Friday, March 6, 2015

Racers To Watch At COTA During The Pirelli World Challenge

Pirelli World Challenge cars start their race at the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - going into Turn 1 without incident. Image Credit Myles Regan (2014)

Racers To Watch At COTA During The Pirelli World Challenge

When one turns their attention to the season opener of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) of full-bodied race cars to be held this weekend at Circuit Of The Americas (COTA), one will find an almost confusing array of cars and classes to follow.

Seven different classes of competition include:

GT/GTA (2 Classes) - Cars permitted are typically sold in the market as “sports” cars, “sport touring” cars, or performance versions of “luxury” cars. Class allows FIA GT3 homologated cars. GTA driver classification for professional drivers that do not make their
primarily living from racing.

GT Cup - Spec class featuring Porsche 991 Cup Cars that will run as part of the overall GT Class races, with a separate victory circle presentation alongside that of the GT/GTA class winners.

GTS - Cars permitted in GTS are typically marketed as “sports cars”, “sport touring cars” or performance versions of “luxury” cars but at a lower permissible preparation level than GT.

TC - Power output up to 300hp. Weight varies depending on the power output of the individual drivetrain configurations. Front wheel, rear wheel, and all wheel drive configurations are permitted.

TCA - Power output up to 220HP.Touring Car A is an evolution of the current TC class specifications. It is developed to minimize the build cost of the TC platform.

TCB - Power output up to 125HP Smaller cars with small, efficient, naturally aspirated motors. Modifications are limited to manufacturer specified performance spring and shocks to keep overall cost down.
[ht: PWC]

Large car counts and multiple races within a race are what bring fans to the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) racing series. Many different engine notes and design shapes are only some of the dynamics of the PWC. Image Credit: PWC

In an age of nearly spec/formula racing and single classes going head-to-head on an American race track, the number of classification of cars racing together head-to-head at the same time in the PWC has one wishing for the bring what you got racing of the INDY 500 of the historic past. The series has something to hold for almost anyone who loves a good contest.

First up, let's look at a group of competitors who are driving one of the lagest auto marks represented in the field ... MAZDA! These cars may be smaller and in classifications that do not receive the main focus of a lot of fans, having ten hammer-and-tong competitors will add to one's race following pleasure.

Adam Poland won twice with his EASTEX Motorsports Mazda MX-5 in 2014, finishing third in the TC Championship. Image Credit: Mazda Motorsport (2015)

This excerpted and edited from Mazda Motorsport -  

Mazda Motorsports: 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Preview

One of the great showcases for the quality, durability, and reliability of Mazda cars, and the skills of Mazda racers, is the Pirelli World Challenge. 

This year, ten Mazda racers will be taking the green flag for the three-day, three-race weekend beginning Friday, March 6, at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

Mazda racers compete in three of the seven classes in the field. 

The Mazda MX-5 will go head-to-head with Porsche, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, VW, and Ford in the Touring Car (TC) class.  In the Touring Car “A” (TCA) class, for cars with fewer modifications, the Mazda RX-8 will compete with Honda and Kia.  In Touring Car “B-Spec” (TCB), it will be the nimble Mazda2 up against the Honda Fit, Mini Cooper, and Fiat 500.

Mazda Entries for this weekend - Car#/Class/Driver/Team/Car/From/Sponsors:

#9 (TCB) Chris Holter Breathless Performance Mazda2
Rochester, New York Fuel Clothing / Spy Optics / Go Puck

#17 (TC) Randy Hale Hale Motorsports Mazda MX-5
Haddam, CT TransAero / Hale Propeller

#22 (TCA) Kevin Anderson Tech Sport Racing Mazda RX-8
Huntington Station, New York

#23 (TCA) Robby Foley (R) Tech Sport Racing Mazda RX-8
Randolph, New York

#33 (TC) Adam Poland EASTEX Motorsports Mazda MX-5
Mount Vernon, Texas Texas Track Works / Majestic Pet Products

#50 (TC) Dinah Weisberg (R) BERG Racing Mazda MX-5
Webster, New York REDCOM Laboratories /Color Track / Red Line

