To say the pressure will be on the Pirelli World Challenge competitors at the famed Watkins Glen International this weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) would be an understatement, with over 15 championships being decided in the PWC Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance.
The coveted GT Overall and GT Sprint crowns will be on the line in the two 50-minute sprint events set for Saturday (1:15 p.m. ET) and Sunday (1:20 p.m. ET).
Newly crowned GT SprintX champion Toni Vilander with his No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 seeks the GT Overall and Sprint titles with a 29-point lead over Scott Hargrove and the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Casrtol Porsche 911 GT3 R in the overall standings, while Hargrove tops the GT Sprint points over the Finnish veteran by eight points.
“It’s better to go flat out in the final races and this is what we did for the GT SprintX title,” said Vilander, the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion. “I am thinking about the overall championship also and we talked about it over several weekends. I know the Watkins Glen track and I love the track. It should be okay for our race car.
“It’s been great to be a part of this championship run with R. Ferri. We’ve grown together to capture this first championship. This is also good for Remo [Ferri]. He’s been there fighting for the championship for years. He’s been going through some tough times, but he’s very passionate about winning. Now we want to win more titles at Watkins Glen.”
Hargrove, an open-wheel star as a teenager, is making his “rookie” performance in the Pirelli World Challenge an impressive one with double wins at St. Petersburg and consistent podium finishes in both the Sprint and SprintX action. Now, he seeks his first PWC crown this weekend.
“With Pfaff and I being new to GT3 competition this season, we knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Hargrove. “That said, we set our goals high given our success in Porsche Cup racing. Winning the first two races of the year in St. Pete solidified our goal and raised the bar even further. Since then the competition with Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Mercedes and Audi has been fierce with countless on track battles, and here we are leading the fight in the Sprint Championship in our 911 GT3R. I’ve been looking forward to Watkins Glen for quite some time and all our focus will be on finishing the year the same way we started it!”
Michael Christensen is still in the GT point fight with his No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R along with the K-PAX Racing pair of Rodrigo Baptista and former PWC GT champion Alvaro Parente, in the No. 3 and No. 9 K-Racing Racing Bentley Continental GT3 sports cars, respectively.
In the GT Overall manufacturers’ standings, Ferrari has 140 to Porsche’s 134 and Bentley’s 106, while Pfaff Motorsports tops the GT Sprint team points with 144 to K-PAX Racing’s 138 and R. Ferri Motorsport’s 134.
In the GTA class, Martin Fuentes seeks a repeat of his 2016 GTA title with the No. 07 Squadra Corse Italia Ferrari 488 GTA with an 18-point margin over Yuki Harata in the No. 55 Dream Motorsports Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Fuentes also won the GT SprintX Am-Am division with Caesar Bacarella, while Chase teamed with Ryan Dalziel to capture the GT SprintX Pro-Am category.
Parker Chase, who is 29 points behind, will not be racing in No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS GT3 this weekend due to a death in the family.
In the GTS point battle, veteran James Sofronas already collected the GTS SprintX Pro-Am championship with Alex Welch, but the 49-year-old New York native leads the GTS Overall and Sprint points in his No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 machine. Sofronas, who won the GTA and GT SprintX Pro-Am in 2017 with 11 race victories, holds a 38-point margin over 19-year-old Harry Gottsacker in the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4.
In the GTS Sprint category, Sofronas is the leader with 123 markers over five-time PWC champion Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R with 102 followed by Jade Buford at 94 in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 and Gottsacker tied at 88 with veteran Ian James in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4.
“Looking back at everything for 2018, this is where we wanted to be, with an Audi and with GMG Racing in GTS,” said Sofronas. “And winning the GTS SprintX title with my buddy, Alex, was special. These championships aren’t going to come around at this age (50 next month). Last year was very nice for those GT championships, but these GTS championships are very gratifying. The new program, a larger field, tough competition and the support from Audi and I couldn’t ask for a better year of racing.”
