With a strong field of 104 entries set for this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Texas at the Circuit of The Americas, there will be many questions to answer when practice rounds open Friday in the first GT and GTS SprintX doubleheader as well as the debut of the all-new TCR division.
Competitors always flock to the popular state-of-the-art 3.427-mile, 20-turn road circuit southeast of downtown Austin and this weekend’s first PWC headliner event of the 2018 campaign seems no different. In fact, the debut of the GTS SprintX category sees a robust field with 38 cars entered and a very talented driver lineup set to do battle.
All Pirelli World Challenge classes – GT/GTA/GT Cup SprintX, GTS/GTSA SprintX, TCR, TC and TCA – will be featured with the races (60-minute, two-driver in GT and GTS divisions and 40-minute, one-driver in the TC categories) being held and Saturday (March 24) and Sunday (March 25). In addition, the highly-competitive Blue Marble Cocktails Radical North America series will be in action as well as the Mazda MX-5 Cup.
All Pirelli World Challenge races this weekend will be live streamed on http://www.world-challenge.com, and seven feature races (GT & GTS SprintX and TC) will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network; the GT SprintX will be televised on CBS Sports Network on April 1 at 4:00 p.m. EDT, while GTS SprintX will be shown on April 5 at 8 p.m. and TC on April 11 at 8 p.m. EDT.
GT SprintX Preview
The GT SprintX division held a wild tripleheader race weekend last September at COTA as the GT Sprint championship came down to a dramatic final event. This year, COTA opens the GT SprintX trail with Round 1 (Saturday) and Round 2 (Sunday) featuring an 18-car field set to hit the famed COTA circuit.
The Pro-Pro class features numerous past GT and GT SprintX winners including the recent St. Petersburg GT Sprint double winner Canadian Scott Hargrove in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R, who’ll team with veteran Porsche racer Wolf Henzler of Germany. Hargrove will experience his first co-driver event after years in single-seater cars and Porsche Cup sprint races.
Another strong Porsche Pro-Pro pairing at COTA will be competing in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with endurance veteran Michael Christensen of Denmark and Atlanta’s Spencer Pumpelly. Pumpelly was a GT SprintX winner last year at Lime Rock Park. Another GTS SprintX race-winning driver, Daniel Morad of Canada, who won at COTA and VIRginia International Raceway in 2017, returns to COTA in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a driver to be named.
Former GT Sprint champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal returns to PWC action after his wild incident in Round 2 in the streets of St. Petersburg when his No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 lost its brakes on the back straightaway. Fortunately, Parente walked away for the accident but the K-PAX Racing had to go to the backup car for this weekend’s COTA GT SprintX doubleheader. Parente will team with veteran Bentley driver Andy Soucek of Spain this weekend in the Pro-Pro class.
The popular No. 26 Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R figures to be a contender in its first COTA appearance in the PWC Pro-Pro class with Germany’s Daniel Keilwitz, second at Round 2 at St. Pete, and former PWC regular Eric Curran of Sarasota, Fla., at the controls.
A powerful international duo of Toni Vilander of Finland and Miguel Molina of Spain could be the ones to beat at COTA with the always-strong No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3. Texas favorite Long Star Racing has entered its Mercedes-AMG GT3 with drivers to be named in the Pro-Pro division.
A late GT SprintX Pro-Pro entry could be a major factor this weekend the No. 41 Loci/HKG Racing/GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R with former GT Cup champion Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Tex., the Clemson University mechanical engineer student, and Porsche factory star Mathieu Jaminet of Germany at the controls. Jaminet won the GT SprintX pole last year at COTA and drove the GMG Porsche 911 GT3 R to three Pro-Am wins at COTA last September.
In the Pro-Am class, defending driving champion James Sofronas has moved to the GTS division in 2018 and the category sports a stellar lineup of pro and am drivers to battle in the first GT SprintX doubleheader this weekend.
Parente’s young 2018 K-PAX Racing teammate Rodrigo Baptista of Brazil returns to COTA after last year’s strong GTS victory in Austin. Baptista, a GTA driver this year, will be coupled with Belgium’s Maxime Soulet, another veteran Bentley racer.