#55 (TCB) James Wilson Black Armor Helmets Mazda2
Kyle, Texas Black Armor Helmets

#64 (TC) Austin Snader Snader Racing Mazda MX-5
Sealy, Texas Event Fresh / SR Enterprises / MAZDASPEED

#95 (TCB) Steve Taake Daylight Motorsports Mazda2
Houston, Texas Black Armor Helmets / MAZDASPEED

#98 (TC) Ernie Francis Jr. Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5
Davie, Florida Time4Learning

“It’s great to see so many strong Mazda teams ready for the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge.  Mazda has a long history in the series, and we look to our current racers to add their names alongside past race winners and champions like Randy Pobst, Jeff Altenberg, and Michael Cooper.  Having the season conclude at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September will make this a special season for us,” noted John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations.

[Reference Here]

Porsche cars are well represented in the field as well, with cars racing in five of the seven classes - GT (1 - GT3), GTA (1 - GT3), GT Cup (all Porsche GT3 - 10 cars), GTS (3 - Cayman/Cayman S), TC (4 - Cayman).

Michael Lewis as he sits on top of the Effort Racing tools while waiting for the next test session in his GT3 Porsche. Image Credit: Michael Lewis' Facebook

This excerpted and edited from Sportscar 365 -  

Lewis: “There’s More Raw Speed to Unleash Here”

One of the young rising stars to watch in this weekend’s Nissan Grand Prix of Texas, as well as the rest of the Pirelli World Challenge season, is 24-year-old Californian Michael Lewis of EFFORT Racing.

Lewis moves up from the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA, where he finished a very close third [entering the last race weekend at P1] in the championship a year ago.

While Lewis might be somewhat of an unknown quantity and a first-year driver in PWC, he has worked several years to achieve the position he has now, taking over the No. 41 Porsche 911 GT3 R that Michael Mills took to the 2014 GTA title.

An open-wheel prospect who achieved success and race wins overseas in Formula 3 through 2013, Lewis had a sports car opportunity come up when he was one of four drivers invited to Porsche’s Young Driver Academy at the end of 2013.

That opened the door for a switch, one that Lewis seized following the two-day test at Barber Motorsports Park.

Effort Racing prepared GT3 Porsche taking Turn 5 at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks: (2014)

“Moving into sports cars was pretty seamless,” Lewis told Sportscar365. “It all came together through the Porsche Young Driver Academy, the precursor to the Young Driver Program we’re involved in now.
Lewis entered with Competition Motorsports in the 2014 season and immediately inserted himself into title contention with a sweep of the weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, his second weekend in the series.

He added two more wins at Road America and Circuit of the Americas, but was caught out in the season finale at Road Atlanta, spinning out on a wet track just past the start of the race.

While he lost the title, he gained a wealth of experience racing against Colin Thompson, Sloan Urry, Christina Nielsen and Angel Benitez Jr. for the title. Interestingly, all but Benitez have PWC programs lined up for this season.

“One thing I think helped me was in learning consistency,” Lewis explained. “We were always in the top five, so to get a big points gap was very hard. You always had to finish in the top three to get any kind of gap.”
As Lewis now steps into the GT3-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R for 2015, based on the 997 rather than the 991, he described some of the differences between two similar but still different Porsche chassis he raced a year ago.

“The biggest things from the GT3 R to Cup car R are we have ABS on our car, traction control, more aero, and more power,” Lewis said.

“The pedal feels physically different. You’re able to click through traction control like you are on a video game! There’s more raw speed to unleash here.”

Lewis won a shootout for EFFORT Racing’s second seat alongside Ryan Dalziel over the winter, and has prepared for the season in tests at Sebring and MSR Houston.
Lewis already said he was soaking up information from Dalziel like a sponge.

“He has incredible composure and is very calm under fire,” Lewis said. “He flies in late from Sebring last night, comes here and goes fast no problem.”

As one of the younger drivers in GTA, compared to a nonprofessional driver who only races part-time that make up the bulk of the 21-car class, Lewis has the potential to advance into GT with one overall podium finish or two overall top-fives.

