LEEDS, Ala. – The third race weekend of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge season sees the series head to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. for the first time.
The event at the 2.38-mile permanent road course features Rounds three and four for the GT, GT-A and GTS categories, while the season kicks off with Rounds 1 and 2 for Touring Car (TC), the new Touring Car A class (TCA) and the Touring Car B-Spec class (TCB).
More than 70 cars are expected in what will be the Pirelli World Challenge’s biggest total car count. Only a handful of drivers have racing experience on the circuit.
Pirelli World Challenge GT: Cadillac seeks encore of 1-2 after Long Beach
Cadillac Racing secured a 1-2 finish at Long Beach (Calif.), and drivers Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O’Connell are now 1-2 in the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship heading into Barber.
Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., seeks his first win of the year in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R after a pair of runner-up finishes. O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga. in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, looks to go back-to-back after his Long Beach win.
Ferrari seeks its first GT win of the season. Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., finished third at Long Beach in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, and was the top FIA GT3-spec car in the field. Mike Hedlund, of Woodside, Calif., has back-to-back top-10 finishes in the No. 64 DragonSpeed/ESM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 to open the year.
GMG Racing put two of its Audis in the top five at Long Beach, and the Audi R8 Ultra could be a contender this weekend. Andrew Palmer, of Chicago, is in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra and James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., is in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra. Palmer was fourth and Sofronas fifth their last time out.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., is another podium contender as the CRP Racing team has a race under its belt with the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra. Skeen finished sixth in his first start.
The K-PAX Racing pair of Alex Figge and Robert Thorne showed impressive pace at Long Beach and look to back it up with results to match this weekend. Figge, of Denver, Col., set the fastest Long Beach race lap in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3. Thorne, a rookie driver from Littleton, Col., seeks his first race finish of the year in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3.
A solitary Porsche rounds out the 10-car class in the form of Tim Bergmeister, of Langfeld, Germany, in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R. Bergmeister was 10th at St. Petersburg and eighth at Long Beach.
Pirelli World Challenge GT-A: Seven points separate Mancuso, Mills entering Barber
The first two GT-A races have seen six different drivers make the podium.
Nick Mancuso of Chicag, leads the standings with 121 points in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. But contact affected his race in Long Beach and denied him a GT-A win, which instead went to Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R. Mills has 114 points.
Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. in the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and Jeff Courtney, of Milwaukee, Wis. in the No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra completed the GT-A podium at Long Beach.
Seeking their first podiums of 2014 are the solitary Mercedes-Benz and SRT Viper apiece in class. Tim Pappas, of Boston, Mass., races the No. 54 Black River Caviar Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, races in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing/Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3-R. Pappas was fourth and Knox fifth among GT-A classified drivers at Long Beach.
GMG Racing’s pair of GT-A drivers continue their seasons this weekend. Bret Curtis, of Austin, Texas drives the No. 32 Spectra/United Steel/Valspar Audi R8 Ultra and Bill Ziegler of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. is in the No. 95 Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra.
The Reiter Engineering team returns this weekend, with Marcelo Hahn of Sao Paulo, Brazil back for his second series start in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2. Hahn failed to finish due to a mechanical failure, but qualified 10th in his series debut at St. Petersburg in the 23-car combined GT/GT-A field.
Pirelli World Challenge GTS: Barber wide open between Kia, Porsche, Ford, Chevy
Like GT-A, GTS has had six different podium finishers from the first two races from four different manufacturers.
After his Long Beach win, Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports’ Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., leads the standings with 221 points, in the No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima. Teammate Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, in the No. 38 Kia Motors America Kia Optima is now fifth in points after his third-place result there.
One of the strongest starters in 2014 has been series newcomer Tony Buffomante, of Naperville, Ill., in the No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S. With a fourth and a second, Buffomante ranks second in points with 195. Teammate Brad Adams, of New Orleans, in the No. 96 Voodoo Music Experience/DatDog/Yo MTV Raps Ford Mustang Boss 302S finished ninth last race at Long Beach and is currently 12th in points.
