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Pirelli World Challenge Returns to Road America for Jam-Packed Four-Race Weekend
Posted by: newsla on Jun 18, 2014 - 02:08 PM
Sports Cars
Pirelli World Challenge Returns to Road America for Jam-Packed Four-Race Weekend


All six series categories of competition are set for Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge season, the 25th Anniversary of the championship, and the return to picturesque Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. It marks the series' first trip there since 2009, and over 70 total cars across GT, GTA, GTS and TC, TCA and TCB categories will be in action on the same weekend for only the second time all year.

 

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In four of the six categories, championship battles are beginning to develop as drivers and teams fight for supremacy. There's only a handful of drivers who have had prior Pirelli World Challenge starts at Road America, but the number increases when you consider drivers who have raced at the track in other racing series.

GT, GT-A and GTS will race once on Friday, once on Saturday for a pair of 50-minute shootouts while TC, TCA and TCB have a Friday doubleheader scheduled at the 4.048-mile permanent road course that is commonly referred to as "America's National Park of Speed."

Pirelli World Challenge GT: Cadillac's big Detroit weekend to be tested by GT3 might
Things could not have gone any better for Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., and Cadillac Racing last time out in Detroit, three weeks ago. O'Connell, driver of the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, won both races and pole positions on Belle Isle Park and has moved into the series points lead after six races. O'Connell has not raced in Pirelli World Challenge at Road America, but has a pair of GT1 class wins driving for Corvette Racing at the circuit in another racing series.

Teammate Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., by contrast, has seven prior series starts in Elkhart Lake and a win in the S2 class in 1996. Driving the sister No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, he's seeking his first win of the 2014 season this weekend. Pilgrim has three runner-up finishes in six races this season.

Second in points, 81 back of O'Connell, is Round 4 winner Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., who races in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Like Pilgrim, Lazzaro has a past win at Road America in the 1990s, a Formula Atlantic flag-to-flag triumph from pole back in 1998. Teammate Nick Mancuso, of Chicago, in the sister No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, has emerged as one of the fastest drivers thus far in 2014 and looks to add a second podium or perhaps a first series win to his resume this weekend.

For the first time this year, GT has all four drivers that have won 2014 races in the field. Both the GT and GT-A winner from Round 1 at St. Petersburg compete this weekend. Young Andrew Palmer, of Chicago, in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, took the Round 4 win at Barber and seeks his third series win (second overall) on another permanent road circuit.

Meanwhile the man who starred at St. Petersburg, Tomas Enge, of Liberec, Czech Republic, is back in the No. 25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2. Enge took pole in Round 1 and completed a come-from-behind drive to win the race despite a slow start. Enge's Reiter Engineering Lamborghini isn't the only additional GT3-spec car of note on hand this weekend. This weekend marks the much-anticipated debut of Dyson Racing Team Bentley with its Bentley Continental GT3. Butch Leitzinger, of State College, Pa., will drive the No. 08 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 for the car's debut. A Dyson Racing veteran, Letizinger is also a two-time class winner at Road America (2011 ALMS PC, 1992 IMSA GTU), and both times he was also the fastest qualifier.

Palmer's teammate James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra has 10 prior Road America starts with a best result of second in TC in 2004. In six starts this year, Sofronas has a pair of top-five finishes. Fellow Audi driver Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., has three top-fives in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra and like Sofronas looks for his first podium finish of the season.

There's three more GT3-spec cars entered in GT that should contend for top-fives this weekend, in the form of the two K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3s and one of the two EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 Rs. Alex Figge, of Denver, Col. and Robert Thorne of Littleton, Col. in the Nos. 9 and 6 K-PAX McLarens made huge strides in Detroit – each registering their best results of the season. Meanwhile Tim Bergmeister, of Langfeld, Germany, looks to add to his consistent run of six top-10 finishes in as many starts in the No. 31 entry.

Pirelli World Challenge GT-A: Mills leads tight field to Road America
Like his GT class-entered teammate Bergmeister, Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, has thus far been the model of consistency in 2014. Mills, in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R, has a class win and been among the top five GT-A classified drivers in five of six races. It puts the Porsche driver atop the GT-A standings heading into this weekend with 325 points.