“It’d be awesome to start off winning, but right now we just need to do our job and stay clean,” Lewis said. “This class has some really good drivers and it’s all a big unknown.

“But hopefully we stay in this area for years to come.”

[Reference Here]

The GT Class, however, will get most of the attention because of the diversity of auto marks and drivers that fill this field.
Colorado based team K-PAX #6 McLaren as it negotiates Turn 6 at the 40th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

This excerpted and edited from the Pirelli World Challenge -

Pirelli World Challenge Kicks Off 2015 Season at the Circuit of The Americas

The Circuit of the Americas is the site of the 2015 season opener for the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. The series’ 26th season kicks off at the 20-turn, 3.4 mile permanent road course, with action across all seven series divisions. Over 100 cars are entered for the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas brought to you by Motul.

A host of familiar names are joined by a wealth of talented newcomers, either in the form of new drivers, teams, manufacturers or cars. The continued integration of FIA GT3-spec cars in GT has provided continued manufacturer and team growth for the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season.
The series last visited COTA in 2013 running the modified 2.3-mile National Circuit course and the track proved to be the perfect site for some exciting races and this year’s rounds should be no different with the move to the full track. 

Pirelli World Challenge GT: O’Connell Leads a Deep, Talented Field - Johnny O’Connell repeated as the Pirelli World Challenge 2014 GT champion after a dramatic victory weekend in last year’s season finale at Miller Motorsports Park. He’ll begin the quest for his fourth title in a row at a track where he won the Round 1 race to open up the 2013 season. A wrinkle for O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, GA., is that he returns to defend his championship in the new No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R.

Teammate Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, FL., returns in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. Pilgrim finished fourth overall in the 2014 GT Drivers’ Championship, helping Cadillac to its third straight Manufacturers’ Championship.

Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, NC, will lead CRP Racing’s effort in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 ultra. Skeen pushed O’Connell hard in the battle for the GT Championship last year ultimately finishing second overall with three wins on the season (Rounds 7 and 8 at Road America, and Round 13 at Sonoma).

Team Dyson Bentleys nose to nose. Image Credit: Team Dyson Racing

Bentley Team Dyson Racing returns with veteran sportscar racer Butch Leitzinger, of Rebersburg, PA and teammate Chris Dyson, of Pleasant Valley, NY, piloting two Bentley Continental GT3s. Leitzinger, behind the wheel of the No. 20 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3 closed out 2014 with four top five finishes including standing on the podium twice with two thirds. Dyson will pilot the No. 16 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3. After their initial season that was essentially a development year, the team looks to challenge for wins and championships in 2015.

EFFORT Racing returns to challenge for the GT title with standout racer Ryan Dalziel of Windermere, FL., piloting the No. 31 Porsche 911 GT3R. Dalziel won back-to-back Round 11 and 12 races at Mid-Ohio last year after joining the team at the mid-point of the 2014 season.

K-PAX Racing returns with two McLaren 650S GT3s with Kevin Estre, of Locmau, Austria in the No. 9 machine and Robert Thorne, of Littleton, CO, in the No. 6 car. The team debuted the McLaren 12C GT3 in the series in 2014 and after a hard luck season Thorne won the final race at Miller. Now partnered with Flying Lizard Motorsports the team looks to continue that momentum into 2015.

R. Ferri Motorsport returns with the No. 61 Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, driven by former F1 pilot and GT sportscar veteran Olivier Beretta of Monte Carlo.

The most successful driver in series history, seven-time Drivers’ Champion Peter Cunningham, returns in the Acura TLX-GT prepared by his RealTime Racing operation. The Milwaukee native, who will drive the No. 42 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD Acura TLX-GT, started three races in 2014 to develop the all new and only all-wheel drive platform in the series. Cunningham owns almost every statistical record in the series and looks to add to it in 2015. Ryan Eversley, of Atlanta, GA, joins the team to run the second Acura TLX-GT and will pilot the No. 43 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD car.