A pair of Chevrolet drivers scored podiums at the St. Petersburg season opener, in the form of defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach and perennial contender Andy Lee. Aschenbach, the St. Petersburg winner, hails from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. and is in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro. Lee, of Colorado Springs, Col., was second at St. Pete in the No. 20 Crown Seven/BestIT Chevrolet Camaro.
The other podium finisher this year is Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S. Like Aschenbach, Baldwin seeks a rebound from a tough Long Beach weekend. Baldwin’s GTSport Racing team needed to perform extensive repairs to their chassis after its accident in Long Beach.
The second Blackdog entry is Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill. in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, second BestIT entry is rookie Geoff Reeves, of Cleveland, Ohio in the No. 40 Shadow Works/BestIT Chevrolet Camaro and second GTSport entry is Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, Fla. in the No. 72 RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S.
TRG-AMR North America’s trio of cars could be contenders. Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col., posted a career-best sixth place finish in Long Beach in the No. 02 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4. Looking to improve on results of 10th and 12th in Long Beach are Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif. in the No. 34 Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4 and Jorge de la Torre, of McAllen, Texas, in the No. 04 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, respectively.
The Ford Mustang Boss 302 contingent beyond the Capaldi Racing pair has Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., who has past track experience in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R. He won the pole at Long Beach and finished fourth in the race.
The Motorsports Development Group pair of Alec Udell and Mitch Landry could also be two to watch. Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas, finished fifth in Long Beach in the No. 17 Watson Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S; Landry, of Lake Charles, La., continues to develop in the No. 97 VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
Nissan will have its lineup back at full strength this weekend. Ric Bushey of Virginia Beach, Va., is in the No. 51 Nissan/Motul Nissan 370Z for SFR Enterprises, while Brian Kleeman, of Baltimore, Md., looks to make his first 2014 start in the No. 07 Nissan/DXD Clutches/Aeromotions Nissan 370Z. Kleeman had a mechanical affect him at St. Petersburg and was only able to practice in Long Beach. RS Werkes Racing’s Don Istook, of River Oaks, Texas, continues his full season in the No. 01 Forge Motorsports/Recaro Audi TT RS.
There are four first-time entries in 2014 scheduled to start on the grid this weekend. Local driver Clint Guthrie of Birmingham, Ala., will make his series debut in the No. 4 Medical Properties Trust Porsche 911. A second local driver, Mikey Taylor of Auburn, Ala., makes his series debut in the No. 09 State Traditions/National Bank of Commerce Aston Martin GT4, the fourth car for TRG-AMR.
Additionally, Compass360 Racing will see former Pirelli World Challenge TC class race winner Ryan Eversley, of Atlanta, Ga., drive the Children’s Tumor Foundation/Touge Tuning No. 70 GTS Subaru WRX STi, featuring artwork by young NF Hero Jeffrey Owen Hanson.
Craig Capaldi of Richmond, Mich., makes his first 2014 start in the No. 68 Wolverine Bronze/Capital R Ford Mustang Boss 302S for Capaldi Racing.
Five other cars return to action in GTS after missing Long Beach to round out the 28-car class. Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich., is in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Chris Outzen, of Sudbury, Mass., also is back in another Mustang – the No. 87 iTrackZone Ford Mustang Boss 302S for DWW Motorsports.
Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., is in the No. 86 Scion/Lucas Oil/TRD Scion FR-S, after the Ken Stout Racing, Inc. team took the time between St. Petersburg and Barber to continue car development. Breathless Performance returns with Mark Klenin, of Denver, Col., in the No. 62 Premiere Copier/SCHOMP Aston Martin GT4 and Fernando Seferlis, of Miami Lakes, Fla., in the No. 29 Compulab-Panama Chevrolet Camaro.