In addition, the GTS Manufacturers’ point battle is extremely close with Audi leading at 97 followed by Chevrolet at 89, Ford at 88 and Panoz at 86. GMG Racing tops the GTS Team championship with 179 to Racers Edge Motorsports at 170 followed by Blackdog Speed Shop at 161, Team Panoz Racing at 158 and PF Racing at 147.
Another newly awarded champion in the GTS SprintX group, Drew Staveley scored the Amateur class title at Utah Motorsports Campus two weeks ago in his No. 12 Ian Lacy racing Ginetta G55. Now, Staveley leads the GTSA points in Sprint series entering this weekend at Watkins Glen.
While the GTSA SprintX crown was a big points margin for the California native, the Sprint difference is only six markers with Staveley at 123 and Jeff Courtney at 117 in his No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo MC GT4. Currently tied for third in the GTSA Sprint standings are veterans Tony Gaples and Mike Hedlund at 101 followed by two-time 2018 race winner Preston Calvert.
“We put together a solid season to run for the GTS Am classes and the SprintX is the first of those championships,” said Staveley, a GTS SprintX overall victory at Lime Rock Park in May. “We still have the GTS Sprint Am class to run for at Watkins Glen now. I love that track. It’s been about a decade since I have been there, much like many of the tracks this year. We’ll have to dust off some rust at that track, but I feel like the car (Ginetta) will be pretty strong for the final weekend. That championship is much closer than the SprintX Am class, just six points in front of Jeff Courtney. It won’t be easy with two races at the Glen.”
After the battle in the GT and GTS division, the coveted Touring Car championships will be determined after the two 40-minute sprint events on Saturday and Sunday.
In the all-new TCR class, veteran Ryan Eversley has taken the No. 43 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR car to the point lead with a consistent campaign including three victories against the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR pair of Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins. Eversley holds a seven-point lead over Lewis, a four-time race winner in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai i30 N TCR and a 25-point advantage over Wilkins, a three-time race winner in the No. 99 BHA Hyundai i30 N TCR.
The Bryan Herta Autosport team holds the TCR Team point lead with 244 over RealTime Racing’s 222 entering this weekend’s season finale races, and Hyundai is first in the TCR Manufacturers’ points with 101 to Honda’s 82.
An impressive performance in the Touring Car class by Nissan’s Vesko Kozarov, with six wins in the No. 3 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec, has all but wrapped up the TC drivers’ points with 226 to Karl Wittmer, in the No. 91 Classic BMW BMW M235iR, at 206 followed by veteran Johan Schwartz, in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University BMW M235iR, at 192 and Texas’ Matt Travis, in the No. 26 Classic BMW BMW M235iR, at 188.
Rearden Racing posts the top points in the TC team standings at 221 to Classic BMW’s 214 and Rooster Hall Racing’s 189. Nissan is the leader in the TC Manufacturers’ points at 94 to BMW at 87.
In the TCA category, Tom O’Gorman, a rising star in the No. 94 TOMO Racing Honda Civic Si, has captured five race wins in 2018 and now holds the margin in the point standings with 238 to Eric Powell’s 186. Powell has also been impressive in TCA with three race victories this year in the No. 95 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS. Third in points is Spencer Patterson at 172 with Jeff Sexton, a two-time race winner, just one point back.
In the TCA team standings, TechSport Racing is in front with 240 followed by TOMO Racing at 236 and Murillo Racing at 169. It’s tight in the TCA Manufacturers’ points with Subaru at 94 to Honda’s 90.
The PWC Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance begins with practice rounds set for Friday (Aug. 31) followed by qualifying and Race 1 on Saturday (Sept. 1) and Race 2 on Sunday (Sept. 2). The GT and GTS Sprint events will be 50 minutes in length, while the Touring Car races are set for 40 minutes.
All Pirelli World Challenge class champions be honored on Dec. 5 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.