Tied for second are Tim Pappas, of Boston, Mass., and Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in the No. 54 Black River Caviar Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and No. 10 Dragonspeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, respectively. Pappas has three class podiums, Hedman two as each looks for their first GT-A win of the year.

Detroit winners Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, and Marcelo Hahn, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, look to add to their win totals this weekend in their first Road America starts. Knox, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3-R, broke through at Detroit with a Round 5 win and another podium in Round 6 to move into fourth in points. Hahn, meanwhile broke the string of different winners with a Round 6 win in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2.

Three Audi R8 Ultras are entered including hometown driver Jeff Courtney, of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com entry for JCR Motorsports. Courtney has three prior Road America starts with a best finish of eighth in GT in 2008; after missing Detroit, he looks to add to his Round 2 GT-A podium in Long Beach.

GMG Racing's pair of Bret Curtis, of Austin, Texas, and Bill Ziegler, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., add to the entry list in the No. 32 Valspar Paint/Spectra Resources/United Steel Supply Audi R8 Ultra and No. 95 Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra, respectively. Curtis scored his first GT-A class podium in Round 5 at Detroit.

Pirelli World Challenge GTS: Tight title battle between top four entering weekend
A double win for Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich., in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S in Detroit shook up the GTS points standings entering Road America. Martin jumped from 17th in points entering Detroit to third leaving it, and is within striking distance of the top two, who are separated by just one point.

The top two are Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., and Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, in the No. 73 RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S and No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima. Each has a win and three podiums from six starts this season; Baldwin is also a past Road America race winner, back in 1985 in the IMSA GTU class.

Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima and Lawson Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro are the other two race winners this year in GTS. But while Jonsson's consistency has kept him fourth in points, 99 back of Baldwin, Aschenbach has had a roller coaster season with three top-six finishes paired with three results of 18th or worse. The defending GTS class champion, Aschenbach looks to turn his luck around this weekend.

Martin's big weekend in Detroit brought him ahead of the rest of the Ford Mustang Boss 302 contingent in the top 12. Tony Buffomante, of Naperville, Ill., in the No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R and Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas in the No. 17 Watson Racing/MDG Ford Mustang Boss 302S rank fifth, sixth and 12th respectively. Buffomante has two runner-up finishes and Roush Jr. one this year. Each still seeks their first series win, and they've all been on pace this season.

After a runner-up finish in Round 1, Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Col., in the No. 20 Crown Seven/BestIT Chevrolet Camaro has nearly mirrored Aschenbach's run of bad luck in the five races since. Lee still ranks seventh in points and could play spoiler this weekend.

Solid sleepers to watch this weekend include Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif. in the No. 34 Natural Cures Aston Martin Vantage for TRG-AMR and Ric Bushey, of Virginia Beach, Va. in the No. 51 Nissan/Motul/SPL/OSGiken/Sparco/Sunoco Nissan 370Z. Gaples and Esayian both have four top-10s in six races this year and rank eighth and ninth in points; Bushey comes off a career-best fifth place in Round 6 at Detroit entering the Road America weekend.

Esayian's two teammates at TRG-AMR, Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col. and Jorge de la Torre, of McAllen, Texas, each make their first Road America starts in the No. 02 and 04 Aston Martin Vantages, respectively. They can lean on Esayian's past experience of five starts this weekend.

Beyond the four Ford drivers mentioned earlier, there's six other Ford Mustang Boss 302S cars entered this week. David Sterckx, of Brussels, Belgium and Erik Davis, of Burbank, Calif. are in the Nos. 52 and 75 Always Evolving Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S entries. Brad Adams, of New Orleans, La. is in the No. 96 Voodoo Music Experinece/Dat Dog/Yo MTV Raps Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Mitch Landry, of Lake Charles, La., is in the No. 97 VersaCrane/Deep South Ford Mustang Boss 302S. After an accident in Round 5 in Detroit, Craig Capaldi in the No. 68 Wolverine Bronze/Capital R Ford Mustang Boss 302S looks to rebound. First-year driver Chris Outzen, of Sudbury, Mass., continues to develop in the No. 87 iTrackZone Ford Mustang Boss 302S.

