Parente Defends His Long Beach Crown

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Alvaro Parente bested Patrick Long to win Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge race on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. (Al Steinberg Photo)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Defending Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Alvaro Parente continued his impressive street racing performance Sunday as he drove to another Pirelli World Challenge GT victory.

Parente, a six-time winner in 2016 and the GT series drivers champion, started on the pole Sunday at the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit near the Long Beach harbor and never looked back to secure his second 2017 PWC GT win in the No. 9 K-RAX Racing McLaren 650S sports car.  Alvaro also captured round one last month at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Parente held off the turn one challenge of California native Patrick Long and extended his winning margin at the checkered flag to 2.86 seconds in a wild event that saw flooding between turns eight and nine due to a fire hydrant incident on a Long Beach side street.

The 50-minute sprint event was halted for 15 minutes on lap 10 as the PWC Safety Crew cleaned up the flooded track surface due to running water from the side street mishap.

Parente, who set a track record in qualifying Saturday, also clocked a race lap record with a time of one minute, 19.070 seconds (89.62 mph) easily besting the mark set last year by Michael Cooper at 1:19.638 (88.99 mph).  Parente now leads Long by one point in the GT standings.

“I’m definitely very happy to cross the finish line first this time,” said Parente, who won last year’s Long Beach contest after post-race technical inspection. “We really wanted to get this win. The closest moment with Patrick (Long) was at the start, in the first braking area. There was respect with everyone, Bryan (Sellers) was there also in the back and tried to go inside but I was able to keep my position, even though that was all very close. I had a great car in my hands, my team and McLaren GT did a great job, and I’m happy to be back on the top step today. That (incident) was a little crazy with the water on the track.  I went into that turn and all of a sudden there was a river in front of me so I just went foot off throttle and prayed that I wouldn’t crash or anything and just skidded through the puddle. It was last minute for me; you’re flat out on that straight and suddenly you see a black shadow there, the water from the fire hydrant.”

Long, the winner of round two at St. Petersburg, drove his No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to within three-tenths of a second at the mid-point of the race and made a couple of inside maneuvers to take the lead but had to settle for second Sunday.

“It was probably twenty feet of running water and with slick tires at 140 m.p.h. that’s not what you want to see,” said Long. “It’s one of those situations where you sort of just stay calm, sort of relax, and let it end. I’m happy we didn’t have an incident and everyone responded really well, so hats off to the track and World Challenge series for their handling of an unnatural disaster. But, that’s Long Beach and that’s street racing. This series is about sprint racing and everybody’s racing hard. At the front, there’s a lot of respect; it’s hard racing but we can all grow together and keep a good show for the fans so I’m excited to represent Porsche in PWC in the GT3 R.”

Parente’s teammate, Bryan Sellers, finished third in the No. 6 K-RAX Racing McLaren 650S in his first Pirelli World Challenge event after driving in two events at Long Beach weekend.

“It was a good and fun weekend,” said Sellers. “Normally track time is limited on a street course but that certainly wasn’t an issue for me this weekend. I felt like that’s all I was doing was on-track and didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. I think that everybody at K-Pax Racing is happy to have two drivers on the podium. The level of competition on this side doesn’t cease to amaze me and it’s pretty impressive. You can never let down for one lap. They say that endurance racing is qualifying laps every single race, and then you come over here and it truly is qualifying laps in every single race.”

James Sofronas, a Long Beach winner in PWC in 2009 and 2013, captured the GTA (non-professional) class Sunday with a solid drive in his GMG-supported Porsche over six-time 2016 race winner Michael Schein.

“We knew we had a good car but it didn’t show in qualifying,” said Sofronas. “Long Beach holds a special place to me now that I’m in GTA more because I don’t have time to race because GMG is growing. I basically do it because I love it so they put the old guy in GTA and that’s fine with me. I just want to finish as strong as I can and a top ten is pretty good, especially when you consider the grid here and the guys that won. They’re the top of the game. We just wanted to keep it clean and the GMG guys did a great job because they prepared a flawless car.”