The fast and challenging 3.27-mile, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway hosts 100 entries this weekend when all eight Pirelli World Challenge classes – GT/GTA/GT Cup SprintX, GTS/GTSA SprintX, TCR, TC and TCA – compete in Rounds 3 and 4 doubleheader action in the PWC Grand Prix of Virginia presented by Audi Sport.
After Rounds 1 and 2 at Circuit of The Americas last month, many pre-season questions were answered in all of the PWC divisions with impressive double victories in several categories including the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 of Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina in the GT SprintX Pro-Pro class as well as the Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30 N TCR wins by Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins in the new TCR group. Vesko Kozarov won two Touring Car races in his Nissan 370Z at COTA as well.
Action gets underway on Friday (April 27) with all PWC classes taking practice rounds at the southern Virginia racing facility followed by qualifying and Race 1 on Saturday, April 28). Sunday, April 29 features Race 2 in all categories.
The GTS and GTSA classes have a full field of 36 entries with a limit count due to pit spaces and former GTS and SprintX Pro-Am champion James Sofronas leads the GTS overall points entering the VIR weekend with his No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 sports car.
All Pirelli World Challenge races this weekend will be live streamed on www.world-challenge.com, and eight feature races will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network; the GT SprintX weekend will be televised on CBS Sports Network on May 6 at 6:00 p.m. EDT, while GTS SprintX broadcast will be shown on May 9 at 8 p.m. EDT and Touring Car events on May 13 at 2 p.m. EDT.
Can Vilander/Molina/Ferrari combo be stopped in GT SprintX?
The VIR circuit is one of the most challenging tracks in the Pirelli World Challenge series, but the Ferrari has won there in the past including the first-ever GT SprintX race last year with Daniel Mancinelli and Andrea Montermini. Now, Vilander and Molina must be listed as favorites this weekend in the Pro-Pro division.
Canadian Scott Hargrove, the current GT Overall point leader, figures to give the Ferrari duo a strong challenge with his teammate Wolf Henzler in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R as well as the pair of Mike Skeen, the currently VIR qualifying track record holder, and young Scott Heckert, both of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 80 Long Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 sports car. Skeen and Heckert placed second and third in the two COTA GT SprintX features.
Also, a contending team at VIR is the Porsche Pro-Pro combination of Denmark’s Michael Christensen and Atlanta’s Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Christensen is an endurance veteran and Pumpelly was a GT SprintX winner last year at Lime Rock Park.
Another Porsche challenger at VIR will be former GT Cup champion Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Tex., the Clemson University mechnical engineer student, who brings the No. 41 LOCI/HKG Racing/GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R and teams with Corey Lewis, the 12 Hours of Sebring winner. Team regular Mathieu Jaminet has a conflict with his schedule, racing in the Czech Republic this weekend.
Defending VIR GT SprintX race winner Daniel Morad of Toronto, Ont. Canada, returns this weekend in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Germany’s Fabian Schiller, who teamed up for a podium finish at COTA last month. It was their first time teaming up in the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The 2016 GT Sprint champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal returns to VIR after scoring a podium finish in the streets of Long Beach two weeks ago in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3. The personable Parente survived a spectacular incident in the streets of St. Petersburg last month when his race car lost its brakes on the back straightaway. Luckily, Parente walked away from the accident but K-PAX Racing had to go to the backup car at COTA. This weekend, Parente teams with veteran Bentley driver Andy Soucek of Spain in the Pro-Pro class.
Defending driving champion James Sofronas has moved to the GTS division in 2018 and the category has a stellar lineup of professional and amateur drivers competing in the second GT SprintX doubleheader this weekend.
K-PAX Racing’s young racing star Rodrigo Baptista of Brazil comes to VIR with the Pro-Am point lead after a victory and second at COTA in the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3. Baptista is again teaming with Belgium’s Maxime Soulet, another veteran Bentley racer.
Last year’s VIR 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. Segal won a pole at COTA.
The 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, who holds VIR GT race lap record. The Black Swan team was third overall in the 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia and also won its class earlier this year.
Recent Long Beach GTA class winner, Yuki Harata of Japan, brings the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to VIR, again teaming with Alessandro Bressan of Italy. Former GTA champion Martin Fuentes of Mexico City, Mex., a double Am-Am class winner at COTA, will be the leading contender in the Am-Am division this week as he partners with Caesar 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., and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli are in the No. 45 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Veteran Marko Radisic of Serbia drives the No. 11 Ferrari 458 Challenge with co-driver David Roberts in the GT Cup SprintX class at VIR. Ryan Hardwick will drive solo in GT Cup SprintX this weekend in the No. 27 Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo.
