Photos by: Stefano Fabrizio Darold
ASCHENBACH WINS GTS ROUND 1
LONG, FUENTES AND UDELL OPEN GT/GTA/GT CUP 2016 SEASON WITH WINS
GRAHOVEC, WOLFE AND RODGERS WIN IN TC/TCA/TCB IN ROUND 2

ROUND 1
Austin, Texas – Patrick Long, Martin Fuentes and Sloan Urry scored poles for the first GT, GTA and GT Cup race, Round 1 of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season, at Circuit of the Americas and the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas brought to you by VP Racing Fuels.

The first 30-minute segment of qualifying saw GTA and GT Cup competitors take to the track, with early fast times being posted by GTA’s Martin Fuentes, driving the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Hublot Underarmour Ferrari 458 Italia, with a lap of 2:05.905 and in GT Cup, with Alec Udell, in the No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, posting an early fast time of 2:10.750.

Fuentes then lowered his fast time to 2:05.655, as 2014 GTA Driver’s Champion Michael Mills, driving the No. 46 Mills Racing BMW Z4, went to second on the time sheets in GTA with a lap time of 2:06.920.

“The car was very well balanced and the team did a great job in qualifying,” said Fuentes. “I feel good about the weekend with the Ferrari. We were lacking a little bit of grip with the early qualifying session in the morning. We didn’t get the benefit of the rubber helping the traction. We were expecting a lot more rubber with the track surface. But overall it was a good performance for the team. Looking forward to the race now.”

In GT Cup, Urry, in the No. 22 TruSpeed Autosport Security National Mortgage/Avasis Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, popped up to the top of the time sheets with a quick time of 2:10.452 which would stand for the pole ahead of Udell. It’s Urry’s first career PWC pole.

Times continued to drop in GTA, with Fuentes at the top of the charts with his 2:05.655, followed by Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3-R in third with a lap of 2:06.562. Fuentes’ time would stand up for the GTA pole, as he qualified ahead of Schein and Mills.

The session was stopped at the 13-minute mark for Corey Fergus, in the No. 00 Motorsports Promo Byers Porsche, US LED, Motul Porsche 911 GT Cup, who stopped on course.

The qualifying session then moved to a 30-minute window for GT competitors, with 2011 GT Driver’s Champion Patrick Long, in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3, posting a quick time on his first flying lap to go to first with a time of 2:05.355, and then lowered his time a lap later to 2:04.588, widening the gap over second place Michael Cooper, in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R., who had posted a quick time of 2:04.590, just .002 seconds off pole.

“It was really an ideal session for me,” Long stated. “A clean and clear two laps and the car was very balanced. I hit my marks and that was all I could do. It’s so tight at the top of the grid. The Caddies are going to be tough week in and week out. You will have some interlopers like (Alvaro) Parente who will learn these tracks. There is a really impressive group of young to mid-20 year olds with a lot of talent who will improve all season too. I think we have a little bit of everything in this championship from a driver, car and team perspective. And we saw that in the first qualifying session of the year. It was just two one-thousands of a second. It’s going to be a tough race today, all weekend and through the series.”
In third, Alvaro Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S, logged a lap at 2:04.821, which was quickly eclipsed by four-time GT Driver’s Champion Johnny O’Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R, with a 2:04.816.

Then Parente went faster, posting a 2:04.756 to slide back around O’Connell on the time sheets while a 2:04.819 for JD Davison, in the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GTR GT3, completed the top five.

As the session developed, times continued to change, with Long and Cooper remaining one-two, but O’Connell going faster with 2:04.678 a for third place, ahead of Parente and Davison, with those times making up the top five of the grid. For Long, it’s his sixth career PWC pole.

Qualifying sixth was Bryan Heitkotter, in the No. 05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R, with a time of 2:05.157 and in seventh it was Andrew Palmer, in the No. 87 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, with a lap of 2:05.321.

Results are provisional until posted final. GT/GTA/GT Cup drivers hit the track next for their first race of the season at the Circuit of the Americas, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. central time. Watch the race live at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing at world-challenge.com.

ROUND 2
Austin, TX – Toby Grahovec, Jason Wolfe and Will Rodgers won the TC/TCA/TCB Round 2 race of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season at Circuit of the Americas, part of the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas brought to you by VP Racing Fuels.Carl Rydquist, in the No. 34 CA Sport Nissan/Nismo/Stance Nissan 370Z, led from the standing start and TC pole into turn one, fending off a challenge from Friday’s winner Vesko Kozarov, driving the No. 3 CA Sport Nissan/Nismo/Stance Nissan 370Z, who started second.

In TCA, pole-sitter Eric Powell, in the No. 23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup slid to fifth off of the standing start but recovered nicely by the end of the lap to regain the lead over Jason Wolfe, in the No. 12 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup,Johan Schwartz, driving the No. 46 Prostate Cancer Awareness/B.P.R.CAS Group/Instrumart/PCAP/ZERO Cancer Honda Civic Si, and Elivan Goulart, in the No. 70, S.A.C. Racing/SCDA1.com Mazda MX-5 Cup. Powell’s dramatic start would earn him the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award for gaining four positions on the first lap.

