Two-time Long Beach GT Sprint race winner Alvaro Parente seeks his third consecutive “Roar by the Shore” victory this weekend when the Pirelli World Challenge GT drivers and sports cars do battle in the annual 50-minute GT Sprint feature at the 44th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. 20 entries are set to hit the long Beach circuit when practice begins this Friday.
Parente, the 2016 GT champion from Portugal, has captured 10 GT sprint races (including the two Long Beach main events) in the past two PWC campaigns for the K-PAX Racing team from North California. After driving McLaren cars the last two years, the 33-year-old veteran comes to the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit with the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3.
But Parente knows his quest for a third straight Long Beach win will not be an easy one with a solid GT/GTA/GT4 Invitational field set for the 10 a.m. PDT Sunday feature around the Long Beach Arena and Convention Center complex with a list of top drivers and exotic machines such as Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche.
GT/GTA Preview: GT3 sports cars return to Long Beach with an international driver field
Challenging track record holder Parente for Sunday’s GT 50-minute sprint race will be a strong list of contenders including international stars like Toni Vilander, Michael Christensen, Scott Hargrove, Daniel Morad, Daniel Mancinelli and young American Alec Udell.
In last year’s 50-minute event, Parente led wire-to-wire over Patrick Long when the race was red-flagged due to a bizarre event occurring with a broken fire hydrant on Ocean Blvd. A cascade of water flowed down onto the back straightaway pavement causing a stoppage of the GT action. At the restart, Parente set a race lap record in holding off Long and K-PAX teammate Bryan Sellers.
This weekend, Vilander, the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion from Finland, brings the potent No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3 to Long Beach after a double race win weekend two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas in the 60-minute GT SprintX main events with co-driver Miguel Molina.
Another 2018 double GT race winner is Hargrove, the former open-wheel racer from Canada, who scored two GT Sprint street wins at St. Petersburg last month in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R. Hargrove, the current GT overall point leader, makes his first Long Beach start on Sunday in the 50-minute contest.
Mancinelli of Italy, a three-time 2017 GT SprintX race winner, comes to Long Beach in the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 in search of his first GT Sprint victory, while Morad, a two-time GT SprintX winner last year, brings the popular No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 after scoring two podium finishes in the streets of St. Petersburg last month.
Two top Porsche teams at Long Beach will be led by Denmark’s Michael Christensen in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Texas college student Alec Udell, driving the No. 41 LOCI/HKG Racing/GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Udell, the former GT Cup series champion, is a mechanical engineer senior at Clemson University when he isn’t wheeling his GT sports car in Pirelli World Challenge. Last year, Alec made his GT debut at Long Beach and finished seventh.
In the GTA division, a group of veterans and youngsters will make up the class this weekend at Long Beach including former 2016 GTA series champion Martin Fuentes of Mexico, in the No. 7 Hublot/Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3. Fuentes captured ten sprint wins in GTA in 2016 and captured the two GTA sprint races last month at St. Petersburg.
Other veterans in GTA category at Long Beach include the two-car Black Swan Racing effort of Tim Pappas, in the No. 54 Black Swan Porsche 911 GT3 R and David Calvert-Jones in the No. 12 Black Swan Porsche 911 GT3 R. Pappas recently captured his class and third overall in the famed 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia earlier this year.
Leading the youth movement in the GTA class at Long Beach is Brazil’s Rodrigo Baptista, who’ll drive the K-PAX Racing team car to Parente in the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 which won the GT SprintX Pro-Am division two weeks ago at COTA. Baptista scored four wins last year for Flying Lizard Motorsports in the GTS class.
Seventeen-year-old Parker Chase was impressive in the GTS category the past two seasons and moved into the GTA class this year in the No. 19 TruSpeed Motorsports Audi R8 LMS sports car. Chase competed in the British GT series in 2017 as well as scoring runner-up finishes in GTS.
Last year’s GT Cup series champion, Yuki Harata, also moves into the GTA class in 2018 at Long Beach, as the young racer drives the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 this weekend.
GT4 Invitational – GT4 sports cars come to Long Beach with new machinery
With the influx of new GT4 sports cars this year in the Pirelli World Challenge, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach officials requested the inclusion of the new machinery in this year’s 50-minute sprint race on Sunday (April 15).
Veteran Spencer Pumpelly, a 2017 GT SprintX race winner, leads the GT4 division this weekend with the No. 66 TRG Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR sports car. The two-time Daytona 24 Hours winner will have a strong contingent of contenders this weekend in the GTS Invitational.
Reigning GTSA series champion George Kurtz, a nine-time race winner in 2017, will drive the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 at Long Beach, while local driver Bob Michaelian makes the start in the unique No. 45 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN CAR 1 GT4 this weekend.
COTA pole winner Harry Gottsacker, a former world karting champion, comes to Long Beach with the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN Car 1 GT4 after taking second and fourth at COTA. The 18-year-old driving star has experience in the Red Bull Global Rallycross and British GT series.
Last year’s Touring Car champion Paul Holton will compete at Long Beach in the GT4 Invitational with the No. 78 Compass360 McLaren 570S. Local driver Mike Sullivan of Manhattan Beach, Calif., will drive the No. 83 Competition Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR this weekend.
Rounding out the GT4 Invitational field will be the most versatile racer in the Pirelli World Challenge field in Jeff Ward, the seven-time AMA motocross champion and an IndyCar race winner at Texas Motor Speedway. Ward, most recently competing in Global Rallycross and Stadium Trucks, has finished second, third and fourth at the Indy 500. Ward will pilot the No. 7 Black Swan Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR at the “Roar by the Shore.”
Practice for the Pirelli World Challenge at Long Beach is scheduled for Friday at 3:30 p.m. PDT with qualifying set for Sunday at 9:20 a.m. PDT. The GT/GTA/GT4 50-minute race will begin Sundat at 10 a.m. PDT. Both qualifying and the race sessions will be live-streamed at World-Challenge.com/streamvideo.
Streets of Long Beach, Calif: 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street course
Friday, April 13
3:30-4:30 p.m., GT-GTA-GT4
Saturday, April 14
8:45-9:05 a.m., GT-GTA-GT4
Saturday, April 14
9:20-9:45 a.m., GT-GTA-GT4
50 minutes (GT/GTA)
Sunday, April 15
10:00-10:50 a.m. GT-GTA Race
All times listed above are Pacific Daylight Time
Television (on CBS Sports Network, Taped-delayed):
GT/GTA: April 22, 3:00 p.m. (EDT)
GT/GTA: April 22, 9:00 p.m. (EDT)
Both Qualifying and the Race sessions will be live-streamed at World-Challenge.com/streamvideo.