Series St. Pete preview
The Most Relevant Road Racing In The World
Celebrating its 22nd season in 2011, the Pirelli World Challenge Championship has built its legacy around providing fans the most competitive road racing in the world, and the series has earned well-deserved praise the past few years from publications such as AutoWeek, Car & Driver and RACER Magazine for doing just that. But what really sets World Challenge GT, GTS and Touring Car apart from all other series is the "everyday" element it brings each event. World-class drivers piloting production-based cars that come from more than 15 auto manufacturers -- it's a formula that has and will continue to serve the interests of manufacturers, drivers and, most importantly, automotive enthusiasts and race fans.
Same Great Series, Hot New Look
Once again in 2011, the Pirelli World Challenge Championships will feature combined class sprint races for GT, GTS and Touring Car. This year, every car in the series moves away from DOT-approved tires and onto Pirelli slicks. Four of the eight venues hosting World Challenge races in 2011 get to see their favorite drivers race twice during the weekend, totaling an 12-race schedule. The season opens this weekend with a doubleheader at St. Petersburg.
This weekend, World Challenge has 49 cars on the entry list amongst the three classes, all of which will be on the tight and twisty course on the streets of St. Petersburg together. The GT entry list for St. Pete includes the Cadillac CTS-V, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911 GT3 and Volvo S60. GTS features two different types of Ford Mustangs, the FR500S and the Boss 302 S, along with the defending champion Acura TSX, Chevrolet Camaro, Honda S2000, Mitsubishi EVO and Porsche Cayman. The Touring Car list includes the Honda Civic Si, Mazda RX-8, Volkswagen GTI and Jetta, and Volvo C30. The variety of makes and models on the World Challenge grid makes it as diverse as any race series in North America.
Featuring Veterans And Young Guns
The Pirelli World Challenge has always been a place for the sports car drivers to test their meddle against the best the sport has to offer. Randy Pobst and Andy Pilgrim are widely recognized for their skill behind the wheel of a car, and Patrick Long has won sports car races literally around the world. Because of this, the series has also been a place for young drivers to make a name for themselves. One of this year's young drivers, Alec Udell, has taken that challenge to a new level in the GTS class, where he'll be racing against six-time Champion Peter Cunningham. Cunningham's first Championship came at the season finale on October 7, 1995 -- 53 days before the 15-year-old Udell was born.
Something For The Fans
Throughout the year, Sports Car Wars-themed World Challenge events will create memorable fan experiences. In addition to the Manufacturers' Fan Championship, fans cheering on their favorite marques will be able to participate in the "March to the Grid" and an enhanced post-race celebration. The crown jewel for the fans is the bragging rights associated with the Manufacturers' Fan Championship. The award acknowledges World Challenge fans that best exhibit the support of their favorite brand, team and driver. At each race, a committee of World Challenge staff members decides which enthusiast group exhibited the most spirit - naming them, as a group, the fans of the race.
Pirelli World Challenge GT -- Old Friends Return
The season-opening doubleheader on the streets of St. Petersburg brings back many familiar faces to the GT class of the Pirelli World Challenge and a strong line-up that means any podium finish is going to have to be earned.
Leading that charge is defending GT Drivers' Champion Randy Pobst, behind the wheel of the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60. While a new body style is expected in the near future, Pobst begins the season in the same car he captured last year's championship in, including a win and a pole position at St. Pete.
His teammate a season ago, Andy Pilgrim, is now behind the wheel of the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V in the manufacturers' trumpeted return to racing and to World Challenge. Pilgrim captured the 2005 Drivers' Championship in a Cadillac, and will be joined by four-time 24 Hours of LeMans winner Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V.
Always well represented at any sports car race, the Porsche contingent also has serious race and title contenders. Dino Crescentini, in the No. 4 StopTech Brakes Porsche 911 GT3, started on the front row and won Race 2 at St. Pete a season ago. His Global Motorsports Group teammate, James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3, won last season at Mid-Ohio and is always a threat. The third car in the GMG stable, the No. 5 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2/Rio/Muscle Milk Porsche 911 GT3, is piloted by former SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Champion Tomy Drissi.
Rob Morgan returns after some strong finishes at the end of 2010 in the No. 46 TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3. He'll be joined by Patrick Long in the No. 45 TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3, who has previously won the 24 Hours of LeMans, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring piloting a Porsche. Long's only World Challenge start came at Mosport in 2005, where he started 16th and finished third.
Jason Carter makes his World Challenge debut in the No. 85 Racing For Our Heros/Loctite Porsche 911 GT3.
Corvette won three races in 2010, all with CRP Racing. Mike Skeen, who earned one of those wins at Mid-Ohio, returns to St. Pete in the No. 2 Cragar Wheels Corvette, joined by Patrick Lindsey in the No. 12 CRP Racing Corvette. Tony Gaples again returns with his No. 11 Kleinschmidt/Black Dog Racing Chevrolet Corvette.
Tony Rivera and Steve Ott began last season behind the wheel of a pair of Nissan GT-Rs and quickly became one of the most popular teams in the paddock. Unfortunately, the cars weren't ready to match that popularity on the track and the team missed the last half of the season in development. Armed with a redeveloped suspension in 2011, Rivera will pilot the No. 97 Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R with Ott in the No. 98 Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R, each ready to challenge for race wins.