Other full-season entries continuing into Road America include rookie Geoff Reeves, of Cleveland, Ohio in the No. 40 Shadow Works/Best IT Chevrolet Camaro, Mark Klenin, of Denver, Col., in the No. 62 Premiere Copier/SCHOMP Aston Martin Vantage, Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, Fla., in the No. 72 RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S and Brian Kleeman, of Baltimore, Md. in the No. 07 Nissan/DXD Clutches/Aeromotions Nissan 370Z.

Making a return appearance to Pirelli World Challenge for the first time in more than a decade is Larry Funk, of Oberlin, Ohio in the No. 22 Business Advisory Services BMW M3 for Northshore Group. Funk has five career series starts (1990, 3 in SP; 1992, 1 in D; 2002, in TC).

Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car: Can DiMeo's win streak roll on?
The Touring Car season thus far has been about one driver, Michael DiMeo, of Toronto, and the Compass360 Racing team. DiMeo, in the No. 71 Grand Alarms Honda Civic Si, is a perfect six-for-six winning races this season, and in three different race weekend formats.

He won Round 1 at Barber, the make-up Round 2 and the scheduled Rounds 3 and 4 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on home soil in Bowmanville, Ontario, and Rounds 5 and 6 on the TC classes' second straight featured weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Now, DiMeo comes to Road America as the hottest statistical driver in all of Pirelli World Challenge.

Teammate and C360R team principal Karl Thomson, of Toronto, in the No. 72 Children's Tumor Foundation/Touge Tuning/Racing4Research.org Honda Civic Si looks to put the brakes on DiMeo's win streak. Thomson enters with a streak of his own, three straight third-place finishes.

A pair of Mazda MX-5s return for the first time since CTMP, in the form of Round 1 podium finishers Jason Saini and Adam Poland. Saini, of Chicago, drives the No. 28 OMP/Motovicity Mazda MX-5 and has a Road America podium already on his resume, third in TC in 2008. Poland, of Mt. Vernon, Texas, races in the No. 11 Eastex Motorsports/Poland Construction Mazda MX-5.

Fred Emich and Dan Martinson, who each made a handful of TC starts in 2013, return for the first time in 2014 this weekend as well. Emich, of Denver, Col. will drive in No. 30 Emich Volkswagen Jetta GTI, while Martinson, of Medina, Minn. will drive the No. 23 GearTie Mazda RX-8 for Tech Sport Racing.

The Skullcandy Team Nissan team makes its first Pirelli World Challenge appearance this weekend with Bryan Heitkotter and Steven Doherty, who have GT and GTS series experience, respectively. Heitkotter, of Fresno, Calif. will drive the No. 93 Nissan/GT Academy Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe while Doherty, of Plainfield, Ill., is in the similar No. 94 Nissan/GT Academy Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe.

Pirelli World Challenge TCA: Young gun battle set to continue
Shea Holbrook, of Groveland, Fla., in the No. 67 TRUECar/Lucas Oil/Radium Honda Civic Si, performed to the maximum last time out in New Jersey with a pair of wins in Rounds 5 and 6 of TCA. Those results brought her to within 31 points of class leader Jason Wolfe heading into Road America.

Wolfe, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in the No. 36 Wolfe Trucking Kia Forte Koup, struggled at New Jersey and looks to recapture the form he showed at CTMP. Fellow rookie named Jason, Jason Cherry, of Gambrills, Md., in the No. 13 Autism Society of America/Avpro/Purposeful Architecture Mazda MX-5, starred in his first weekend driving with Shea Racing at New Jersey, and scored his second and third podium finishes of the year.

Round 4 winner Ernie Francis Jr., of Dania, Fla., is the fourth driver in class under 24 and the teenager looks to add his name to the list of Road America winners driving the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5. The No. 97 High Rise Garage/Motovicity Mazda RX-8 rounds out the class with a driver to be determined.

