This weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Utah marks the conclusion of the 2018 GT SprintX and GTS SprintX road racing championships with the Aug. 11-12 doubleheader 60-minute, two-driver events set to decide the 10-race titles run at the 3.048-mile, 14-turn outer course at the Utah Motorsports Campus.
The features are expected to be highly competitive races with the popular GT3 and GT4 sports cars fighting for coveted championships in the international driver lineup.
Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina top the GT SprintX Pro-Pro class points in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3 with four race victories in the first eight contests. The Ferrari duo lead the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R pair of Scott Hargrove and Wolf Henzler, 174-160, followed by the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R combo of Michael Christensen and Spencer Pumpelly.
In the GTS SprintX division, veterans James Sofronas and Alex Welch pace the Pro-Am standings with their No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS machine with a 25-point margin over 19-year-old Harry Gottsacker in the No. 68 Racers’ Edge Motorsports SIN R1 followed by another veteran, Jake Buford in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4.
Action gets underway on Friday at UMC with practice rounds in all PWC classes – GT SprintX Pro-Pro/Pro-Am/Am-Am/GT Cup, GTS SprintX Pro-Am/Am-Am and the three Touring Car categories, TCR, TC and TCA.
Qualifying is set for Saturday morning beginning at 8:35 a.m. MDT and the first main events start at 11:30 a.m. MDT. Sunday’s features take place starting at 9 a.m. MDT.
All of the Pirelli World Challenge races at the Utah Motorsports Campus can be viewed in the live streaming format on www.world-challenge.com with each class then featured on the CBS Sports Network in a delayed basis.
GT SprintX Preview
Finland’s Vilander and Spain’s Miguel Molina opened the GT SprintX Pro-Pro season with double wins at COTA and never looked back, with additional race triumphs at Lime Rock Park and Portland. The factory Ferrari contingent have also placed second twice in the 2018 GT SprintX Pro-Pro class to hold a 14-point lead with the two remaining 60-minute races left at Utah.
Hargrove and Henzler have been consistent with the popular No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R in GT SprintX with five podium finishes in the eight races, and Hargrove has also scored two Sprint wins in 2018. Hargrove trails Vilander by just six points the GT Overall standings with four GT races left in the 2018 PWC season.
Christensen, the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, and Pumpelly have a GT SprintX win in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 as well as three podium placings. Christensen also recorded an impressive GT Sprint win in June at Road America.
In the Pro-Am class, teenage driving star Parker Chase and Ryan Dalziel put on a spectacular performance last month at Portland with a GT SprintX overall victory in Round 8 and a second place overall in Round 7 in the No. 19 TruSpeed Audi R8 LMS. The Audi combo currently lead the Pro-Am class by eight points entering the Utah finales, off five Pro-Am wins.
The No. 31 TR3 Racing/Ferrari of Vancouver Ferrari 488 GT3, the 2017 Utah GT SprintX winning car, returns in the Pro-Am division this weekend with drivers Jeff Segal and Wei Lu. Segal and Lu have recorded one Pro-Am win and five runner-up finishes so far in 2018. Segal also scored the overall pole at COTA in March.
2016 GTA champion Martin Fuentes, an eight-time Am-Am race winner, will be the leading Am-Am team at Utah as he co-drives with Caesar Bacarella in the No. 07 Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3. Challenging the Ferrari team will be local racer David Askew of Utah in the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka in the No. 97 Turner Motorsports BMW F13 M6 GT3.
GTS SprintX Preview
Veteran Sofronas, a two-class series champion in 2017, seeks three GTS crowns this year and the first is on the line this weekend in the GTS SprintX Pro-Am doubleheader with his Am partner Welch. The pair have scored two GT SprintX wins at COTA and VIR along with three top-five finishes in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS sports car.
Gottsacker has been impressive this year in the No. 69 SIN R1 after his first GTS overall win at Portland last month. The recently awarded Eagle Scout has three pole positions and two runner-up placings to rank second in the GTS SprintX points.
Buford, a multi-time race winner in GTS the past several seasons, has one win, one second and one third this year in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 with teammate Scott Maxwell of Canada. The Ford duo will be a factor at Utah this weekend.
Four-time PWC GT champion Johnny O’Connell returns to PWC action this weekend with his son Canaan, a TC race winner, in the No. 72 Robinson Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R along with Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis in the No. 74 Robinson Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
Defending and three-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach will be a challenger this weekend in the No.1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R when the GTS four-time sprint race winner in 2018 co-drives with former PWC GT champion Andy Pilgrim, another former series titleholder.
Recent Road America and Portland GTS race winner Ian James couples with Matt Keegan in the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT in the challenger role this weekend in the Pro-Am division as well as the Classic BMW squad of Pro-Am entrants Justin Raphael/Steven McAleer in the No. 17 Raphael & Associates BMW M4 GT4. Raphael and McAleer finished second at COTA. Another BMW M4 GT4 pair will be from the ST Racing team with veteran Nick Wittmer and college student Samantha Tan in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4.
In the GTS Am category, Lime Rock Park GTS Overall race winner Drew Staveley of Salt Lake City leads the point standings with his No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 machine and will be the favorite at his home track this weekend.
Several BMW combinations are expected to contend in the GTS Am division this weekend including the Harvard-bound Aurora Straus and co-driver Jon Miller in the No. 36 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4. Straus has two class wins this year and is currently second in the Am class points.