Carrying the Dodge Viper banner in St. Petersburg is Daskalos Roberts Racing, with Jason Daskalos returning in the No. 7 Daskalos Developments & Investments Dodge Viper, joined by 2010 GT Rookie of the Year Fred Roberts in the No. 89 machine.
Pirelli World Challenge GTS -- Carrying Momentum
A season ago, the GTS class of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships was about to run its first race, which ended with two days of a podium sweep by the RealTime Racing.
RealTime Racing and six-time World Challenge Champion Peter Cunningham, the all-time leader in wins and pole positions, may still be the team to beat, but there are a lot more challengers to the crown.
Cunningham will drive the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX again this season, earning the No. 1 banner through his championship a year ago. He'll be joined again by Nick Esyaian in the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Esayian finished second in the championship a season ago and earned his first career race win at VIRginia International Raceway.
When the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge Series dissolved at the end of 2010, a number of racers in that series dipped their toe into the GTS class of World Challenge. Six drivers have entered Ford Mustang FR500S machines at St. Petersburg, among them former Touring Car pole sitter and Rookie of the Year Eric Foss driving the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude's/SPX Ford Mustang. Foss will be joined by Jason von Kluge (No. 19 Varsity Ford/Steeda Ford Mustang FR500S), Ben Crosland (No. 25 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S), George Winkler (No. 27 Winkler Automotive Ford Mustang FR500S), Rich Golinello (No. 55 Grand Sanitation Ford Mustang FR500S) and Brad Adams (No. 75 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S).
The FR500S contingent are not the only Mustangs in the field. Rehagen Racing has entered Chris DeSalvo in the No. 37 Rehagen Racing/Hawk/BBS Ford Mustang Boss 302 S, while Paul Brown will race the Tiger Racing Lucas Oil/K&N Filters Ford Mustang Boss 302 S at St. Petersburg.
15-year-old Alec Udell will become the youngest driver in the 22-year history of World Challenge when the lights go out to start race one on Saturday at St. Petersburg. The young driver will be joined by Momentum Autosports teammate Ardee Toppe in the No. 06 and the No. 05 Momentum Autosports Chevrolet Camaros, respectively.
Foss isn't the only former Rookie of the Year set for battle in the GTS class at St. Petersburg. Bill Ziegler, the 2009 winner in the GT class, will debut the No. 95 GMG/Swisher Racing Mitsubishi EVO on the street circuit. Ernie Jakubowski, the 2010 GTS winner, returns in the No. 91 JRP/Hub Stands/Fuchs Porsche Cayman.
Tom Felt will add another manufacturer to the GTS class with his No. 63 Alpine Motor Sport Honda S2000.
Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car -- Stronger Every Race
The rules of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car class were designed for close, tight racing and to bring drivers back into the race event after event. One look at the entry list for St. Petersburg, and it's clear those goals are being achieved.
Who will win in Touring Car is still anyone's guess, with defending champion Robert Stout not on the entry list. A good place to start could be with the defending GT class team, K-Pax Racing, who has entered two Volvo C30s in Touring Car for 2011. Robb Holland will drive the No. 66 machine, while Canadian F2000 standout Aaron Povoledo will pilot the No. 88 machine.
Last season, Volkswagen was one of the hot cars, gathering two wins in the opening weekend at St. Petersburg. That could happen again, with six drivers aiming to accomplish the feat. Devin Cates drove in the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge last year but is behind the wheel of the No. 23 Devin Cates Racing Volkswagen GTI at St. Pete. Tristan Herbert will pilot the No. 33 Brimtek Motorsports Germanautoparts.com GTI, and Istook's Motorsports is bring two GTIs to St. Petersburg with Don Istook (No. 01) and Colin Cohen (No. 02) behind the wheel of each. Gila Monster Racing is using a pair of VW Jettas to represent the manufacturer, with Ronald Zitza behind the wheel of the No. 60 Zotz Racing Volkswagen Jetta and Carolyn Kujala behind the wheel of the No. 61 Gila Monster Racing machine.
There are nearly as many Hondas on the grid at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as there are Volkswagens. Shea Holbrook is the lone Honda driver who ran most of the season in 2010, and returns in the No. 67 MyPluggz.com/Lucas Oil Honda Civic Si.
2006 World Challenge GT Driver's Champion Lawson Aschenbach, a two-time winner in GT (including 2006 in St. Petersburg), returns to World Challenge in Touring Car in the No. 71 Compass 360 Honda Civic Si. He'll be joined by teammate Thomas Ehlen in the No. 72 Compass 360 Civic. Fellow Canadian racer Patrick Seguin will drive the No. 80 Segs Motorsports Civic, with Carl Hober in the No. 64 Branden Peterson Racing Civic.
The top challengers for the checkered flag could come from the Mazda contingent, however. Eric Meyer returns after a runner-up finish in the Championship a season ago in his No. 32 XOWii/Samaritan's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8. Chip Herr, a seven-time Touring Car race winner, will pilot the No. 07 Grid 1 Motorsports Mazda RX-8, while Charlie Solomon returns in the Dr. Natasha/DC Racing Mazda RX-8.
-source: scca pro racing