Pirelli World Challenge TCB: Price, Stacy, Palmer set for another tight TCB fight
Although he's won four of six TCB races this season, Brian Price, of Middletown, Va., in the No. 51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit, hasn't had it easy the last three times out.

Fourteen-year-old rookie Nathan Stacy, of Owasso, Okla. dominated Round 4 at CTMP in the No. 14 MDG/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta and has scored four straight podiums, while Tyler Palmer, of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mobil 1/Flying L Racing/ThePainter'sFriend.com/ Discount Tire Mini Cooper also got on the scoreboard with a late race pass of Price to win Round 6.

Granted, Price has finished second in these two races and still holds a 216-point lead entering the weekend, but that margin isn't as unassailable as it looked three races ago.

A trio of rookies poised to break through at Elkhart Lake includes Paul Holton, Jason Fichter and Austin Snader, who all have top-five finishes in class this year. Holton, of Tallahassee, Fla., drives the No. 65 Radium/TRUECar/Lucas Oil Honda Fit; Fichter, of Jupiter, Fla., the No. 7 Surf Fire & Security Mini Cooper; and Snader, of Fulshear, Texas, the No. 99 Evert Fresh Corp./SR Enterprises FIAT 500.

Veteran P.J. Groenke, of Toronto, should also be a contender in the No. 66 Verax.ca/Tundra/Mulligan Gold Honda Fit for Shea Racing; he's Holton's teammate to round out the four-car Shea Racing lineup spread across TCA and TCB.

Watch for the No. 12 car to be a contender this weekend as well. Round 1 polesitter Johan Schwartz, of Denmark, returns in the No. 12 American Diabetes Assocation/Promatex/ American Honda Honda Fit for Garrett Racing/Drive4Diabetes. Meanwhile Ryan Reed, of Concord, N.C., makes his series debut in the No. 12 American Diabetes Assocation/Lilly Diabetes/American Honda Honda Fit. Reed has Type 1 Diabetes but it hasn't slowed him down; he's a full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series driver for Roush Fenway Racing, and he'll make his sports car debut on the same weekend as he competes in NASCAR.

After missing New Jersey, Chris Capaldi, of Imlay City, Mich. returns in the No. 31 Wolverine Bronze Co./Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta. Three other regular entries in Tom Noble, of St. Louis Park, Minn. in the No. 24 4R Motorsports/West Real Estate/Hawk Brakes Mini Cooper, Andrei Kisel, of North Vancouver, British Columbia in the No. 57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper and Jim Cleveland, of Brisbane, Australia, in the No 78 Mini Mayhem/Downunder Performance Mini Cooper are also racing this weekend.

The Morrie's Mazda Motorsports team returns to Pirelli World Challenge for the first time since Sonoma last year with John McCarthy, of Hudson, Wis. and Michael Ashby, of Buffalo, Minn. sharing the No. 16 Morrie's Mazda 2. Series debutante Glenn Nixon, of Mission, British Columbia, is entered in a second Racing.ca car, the No. 58 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com/Nixon Prosports Mini Cooper.

Lastly the 4R Motorsports charity entry will again feature guest drivers. Michael Lewis, of San Diego, Calif. and Kevin Fandozzi, of Philadelphia, Penn., will be in the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500.

Event/Circuit: Road America
14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road circuit

Qualifying:
Friday, June 20, 8:00 A.M. CDT/9:00 A.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB)
Friday, June 20, 9:30 A.M. CDT/10:30 A.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS)

Green Flag:
Friday, June 20, 10:25 A.M. CDT/11:25 A.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 1)
Friday, June 20, 3:15 P.M. CDT/4:15 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 1)
Friday, June 20, 5:30 P.M. CDT/6:30 P.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 2)
Saturday, June 21, 9:10 A.M. CDT/10:10 A.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 2)

Race Lengths:
50 minutes (GT/GT-A/GTS), 40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)

Television (on NBC Sports Network):
Friday, July 4 – 6:30 PM (EDT)


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