In TCB, pole-sitter Ted Hough, in the No. 69 Breathless Racing Mazda 2, took the lead over Henry Morse, in the No. 14 Hale Motorsports MorseGPS powered by CalAmp/MazdaSpeed/FreeM USA/Corksport Performance/Rolling Hills Prep Mazda 2, and Michael Johnson, in the No. 24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic.

Kozarov didn’t wait long on the opening lap in TC, passing for the lead on the back straight which demoted Rydquist to fourth as Grahovec, in the No. 26 BMW M235iR for Classic BMW Motorsports, and Nick Wittmer, in the No. 91 Honda Ste-Rose Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe, followed Kozarov through.

TCA was equally exciting as Wolfe passed Powell to take the lead on the second lap, but Powell fought back, re-passing Wolfe shortly thereafter.

Wittmer, who ran well in Saturday’s race until a mechanical problem took him out of the race, then assumed the lead in TC in his Honda, but that didn’t last long as Grahovec then took the lead back, while at the same time Rydquist was closing from third.

The front of the field in TC continued to shuffle, as Kozarov dropped back to fifth on lap five, trailing Tony Rivera, in the No. 97 Brass Monkey Racing Tiburon Motorsports Nissan 370Z.

In TCB, Hough would drop back with P.J. Groenke, driving the No. 25 Tech Sport Racing Verax.ca/Tundra/Clorox Pool & Spa/Cabano’s Comfort Food/Clairhaven, Ltd/Martinrea Intl Inc/PeltoAgri Investments/Ro-Ro Property Management Corp./Warp Speed Computers Inc. Chevrolet Sonic, taking the lead followed by Tom O’Gorman, in the No. 94 Black Armor Helmets TNIA Honda Fit, and Will Rodgers in the No. 65 Hale Motorsports Solvang Brewing Co/KellyBenefitStrategies/Foundation Fighting Blindness Mazda 2. TCB would see multiple lead changes as the top four cars ran in a swarm, nose-to-tail, with Groenke, O’Gorman, Rodgers and Hough trading the lead and all four spots back and forth.

At the 10-minute mark of the 40-minute race, Grahovec was managing a nine-tenths of a second TC lead over Wittmer, with Rydquist closely following, with Rivera in fourth and Kozarov in fifth.

Rivera then got the better of his fellow Nissan driver, getting around Rydquist for third, while Grahovec’s lead was up to two seconds and growing over Wittmer as the race clock hit 16 minutes of the scheduled 40 minute race.

In TCA, Powell continued to lead Wolfe by two seconds, with Goulart in third. Fourth belonged to Joey Bickers, in the No. 49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup, and fifth to Drake Kemper, driving the No. 21 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup.

Two-time and defending 2015 Pirelli World Challenge TCA Champion Wolfe was able to catch Powell by lap seven, making a pass, out-braking Powell through turn 13.

In TCB, Rodgers assumed the lead with a pass over O’Gorman, with Hough back in third and Blake Thompson, driving the No. 37 Black Armor Helmets Mazda 2, in fourth followed by Groenke.

With 12 minutes to go, Kozarov moved into fourth, passing Rydquist who had a reported mechanical issue, which also promoted SheaHolbook, in the No. 67 Shea Racing BUBBABurger/LucasOil/KoniShockAbsorbers Honda Accord V-6 Coupe, into the top five.

On lap 9 in TCA, the lead battle became three wide with Goulart, Powell and Wolfe, with the three exchanging positions in two consecutive corners and Wolfe moving into the lead, earning him the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race Award.

In TCB, the race continued to get interesting as Hough moved past O’Gorman into second and Morse then moved on Hough for third a few laps later while Rodgers continued to lead.

When the checkered flew, Grahovec scored his second career Pirelli World Challenge race win and claimed the first win for the new BMW M235iR in North America, with Wittmer bouncing back to finish second after Saturday’s mechanical problem and Rivera completing the podium with a third place run.

TCA saw the last lap erupt into a drag race to the line, with Wolfe winning by a mere foot over Goulart for his 14th career win, and Bickers nosing out Powell for the final podium spot across the finish line.

Rodgers secured some redemption with his first career win in Pirelli World Challenge. On Friday in Round 1, it appeared the driver had also secured his first career win before a post-race technical infraction took it away. O’Gorman and Morse completed the TCB podium.

The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award when to Daniel Williams, in the No. 36 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 cup, improving 19 positions.

“It is awesome to win close to home,” said Grahovec. “We have about 60 family and friends here today and to win is fantastic. Both races this weekend were tough. I got lucky in traffic and got a little bit of a gap. Traffic is tough here with the B Spec cars and some of the TCA machines. You really have to be on the ball with the standing starts but I had a good one today. We’ll have a great party tonight after the win.”

