This year, defending Pirelli World Challenge series GT champion Alvaro Parente could celebrate properly at Long Beach.
A year after he was awarded the win after a postrace penalty to provisional winner Johnny O’Connell, Parente pulled off his second straight pole-win sweep in the No. 9 K-RAX Racing McLaren 650S on the streets on Long Beach, a circuit he hadn’t even laid eyes on until arriving at the course last season. Parente fended off Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long on two restarts, finishing about three seconds ahead of the runner-up in a 31-lap contest. Parente’s K-PAX teammate Bryan Sellers was third, followed by the The Collection/TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniel Mancinelli and R.Ferri Motorsport’s Alex Riberas, who came home fifth in his Long Beach debut.
“Definitely very happy to cross the finish line first this time,” said Parente, who picks up his second win of the season. “The closest moment [with Patrick] was at the start, in that first braking area. There was respect with everyone, Bryan (Sellers) was there also in the back and tried to go inside but I was able to keep my position, even though that was all very close.”
Long, who finished second here last year after O’Connell’s penalty, admitted his Porsche 911 GT3R couldn’t catch up to the two-time Long Beach winner.
“We were a little better in the brakes in Turn 1, but that was about the only place we had a bit of a margin,” said Long. “I could close up on him in the last sector, last couple corners, but he did a good job of keeping consistent through the last quarter. We didn’t really have a car to get alongside him today.”
The 48-minute race was stopped for about 15 minutes on lap 8 on when a burst fire hydrant on a side street created a pool of water near Turn 8, bringing out a full-course yellow and then a red flag two laps later. The cause was reportedly a car hitting the hydrant off of nearby Ocean Blvd. City officials were quick to shut off the hydrant, allowing track officials to contain and dry the area. But it was quite a surprise for the drivers.
“I had no warning,” Parente said. “I was coming flat [on the straightaway], and then suddenly I saw a river in front of me,” Parente said. “Just foot off the throttle, and pray I won’t crash or anything and just skidded through the puddle.”
“It was probably 20 feet of running water, and with slick tires at 140mph that’s not what you want to see,” Long echoed. “We’ve all been there on the freeway when you start aquaplaning, the best thing to do is just relax and let it end. I’m happy that no one had an incident and they responded really well, so hats off to the track crew and the World Challenge series. I said to [PWC CEO Greg] Gill, ‘Good job responding to an unnatural disaster.’”
With just under 20 minutes left, Mike Hedlund brought out a full-course caution when his K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 spun coming out of the Turn 11 hairpin and hit the wall.
Parente got a jump on the restart but Long could always be found in the rear view, less than half a second behind. Parente kept pounding out fast laps, eventually setting a 1m19.070s with just over two minutes remaining, besting Michael Cooper’s 2016 record of 1m19.638s.
“On those restarts, the first two or three laps, Patrick was quicker than me and then once I got temperature pressures, even though I was trying to keep them and getting them ready for the restarts, it wasn’t muscle,” Parente related in explaining how he managed to keep besting his own record. “So I just got into a rhythm, pressures were up to after a few laps, and managed to push again and start to go faster.”
In the closing minute O’Connell nosed into the Turn 1 tires, ending a frustrating morning for the Cadillac Racing veteran, who drove deep into Turn 1 on the first lap, couldn’t get the car turned and hit the wall, causing heavy damage to the front of this Velocity Red ATS-V.R Coupe. He and spent several laps with bodywork jammed between his rear bumper and wing.
“The first thing that comes to mind is Cadillac’s motto, ‘Dare Greatly,'” O’Connell said. “I Dared Greatly today. I left everything I had out there on track today. It is unfortunate. All we can do is keep digging and win for Cadillac. We will put this one behind us and move onto Virginia. When you have one arm tied behind your back, what do you do?”
In GTA, polesitter James Sofronas took the win and finished 10th overall, followed by Wright Motorsports’ Michael Schein and Magnus Racing’s John Potter. Sofronas also recorded the quickest race lap in the GTA category Sunday at 1:20.145 (88.42 m.p.h.), re-setting the race lap record for the class.
Schein now leads Sofronas by six points in the standings.
For Sofronas, a Long Beach winner in PWC in 2009 and 2013, it was a nice way to end a week that started with GMG Racing’s Santa-Ana based motorcoach and trailer robbed following an open house; fans and police managed to find some of what was taken.
“I knew the start was going to be a hairball, which it always is here following into Turn 1,” he said. “I figured I would follow Johnny O’Connell – I know he knows his way around here – and he created a nice little vacuum for me to slide in, but there were parts flying all over the place. From Turns 4 to 7 there was carbon fiber scattered like confetti, and so you just have to dodge it and make a clean run through it.”
Of the robbery, he said the team “dodged a bullet” but he still had parts missing.
“So if you see anything on Craigslist,” he joked, “please tell ‘em we’ll buy it and we’ll find them.”