One of the biggest pieces of off-season news came from Nissan Motorsports and the announcement of its partnership with Always Evolving (AE) to campaign two GT Academy-NISMO Nissan GT-R GT3 racing cars in Pirelli World Challenge. Australian open wheel and GT star James Davison will pilot the No. 33 AE/ReplayXD/NISSAN NISMO GT-R GT3.

Prototype and GT racing veteran Guy Cosmo, of Palm Beach Garden, FL, makes his first start in Pirelli World Challenge. He will pilot the No. 23 Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers M1 Racing LLC Audi R8 LMS ultra.

Nicky Catsburg, of Voorthuizen, Gelderland, makes his first Pirelli World Challenge start in the No. 25 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2. The 26-year-old Dutch driver has signed on for the full season of Pirelli World Challenge.

Scuderia Corsa brings two Ferrari 458 GT3 Italias with Mike Hedlund, and Duncan Ende piloting the cars. Hedlund, of Woodside, CA, will pilot the No. 65 machine, while Ende, of Los Angeles, CA, will pilot the No. 64 Merchant Services LTD/Linospresso USA car.

Series veteran GMG Racing’s James Sofronas, of Pound Ridge, NY, returns in the No. 14 GMG Racing/Spyder/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS ultra. Sofronas has over 170 Pirelli World Challenge starts and won the Round 2 race at COTA back in 2013. Sofronas’ teammate Madison Snow, of Provo, UT, will pilot the No. 21 Audi R8 LMS Ultra Audi R8 ultra.

Rounding out the GT field is three-time World Challenge Drivers’ Champion Lou Gigliotti, of Plano, TX, in the No. 28 LG Motorsports Aston Martin GT3 V12.

[Reference Here]

The Pirelli World Challenge series has the 6th most popular motorsports Facebook page in the world. MotoGP (7.7 Million), NASCAR (4.4 Million likes), F1 (3.2 million), Formula Drift (2 million), WRC (1.7 Million), Pirelli World Challenge (612,000) V8 Supercars (560,000), TORC (374,000),
Indycar (237,000), United Sportscar Series (104,211).

Facebook likes have increased by over 20% year over year and the engagement/interaction level of our fans on the page has quintupled. The page has over 610,000 Likes and during our Barber race weekend, We had a peak of over 179,000 people that were directly engaged with our posts.

The 2015 Pirelli Wold Challenge (TC/TCA/TCB) Race Schedule:

March 6-8     Circuit of The Americas                  Austin, Texas              

May 15-17    Canadian Tire Motorsport Park       Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada              

June 26-28    Road America                                Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin           

Aug 14-16     Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course           Lexington, Ohio           

Aug 21-23     Miller Motorsports Park                  Tooele, Utah               

Sept 11-13    Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca        Monterey, California

Each event is a triple-header, with three races per weekend, for an 18-race season.

Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 as it comes through the back series of curves at COTA. Image Credit: David Yowe (2015)

Circuit of the Americas, 20-turn, 3.4 mile permanent road course

Qualifying (Saturday, March 7, 2015):
8:00 AM - 8:30 AM PWC - GTS Qualifying
9:30 AM - 10:15 AM PWC - GT - GTA - GT Cup Qualifying
10:30 AM - 11:20 AM PWC - TC - TCA - TCB Qualifying/Race #1

Race Lengths:

50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS)
40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)

Race Times/Live Internet Telecasts (on

Saturday, March 7:

• Pre-Race Show: 10:05-10:20 / TC Race 1: 10:30am-11am
• GTS Race 1: 12:40-1:40pm
• GT Race 1: 2:50-3:50pm
• TC Race 2: 4:20-5:10pm
Sunday, March 8:
• Pre-Race Show: 10:10-10:25 / GTS Race 2: 10:35am-11:25am
• GT Race 2: 1:50pm-2:50pm
• TC Race 3: 3:25pm-4:05pm

** Times listed above are CDT **

Television (on CBS Sports Network):

Saturday, March 14, 11 AM Eastern: GT/GTA, GT Cup presented by MOMO, and GTS

Wednesday, March 18, 8 PM Eastern: TC, TCA, TCB.

... notes from The EDJE

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