Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS Overall point battles have become extremely close with the North America GT-based production series headed to the famed Road America four-mile road circuit this weekend (June 22-24) as part of the big Kohler Grand Prix in Wisconsin.
Some of the most exotic machinery from around the world makes up the Pirelli World Challenge paddock coming to the legendary road course with the likes of Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford, Ginetta, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Panoz, Porsche and SIN CAR in the Saturday and Sunday doubleheader Sprint races (50 minutes each).
Outstanding names are set to do battle with three-time GT SprintX race winner Toni Vilander leading two-time GT Sprint race winner Scott Hargrove in the GT Overall point standings by just two points, 230-228, entering this weekend’s two Sprint races. And veteran James Sofronas, the 2017 GTA Sprint and Pro-Am GT SprintX champion, leads five-time PWC series champion Lawson Aschenbach in the GTS Overall points by just 12 markers, 194-182, with two Sprint races on the line this weekend at the historic Wisconsin racing plant.
GT/GTA Preview – Ferrari, Porsche title fight takes on Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Audi teams
After a third GT SprintX race win last month at Lime Rock Park, the two-time Le Mans winner Vilander enters the Road America double rounds (Rounds 6 and 7) with the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 and the GT Overall point lead. A veteran of the Road America circuit, Vilander has the experience to contend for the 50-minute race wins, but Hargrove, 23, figures to be one of several top GT drivers to challenge the Finnish racer.
Driving the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, Hargrove (above) stunned the GT field at the St. Petersburg openers with double GT Sprint wins and held the GT Overall point lead until the second Lime Rock Park feature. But the young Canadian could be back in the hunt at Road America, a track he knows well from his Road to Indy open-wheel competition the past few years. In addition, Hargrove paces the GT Sprint points over Vilander, 102-94, coming into this weekend.
Among the GT challengers at Road America will be Michael Christensen, who won the GTE Pro division last Sunday at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. The endurance star enters the Road America rounds with the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R after his recent Lime Rock GT SprintX race win last month. Christensen currently ranks third in the GT Overall point standings.
Young GT star Daniel Morad holds down the fourth position in both GT Overall and Sprint championships currently in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3 and could be a strong contender at Road America.
The two sleepers in the GT category will be the K-PAX Racing pair of 2016 GT champion Alvaro Parente, an 11-race winner in PWC the past three seasons, and 21-year-old Rodrigo Baptista, the overall winner at VIR this year. Parente will drive the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 with Baptista in the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3. Parente has been strong in recent events with a Sprint win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and a runner-up at Lime Rock Park in the GT SprintX.
Bentley cars have been a winner at Road America in the last few years with Chris Dyson victorious in 2015 and Adderly Fong winning last year.
Long Beach GT winner Daniel Mancinelli will be another Ferrari contender this weekend in the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 and the young Italian racer was spectacular in 2017 in his PWC “rookie” season with three GT SprintX victories.
Martin Fuentes, the 2016 GTA series champion, leads the GTA class at Road America as he drives the No. 07 Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3. Fuentes has already recorded three GTA wins in 2018 as well as six GT SprintX Am class wins.
Seventeen-year-old Parker Chase in the No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS leads the GT SprintX Pro-Am division and scored his first Pirelli World Challenge sprint win last month at CTMP. Now, Chase looks to repeat that performance at Road America against Fuentes and Long Beach GTA race winner Yuki Harata in the No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Harata was the 2017 GT Cup champion and moved up to the GTA category in 2018.
Ryan Hardwick will be the lone GT Cup entry this weekend in the No. 27 No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo.
GTS/GTSA Preview –Aschenbach undefeated in GTS Sprint races with four straight wins
Defending GTS series champion Aschenbach is undefeated in the first four GTS Sprint events this year for the Blackdog Speed Shop team with the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R. Aschenbach is a three-time GTS titleholder and is considered the favorite at Road America, but a tremendous group of contenders are entered to give the Vanderbilt University graduate all he can handle.
Sofronas (below), a two-time GTS SprintX race winner this year, was a double race winner last year in the GTA Sprint contests at Road America. This time around the California racer will have his No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 this weekend.
The 2017 GTS double Road America race winner Ian James in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT must be listed as favorite at Road America after his showing last year. In addition, two-time GTS SprintX race winner in 2018, Jake Buford, should be right in the mix in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 as well as Vinnie Allegretta in the No. 11 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4.
Harry Gottsacker, age 18, has shown speed with the potent No. 69 Racer’s Edge Motorsports SIN CAR R1 GT4, including a pole position and a second-place finish already this year. The former World karting champion is another GTS contender this weekend.
In the GTSA class, Drew Staveley has been the dominating driver so far this year with five class wins and an GTS Overall victory at Lime Rock Park in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 GT4. Staveley must be the favorite in the GTSA division against some 16 other drivers in the class.
Among the challengers in GTSA at Road America will be George Kurtz, the nine-time 2017 GTSA race winner with the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Audi R8 LMS. Kurtz won both GTSA races last year at the four-mile, 14-turn road circuit in Wisconsin.
Other 2016 GTSA class winners back entered this weekend include veterans Tony Gaples in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R and Mark Klenin in the No. 62 Premiere Copier/KPR McLaren 570S. Gaples is second in the GTSA point standings, while Klenin won already this year at CTMP.
Multi-time pole winner Jeff Courtneyin the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4 is racing for the charity Patriot Education Fund this weekend in the two GTS events to raise money to help military personnel with their college educations following their service for the country.
PWC Grand Prix of Road America, part of the Kohler Grand Prix weekend,
Four-mile, 14-turn permanent road circuit
Saturday, June 23
9:20a.m. – 9:35a.m. GT/GTA Qualifying
9:40a.m. – 9:55a.m. GTS/GTSA Qualifying
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS/GTSA)
Live Internet Telecast (on world-challenge.com):
Saturday, June 23
4:35p.m. – 5:35p.m. GT/GTA/GT Cup/GTS/GTSA Race # 1
Sunday, June 24
2:45p.m. – 3:45p.m. GTS/GTSA/GT Cup/GTS/GTSA Race # 2