Last year’s COTA SprintX race winner Ryan Dalziel of Scotland returns with 17-year-old local driver Parker Chase of New Braunfels, Tex., in the No. 19 TruSpeed Audi R8 LMS. The three-time GT SprintX winning machine, the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, will compete in the Pro-Am class this year with drivers Jeff Segal of Miami, Fla., and Wei Lu of Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
The always-fast No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R returns to the Pro-Am division with Tim Pappas of Boston, Mass., and Jeroen Bleekemolen of Monte Carlo. The Black Swan team recently captured its class and was third overall in the 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia.
Last year’s GT Cup champion, Yuki Harata of Japan, is back to PWC in the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 this time, teaming with Alessandro Bressan of Italy. Former GTA champion Martin Fuentes of Mexico City, Mex., a double winner two weeks ago at St. Pete in GTA, is a favorite in the Am-Am division this week as he partners with Caeser Bacarella of Miami, Fla., in the No. 07 Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3.
Other Am-Am contenders at COTA are the DXDT Racing team’s David Askew of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Lawrence DeGeorge of Jupiter, Fla., in the No. 45 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Five GT Cup cars are entered at COTA with personable Marko Radisic of Serbia in the No. 11 Ferrari 458 Challenge with co-driver David Roberts. Ryan Hardwick and Davide Amaduzzi are teaming in the No. 27 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo as well as David Baker in the No. 56 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, J.C. Perez in the No. 71 P1 Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo and local racer Alan Metni in the No. 99 AM Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
The GT SprintX field will compete this weekend with 60-minute races on Saturday (March 24) at 3:45 p.m. CDT and Sunday (March 25) at 2:10 p.m. CDT in the GT Pro/Pro, Pro/Am and Am/Am categories as well as GT Cup.
GTS SprintX Preview
The debut of the GTS SprintX class brings a sensational 38-car field to COTA led by defending and three-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4R. Aschenbach, also a GTS sprint double race winner at St. Pete this year, teams with former PWC GT champion Andy Pilgrim of Bowling Green, Kent. There are six PWC titles between the pair.
The Blackdog Speed Shop team car to the Aschenbach/Pilgrim lineup will be 2017 GT SprintX Pro-Pro champion Michael Cooper pairing with veteran Tony Gaples in the No. 11 Camaro GT4.R.
Reigning GTA Sprint and GT SprintX Pro-Am champion Sofronas moves to the GTS ranks in 2018 and will team with Alex Welch in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS with another COTA contender being the No. 13 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR with former SprintX race winner Kyle Marcelli and Orey Fidani.
Defending GTS Sprint champion George Kurtz will couple with endurance racing star Colin Braun in the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Audi R8 LMS with the duo of Mark Klenin and former SprintX race winner Max Riddle in the No. 62 KPR/Premiere Copier McLaren 570S. Former GTS race winner Andy Lee will drive the No. 8 5.11 Tactical/GMG McLaren 570S with Elias Sabo and the pair of Vinnie Allegretta and J.R. Pesek will contest in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 in the Pro-Am division.
The other PF Racing entries could be the favorites at COTA with the No. 55 Ford Mustang GT4 of Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell as well as the No. 40 Ford Mustang GT4 of James Pesek and Indy Lights driver Shelby Blackstock.
Crowd favorites Team Panoz Racing come to the GTS SprintX doubleheader with six-time 2017 GTS race winner Ian James and Matt Keegan in the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT.
Classic BMW of Plano, Tex., brings three GTS SprintX entries with team leader Toby Grahovec teaming with Chris Ohmacht in the No. 92 Fast Track Racing BMW M4 GT4 in the GTS Am category along with Pro-Am entrants Mike Vess/Jason Hart in the No. 27 Vess Energy Group BMW M4 GT4 and Justin Raphael/Steven McAleer in the No. 17 Raphael & Associates BMW M4 GT4.