“We had a similar problem with fuel starvation at the end but I was able to hold on and take the win this time,” said Wolfe. “We got another half-gallon in the car for this race. And Elivan made it interesting at the end too. I saw him right there in my mirror and it was a little scary. I didn’t want the same thing to happen again as Friday. The crew guys were pretty bummed after that finish. I’m very glad we got the win for those guys. This is the same car I drove last year and this time the car is handling a little better now. Elivan (Goulart) and I are pretty balanced right now so it will be battle all year. We each have a win and a second so far.”

“We came from behind again after our issues (DSQ) yesterday,” said Rodgers. “I knew I had to redeem myself but I didn’t know how I would do in the standing start. I did them in karting but this was my first pro race doing the standing start. I hadn’t done any tests. Surprisingly, I did pretty well and passed a few cars right at the start. We were pushing each other on many laps. Finally, I thought I needed to make my move and I got it. It was the move of the race. This has been a very eventful weekend for me in my first pro racing weekend. I can’t thank the Hale Motorsports enough for their help and guidance.”

Results are provisional until posted final. TC/TCA/TCB next take to the track for Rounds 3 and 4 of their season from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, May 20-22. The race airs on CBS Sports Network Thursday March 17 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Results from Saturday’s, March 5’s 17-lap Pirelli World Challenge Championship TC/TCA/TCB Round 2 race, part of the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas presented by VP Racing Fuels, with finishing position, class, first name, last name, hometown, and fast time.

1. TC, Toby Grahovec, Little Elm TX, 2:28.079
2. TC, Nick Wittmer, Montreal Canada, 2:28.304
3. TC, Tony Rivera, Vista CA, 2:28.303
4. TC, Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake City UT, 2:29.099
5. TC, Shea Holbrook, Orlando FL, 2:29.818
6. TC, Adam Poland, Ft. Worth TX, 2:30.408
7. TC, Patrick Gallagher, Thornville OH, 2:29.890
8. TC, Jason Fichter, Jupiter FL, 2:30.432
9. TC, Andrew Rains, Birmingham AL, 2:32.412
10. TC, Austin Snader, Fulshear TX, 2:32.171
11. TC, Joey Jordan, Fallbrook CA, 2:32.041
12. TC, Anthony Geraci, Glen Head NY, 2:32.800
13. TC, Gino Carini, Milwaukee WI, 2:32.931
14. TC, Kevin Krauss, Fishers IN, 2:33.224
15. TCA, Jason Wolfe, Mt. Vernon OH, 2:35.519
16. TCA, Elivan Goulart, Shelton CT, 2:35.072
17. TCA, Joey Bickers, Moorpark CA, 2:35.589
18. TCA, Eric Powell, Orlando FL, 2:35.350
19. TC, Steve Burns, San Antonio TX, 2:29.539
20. TCA, Drake Kemper, Toluca Lake CA, 2:36.850
21. TCA, Patrick Seguin, Ottawa Canada, 2:37.142
22. TCA, Matthew Fassnacht, Madison NJ, 2:36.826
23. TCA, Paul Whiting, Las Vegas NV, 2:37.069
24. TC, John Weisberg, Webster NY, 2:37.163
25. TC, Ricardo Flores, Peru, 2:33.603
26. TCA, Daniel Williams, Scottsbluff NE, 2:39.535
27. TCA, Samantha Tan, Gormley Canada, 2:39.176
28. TC, Daniel Moen, Rindge NH, 2:40.564
29. TCA, Kevin Anderson, Huntington NY, 2:40.052
30. TCA, Kris Wright, Pittsburgh PA, 2:42.877
31. TCA, Jay Salinsky, Miami FL, 2:43.497
32. TCB, Will Rodgers, Murrieta CA, 2:52.100
33. TCB, Tom O’Gorman, Mason OH, 2:53.208
34. TCB, Henry Morse, Redondo Beach CA, 2:53.155
35. TCB, Ted Hough, Farmington MN, 2:51.991
36. TCB, P.J. Groenke, Richmond Hill ON, 2:53.549
37. TCB, Michael Johnson, Austin TX, 2:53.274
38. TCB, Blake Thompson, Racine WI, 2:52.498
39. TCB, James Wilson, Kyle TX, 2:55.036
40. TCB, Patrick Wilmot, Roswell GA, 2:56.860
41. TCB, Jasper Drengler, Shawano WI, 2:57.438
42. TCB, Steve Taake, Houston TX, 2:57.812
43. TC, Carl Rydquist, Redondo Beach CA, 2:28.430
44. TC, Randy Hale, Haddam CT, 2:30.919
45. TCA, Johan Schwartz, Huntersville NC, 2:36.823
46. TC, Paul Street, Anniston AL
47. TC, Ernie Jr., Dania FL
48. TC, Steve Kohli, Iowa City IA

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