The GT SprintX field will compete this weekend with 60-minute races on Saturday (April 28) at 1:25 p.m. EDT and Sunday (April 29) at 1:50 p.m. EDT in the GT Pro/Pro, Pro/Am and Am/Am categories as well as GT Cup.
Sofronas/Welch Audi leads 36-car field GTS SprintX field
The COTA rounds of the GTS SprintX class proved to be spectacular with so much wheel-to-wheel, bumper-to-bumper action that it was tough for the CBS Sports Network crew to keep track of the doubleheader events.
A 36-car field is set for the VIR Rounds 3 and 4 of GTS SprintX competition with GTS overall point leader Sofronas teaming again with Am racer Alex Welch in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS machine after an impressive Round 2 60-minute victory at COTA.
Another strong lineup for VIR includes defending and three-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R as Aschenbach, a GTS sprint double race winner at St. Pete, matches with former PWC GT champion Andy Pilgrim of Bowling Green, Kent. Lawson and Andy have six PWC series titles between them.
The second Blackdog Speed Shop team car will be 2017 GT SprintX Pro-Pro champion Michael Cooper pairing with veteran Tony Gaples in the No. 11 Camaro GT4.R.
Another contending pair at VIR will be the No. 13 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR with former SprintX race winner Kyle Marcelli and Orey Fidani. Defending GTS Sprint champion George Kurtz and endurance racing star Colin Braun will co-drive the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Audi R8 LMS. Also watch 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 in the No. 8 5.11 Tactical/GMG McLaren 570S with Elias Sabo, and Vinnie Allegretta and J.R. Pesek in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 in the Pro-Am division.
The other PF Racing team cars are the COTA-winning combo of Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell in the No. 55 Ford Mustang GT4 and the No. 40 Ford Mustang GT4 of James Pesek and Indy Lights driver Shelby Blackstock.
Teenager Harry Gottsacker of Texas won a pole and finished second in the Pro-Am class at COTA and could be a factor in both VIR GTS SprintX 60-minute races with the No. 69 Racers Edge SIN R1 GT4.
Six-time 2017 GTS race winner Ian James and Matt Keegan in the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT figured to be in the challenger role at VIR in the Pro-Am division as well as the two Classic BMW squads of 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. Raphael and McAleer finished second at COTA.
Other top GTS SprintX lineups for the VIR doubleheader will 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 and Henry Schmitt and SprintX race winner Greg Liefooghe in the No. 88 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4;
Another Classic BMW entry finds team leader Toby Grahovec pairing with Chris Ohmacht in the No. 92 Fast Track Racing BMW M4 GT4 in the GTS Am category along with St. Pete GTSA double winner Drew Staveley in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta, G55, Derek DeBoer and Sean Gibbons in the No. 66 TRG Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, Marko Radisic and David Roberts in the No. 22 Precision Driving BMW M4 GT4 and the popular Panoz driver Preston Calvert in the No. 51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT.
Another strong pair of BMW combinations at VIR will be with the 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. Straus and Carter won the GTS Am division at COTA.
Single driver entries at VIR include Jason Bell in the No. 2 M1GT Racing Audi R8 LMS, a VIR GTSA winner last year, 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; Mark Pavan in the No. 54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1, Fred Roberts in the No. 89 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4 and former VIR pole winner Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4.
Wilkins/Lewis duo seek repeat BHA Hyundai i30 N TCR performances
The debut of the all-new TCR touring car class at COTA proved to be an Hyundai i30 N show with Wilkins and Lewis each taking the Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30 N TCR to victories after Wilkins won both pole positions. The BHA duo will look for a similar performance at VIR with two 40-minute sprint races.
The other four TCR auto makers – Alfa Romeo, Audi, Honda and Volkswagen – are expected to give the Hyundai duo some tough competition this time around after more on-track testing with the new TCR machinery.
Look for the several TCR teams to battling at the front of the grid including the multi-time PWC championship-winning RealTime Racing with GT race winner Ryan Eversley wheeling the No. 43 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR as well as another driver to be named. The strong effort of the FCP Euro by HRD team with drivers Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent in the No. 71 and 72 Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR is another potential winning combination at VIR this weekend.
The Audi Sport RS3 LMS contingent brings four entries to VIR 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 will be three-generation racer Jarett Andretti, a North Carolina State graduate who moves from his sprint car to his sports car 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.
Martin Jensen of Denmark looked strong in the two TCR events at COTA and brings the new Alfacr.USA Alfa Romeo Giulletta TCR to VIR for shot at the victory podium this Saturday and Sunday.