelli World Challenge. Now a year later, I won my first race here. It’s special to come back to Road America and win.”
Of note, Paul Whiting in the No. 51 PWR & LDL Sped Shop Honda Civic Si won the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining four positions on the opening lap. Holbrook won the Cadillac ATS-V Best Move of the race for her pass for two positions through Turn 5. The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award went to Max Fedler, in the No. 05 PLENCO, Molecule Summit of Everest Motorsports BMW M235i for gaining 10 positions during the race.
TC, TCA and TCB drivers and teams next take to the track for their second race (Round 8) of the weekend at 5:50 p.m. Central on Friday. Watch the race live at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing and scoring at world-challenge.com. Watch extended coverage of races from Road America in an expanded format on CBS Sports Network Thursday, July 7 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Complete results can be found here.