AUSTIN, Texas – Ryan Winchester and Ernie Francis Jr. opened the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec season with a pair of wins in class, respectively, Saturday at the Cadillac Sports Car Challenge weekend at Circuit of The Americas.
Winchester completed Race One with an average speed of 68.341 mph around the 2.3-mile, 20-turn COTA National Course, and averaged 77.130 mph in Race Two.
In the opening 25-minute sprint, Winchester started his No. 72 Ultimate Racing/HPD/Honda Civic Si from the overall Motul Pole as the field took the green flag for the rolling start. While teammate Remo Ruscitti pressured him throughout the 13-lap contest, Winchester was able to use traffic in the end to open up a 2.909-second win at the finish. It was Winchester’s first series victory.
Rookie Ruscitti had to then fend off his third teammate, Brett Sandberg, of Allendale, N.J., and a charging Dan Martinson, of Rogers, Minn., at the checkered flag to finish second in the No. 71 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si in his series debut. Martinson made a late run in his No. 42 Go4ItRacing Schools/Hawk/Emich Pontiac Solstice to finish third after starting fifth. Martinson earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race for his move at the finish.
Sandberg finished fourth in the No. 70 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si, followed by the No. 68 Honda Civic Si of Orlando’s Jon Miller.
The Touring Car B-Spec action was furious throughout, with Motul Pole winner Francis Jr. taking the early lead in his No. 98 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2. That lead was never comfortable, with Charlie James pulling his No. 0 SafeRacer MINI Cooper alongside numerous times with the pair occasionally making contact, re-arranging the mirrors on each car.
In the end, Francis became the youngest winner in Pirelli World Challenge history at 15 years, three months and 25 days, one day after setting the same record for a series pole. Francis Jr. also earned the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race for his run. James finished second in his series debut. Francis Jr. was joined, on the podium, by his father, Ernie Francis, who moved from seventh on the grid to third in his No. 2 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2.
The elder Francis earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing five positions overall in the race.
Johan Schwartz finished fourth in his No. 01 Endurancekarting.com MINI Cooper, followed by Robbie Davis in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mini Financial Services MINI Cooper.
The opening race was slowed by a three-lap caution to attend to the No. 78 Fiat of Austin/Wild Bubbas Fiat 500, which rolled for the second time this weekend after being struck by another car. Driver Jim Cleveland, of Australia, was not injured in the incident. Cleveland did earn the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award.