Another popular BMW operation at COTA will be ST Racing squad with veteran Nick Wittmer and college student Samantha Tan in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 and Harvard-bound Aurora Straus and Al Carter in the No. 36 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4.
Exciting pairings for the COTA GTS SprintX doubleheader also include former GTS race winners Nate Stacy and Dean Martin in the No. 52 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4; Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis in the No. 74 Robinson Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4; GT race winner Ryan Eversley and Adam Merzon in the No. 23 CaseIt Racing by Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS; Ray Mason and 2017 TC champion Paul Holton in the No. 78 Compass Racing McLaren 570S; Henry Schmitt and SprintX race winner Greg Liefooghe in the No. 88 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4; former SprintX race winner Derek DeBoer and Sean Gibbons in the No. 66 TRG Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Ace Robey and Vesko Kozarov in the No. 06 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 and Daren Jorgensen teaming with young Cameron Lawrence in the No. 113 RHC Lawrence-Strom BMW M4 GT4.
Single driver entries for COTA include local driver youngster Harry Gottsacker in the No. 69 Racer’s Edge Motorsports SIN CAR 1; Nicoli Eighanayan in the No. 71 MarcoPolo Motorsports KTM X-Bow; Jason Bell in the No. 2 M1GT Racing Audi R8 LMS; St. Pete GTSA double winner Drew Staveley in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55; Jeff Burton in the No. 19 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS; Frank Gannett in the No. 24 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55; Steve Burns in the No. 43 VP Racing Fuels/Lacy Racing Ginetta G55; veteran Mike Hedlund in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Audi R8 LMS; former GT SprintX race winner Preston Calvert in the No. 51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT; Mark Pavan in the No. 54 Racer’s Edge Motorsports SIN CAR 1 and former PWC pole winner Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4.
The anticipation of the all-new TCR touring car division – extremely popular around world – has been growing and the class makes its Pirelli World Challenge debut this weekend at COTA with 14 entries.
Stellar teams have put together impressive driving lineups this weekend with five different auto makers – Alfa Romeo, Audi, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all set to do battle on the 3.427-mile, 20-turn racing circuit southeast of Austin.
Three squads bring multiple cars to COTA including the multi-time PWC championship-winning RealTime Racing with Eversley and veteran Nick Esayian wheeling the No. 43 and No. 44 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR as well as FCP Euro by HRD with drivers Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent in the No. 71 and No. 72 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR and two-time Indy 500 winning team of Bryan Herta Autosport debuting the new Hyundai i30 N TCR with GT race winners Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis at the wheel of the No. 98 and No. 99 machines.
The Audi Sport RS3 LMS won the TC championship in 2017 and the TCR class will feature four entries this weekend with Jerimy Daniel in the No. 2 The Racing Company Audi Sport RS3 LMS, Anthony Geraci in the No. 69 Heinlein Racing Development Audi Sport RS3 LMS, 2017 TCA champion Matt Fassnacht in the No. 74 Murillo Racing Audi Sport RS3 LMS and youngster J.T. Coupal in the No. 78 Compass Racing Audi Sport RS3 LMS.
Two Volkswagen entries to watch at COTA will be three-generation racer Jarett Andretti making his sports car debut in the No. 18 Copeland Motorsports/Tilton Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR and TC race winner Mason Filippi in the No. 12 TFB Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.
Denmark’s Martin Jensen will compete in the new Alfacr.USA Alfa Romeo Giulletta TCR as the Italian auto maker returns to PWC action in 2018.
TC and TCA ready for another exciting COTA event this weekend – TC/TCA Preview
With last year’s top point finishers – Holton, Liefooghe and Nick Wittmer – moving to other classes in 2018, the Touring Car division could prove to be wide open and produce another great year of action.
