This weekend, Pirelli World Challenge holds their final races of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. More than half a dozen championships are on the line in California. This piece will show you what to look for. All races this weekend can be watched live on Pirelli World Challenge’s live stream at world-challenge.com.
Grand Touring (GT):
UPDATE: World Challenge officials screwed up the points at Lime Rock in May. The revised points have been taken into affect.
This is the big show with a full GT3-spec cars from multiple manufacturers competing against each other. They have only one race this weekend, scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon that will decide the championship.
Entering Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, K-PAX Racing‘s Alvaro Parente has a mere two point advantage over Wright Motorsports‘ Patrick Long. It was more than that when the teams unloaded, but officials discovered that points for pole in the second race at Lime Rock were incorrectly awarded to Parente. In reality, those seven points should have gone to Andrew Palmer. Unfortunately, Palmer was unable to make good use of those points.
As a result, Sunday’s race is a heads-up battle between the two veterans for the title. Parente would have the tiebreaker since he has five wins to Long’s three.
A perfect race nets 117 points. Cadillac Racing teammates Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper are third in points, 96 points out. Their only chance at the title involves winning the pole and the race, while hoping both Parente and Long fail to finish the 50-minute race.
Luckily for O’Connell, he has claimed the pole for Round 20. Step No. 1 is complete, but its still a uphill battle at best.
Grand Touring Amateur (GTA):
Scuderia Corsa‘s Martin Fuentes has already clinched the GTA championship by virtue of nine victories this year (including the first seven races). A lot of the dominance was due to low car count in the sub-class early in the year, but Fuentes and his Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 have been quite fast all season. Wright Motorsports‘ arrival on the scene at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in May saw Fuentes pushed by Michael Schein. Schein is second in points with eight wins of his own.
Grand Touring Cup (GT Cup):
This class uses identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, similar to what is raced in the IMSA Porsche 911 GT3 Cup USA and Canada series. However, the class has nowhere near the car count of either of IMSA’s Cup series.
Here, GMG Racing‘s Alec Udell clinched the championship the last time out at Sonoma Raceway, thanks to 11 wins. Eight of those wins were from the pole, including the last three races. He has a 132-point lead on Sloan Urry and 485 on Corey Fergus.
This class uses a combination of GT4-spec cars and American iron. Some of the cars are built to different rules, but relatively similar to what you can see in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s Grand Sport class.
Currently, ANSA Motorsports‘ Brett Sandberg has a 111-point lead over Blackdog Speed Shop‘s Lawson Aschenbach. Many of the races this season have seen duels between the two contenders, most notably the two rounds at Lime Rock Park in May. Those races were essentially race-long battles for the lead until it ended in tears late in Race No. 2. Parker Chase is another 35 points back.
With two rounds to go, Sandberg does have everything in his corner, but he cannot get complacent. He only has to finish 11th or better in both races to win the title, and that’s assuming that Aschenbach wins both races. With 24 cars entered this weekend, that might be easier said than done.
Touring Car (TC):
Here, you see a mix of equipment racing including Mazda MX-5’s, Honda Accord Coupes, Ford Mustang V6’s, Nissan 370Z’s and more. It can be rather interesting to watch.
In this class, Toby Grahovec has a 195-point lead in his BMW M235i Racing over Nick Wittmer in his Honda Accord. They are the only two drivers still eligible. For Wittmer, the goal is simple. Win both races. Third-place Patrick Gallagher won the pole for Race No. 1 later today, but Wittmer needs to win today’s race and set the quickest lap so that he can get the seven points for pole in the final race on Sunday.
For Grahovec, all he needs to do is clinch is keep Wittmer from gaining more than 78 points on him. Effectively, that means that if Wittmer wins today’s race, Grahovec can still clinch with a finish of 18th or better in class out of the 23 scheduled starters. Its not looking good.
Touring Car A (TCA):
This class is a lot closer to what you see in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s Street Tuner. This is the realm of regular Mazda MX-5’s and Honda Civic Si’s.
Here, S.A.C. Racing‘s Elivan Goulart has a 248-point lead over Joey Bickers, thanks to five wins in ten races (three of them from the pole). Bickers has more or less been even with Goulart all season, but he missed the two rounds at Lime Rock Park in May. Goulart swept both races from pole. That’s the difference between a nice championship battle this weekend and Goulart clinching last month.
Normally, that would mean that Goulart clinched the last time out at Utah Motorsports Campus in August. However, not all is lost for Bickers. Since the races at Lime Rock were a last-minute addition to the schedule due to SCCA’s Formula 4 Championship not being ready to go for Lime Rock, anyone who couldn’t make it to Connecticut could run for double points at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. That means that Bickers could earn a maximum of over 400 points this weekend. This rule is for anyone in the three Touring Car classes, not just Bickers. However, Bickers is the only championship contender in any of the Touring Car classes that failed to make it to Lime Rock.
Touring Car B (TCB):
Finally, we have the B-spec cars. This is a class for subcompact vehicles with very little modification (except for safety) allowed. Cars featured here include the MINI Cooper, Mazda2, Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic and Fiat 500.
P.J. Groenke, driving the Chevrolet Sonic that Johan Schwartz won last year’s TCB championship with, had only a 13-point lead over Henry Morse in the most competitive championship battle entering the weekend. Morse then won the TCB pole for Race No. 1, cutting the lead down to six. Tom O’Gorman is 62 points out in third.
This class is effectively heads up for the title between Groenke and Morse. For O’Gorman, he needs to try to win both of the races and hope that Groenke finishes an average of sixth or worse.
Finally, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is hosting the last two (of six) Sprint-X rounds for 2016. Since Pirelli World Challenge will have five Sprint-X weekends as the primary show next season, car count is up quite a bit this weekend.
Also of note, the championship is split into Pro and Sport (short for Sportsman) divisions. In the Pro division, Kuno Wittmer has a 92-point lead over Dion von Moltke. Only five drivers have qualified for the championship and one of them (Michael Lewis) switched from Pro to Sport after Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
In Sport, Michael Mills leads in his own BMW Z4 GT3 by 34 points over M1 GT Racing‘s David Ostella, who has won the pole for the first Sprint-X race this weekend. Brent Holden is third, followed by von Moltke (Note: Von Moltke is eligible for both titles because he is a silver-rated driver). Walt Bowlin is fifth.
The only Pro driver entered here is Kris Wilson for TRG. In the Sport championship, TRG’s Max Riddle (Wilson’s teammate) leads by 24 points over Derek DeBoer in TRG’s No. 09. Jason Alexandridis is third, followed by Beaufait and Scott Heckert (Heckert replaced Vance in the No. 45 at Utah Motorsports Campus).
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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