Twelve BMW M235iRs are set to race in the TC category this weekend including Max Fedler in the No. 5 Matt Young Motorsports BMW; Sean Quinlan in the No. 19 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW; Robert Nimkoff in the No. 20 AutoTechnic Racing BMW; Matt Travis in the No. 26 Classic BMW BMW; Jayson Clunie in the No. 27 Classic BMW BMW; Daren Jorgensen in the No. 66 RHC Lawrence-Strom BMW; former TCB champion Johan Schwartz in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW; Jacob Ruud in the No. 81 Winding Road Team TFB; Henry Schmitt in the No. 87 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW; Karl Wittmer in the No. 91 Classic BMW BMW and Mark Brummond in the No. 91 AutoTechnic Racing BMW.
The Nissan 370Z TC Spec will be supported at COTA by three entries including multi-time TC race winner Vesko Kozarov in the No. 3 Rearden Racing Nissan; Steve Steimer in the No. 23 TechSport Racing Nissan and another multi-time TC race winner Tony Rivera in the No. 97 Brass Monkey Racing Nissan.
Rounding out the TC field at COTA will be veteran Jeff Ricca in the No. 78 GenRacer Genesis Coupe and Joshua Foran in the No. 93 Team HMA Honda Civic Type R.
In the TCA class at COTA, 2017 multi-race winner Kenny Murillo looks to be the favorite after scoring two COTA victories last September. Murillo return to the PWC series in the No. 24 Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup.
Another TCA race winner last year, Tom O’Gorman, is back in the No. 94 HPD/GRIDLIFE Honda Civic Si along with another past TCB race winner Travis Washay in the No. 30 Indian Summer Racing Volkswagen Gold GTI.
TechSport Racing, the 2017 TCB title team, brings 2017 TCB champion P.J. Groenke in the No. 25 TechSport Subaru BRZ tS as well as TCA race winner Eric Powell in the No. 95 TechSport Subarz BRZ tS, Breton Williams in the No. 22 TechSport Subaru BRZ tS, Austin racer Jeff Sexton in the No. 89 TechSport Subaru BRZ tS and Spencer Patterson in the No. 79 TechSport Subaru BRZ tS.
Along with favorite Murillo, the Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car will be campaigned at COTA with Bryan Ortiz in the No. 4 Copeland Motorsports Mazda; Jenny Gannett in the No. 10 Ian lacy Racing Mazda; John Mauro in the No. 13 Atlanta Motorsports Group/Mauro Motorsports Mazda; Austin Allison in the No. 54 Jason Hoover Motorsports Mazda and Jose DaSilva in the No. 07 Ives Motorsports Mazda.
3.427-mile, 20-turn permanent road circuit
Qualifying: (All times listed are CDT)
Saturday, March 24, 2018
8:30 AM – 8:50 AM Pirelli World Challenge TC
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM Pirelli World Challenge GTS SprintX
10:15 AM – 10:45 AM Pirelli World Challenge – GT SprintX
10:55 AM – 11:15 AM Pirelli World Challenge – TCR/TCA
Races: (All times listed are CDT)
Live Internet telecast (on http://www.world-challenge.com):
Saturday, March 24, 2018
12:10 AM – 12:50 AM Pirelli World Challenge – Touring Car Round 1 Race (40 minutes)
1:20 PM – 2:20 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GTS SprintX Round 1 Race (60 minutes)
3:45 PM – 4:45 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GT SprintX Round 1 Race (60 minutes)
4:55 PM – 5:35 PM Pirelli World Challenge – TCR/TCA Round 1 Race (40 minutes)
Sunday, March 25, 2018 (All times listed are CDT)
10:15 AM – 11:15 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GTS SprintX Round 2 Race (60 minutes)
12:25 PM – 1:05 PM Pirelli World Challenge – TCR/TCA Round 2 Race (40 minutes)
2:10 PM – 3:10 PM Pirelli World Challenge – GT SprintX Round 2 Race (60 minutes)
3:25 PM – 4:05 PM Pirelli World Challenge – Touring Car Round 2 Race (40 minutes)
60 minutes (GT SprintX, GTS SprintX)
40 minutes (TCR/TC/TCA)
Television (on CBS Sports Network): All times listed are Eastern.
GT SprintX: April 1, 4:00 p.m.
GTS SprintX: April 5, 8:00 p.m.
TCR/TC/TCA: April 12, 8:00 p.m.