O’Connell Wins GT Finale in Wild Finish; MacNeil, Fergus Take GTA, GT Cup Victories
(Courtesy of Pirelli World Challenge)
Parente Wins the GT Title with 2nd Place finish for McLaren
SALINAS, Calif. – Four-time GT champion Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., drove his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. to his fourth GT Sprint race of the season Sunday in a wild finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships present by Nissan.
In addition, Cooper MacNeil of Hinsdale, Ill., captured the GTA class in the No. 79 WeatherTech/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3R with Corey Fergus of Columbus, Ohio, taking top honors in the GT Cup division in the No. 00 Byers Imports/Motorsports Promotions Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
O’Connell, starting on the pole in the 28-driver GT field Sunday, fought off a last lap challenge from 2011 GT champion Patrick Long of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to record his 21st PWC career win. But the victory didn’t come easy after a green and white flag restart on lap 27 saw O’Connell slide wide in turn four on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit. Long, running second at the time, made an outside attempted pass on O’Connell in turn five. However, the two veteran racers made contact and Long’s Porsche went wide into the outside gravel.
With Long temporarily off the track, O’Connell continued in the lead and GT point leader Alvaro Parente of Porto, Portugal, moved into second in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S followed by Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y., in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. and Bryan Heilkotter of Fresno, Calif., in the No. 05 Always Evolving/Nissan GT Academy Nissan GTR. Long returned to the track in fifth position.
At the checkered flag, O’Connell took the Round 20 GT victory over Parente, Cooper, Heitkotter and Long.
The second place finish for Parente, a five-time 2016 race winner, provisionally gives him the 2016 GT Driver’s Point Championship with a total of 1645 to Long’s 1625 and O’Connell’s 1568.
At the green flag Sunday, Parente made a brilliant start from his sixth starting spot to take third place entering turn two, as he trailed only front row starters O’Connell and Long on the first lap. Cooper applied the pressure on Parente for third place throughout the first 15 laps with Colin Thompson of Doylestown, Pa., in the No. 13 K-PAX McLaren 650S and Jon Fogarty of Bend, Ore., in the No. 99 Gainsco “Red Dragon” McLaren 650s rounding out the top-six.
On the 20th lap, Heikotter moved to fifth in the GT division with O’Connell holding a one-second advantage over Long as Parente was another second back.
A full course caution period slowed the GT cars on lap 22 when Drew Regitz of Denver, Colo., went off the track in turn two. With the clean-up taking place and the 50-minute time limit approaching, the GT event came down to final lap for a restart. It was then that O’Connell and Long battled for the lead and made contact in turn five with O’Connell continuing in the lead and Long sliding off the racing surface.
“It was exciting,” O’Connell said. “We led the whole thing. On the last lap restart, I went into turn four and had a wiggle and got two wheels in the dirt. That allowed Patrick to take a run on me going into turn five. I was on the inside and he turned down on me and we touched. I feel bad for that, last lap of the last race. He doesn’t need to try that move. Unfortunate for Patrick. He is a great race car driver.”
“Great race, everybody running really hard, it was unfortunate with the cautions that we had,” said O’Connell. “It would have been nice to have had a long run. In that final green-white-checkered deal, I got a good start and then going through turn four and I understeered off and dropped two wheels. That allowed Patrick (Long) to get around the outside of me but never cleared me. So when we went into the breaking zone, I’m on the inside and he’s not clear of me so it’s not my job to give stuff. It’s my job to win races and was very shocked when he started turning down and we had contact. It was unfortunate. I have been fortunate enough to win several championships for GM but I might have played that one a little differently if I were him. But, Patrick (Long) is a very fast and competitive drive and I’m sure he wanted to win this one bad. But I think I just wanted to win it more. It was very nice for Cadillac, all of our people that came out to support us here this weekend. I’m very proud of the team and everything that they did.”
“Like I said at the beginning of this weekend, I was proud to still be in contention during the title chase,” said Long. “I raced Johnny (O’Connell) at the end of the race and I expected racing room and didn’t get it. For him not to be in the championship hunt and to be the deciding factor is a difficult situation. In every scenario, there are two drivers that make a decision. There was no intention to try and battle Johnny the entire race. My focus was on the championship and the two times I was alongside or ahead of him, it came down to his mistakes. This is why we all love this sport, it is action packed. I am very proud of Wright Motorsports and we appreciate the support of Porsche Consulting and all of our partners. We will come back stronger from this. In the end, there is sport and there is integrity and we walk away proud of how we handled both situations today.”
Parente said, “What a crazy day. I had a fantastic start… managed to jump into third position. Then I was pushing hard; there were two moments I was into Pat (Long) and trying to pass him. He defended well, I didn’t risk the contact at the time. I didn’t push hard for the move, but I was working on it. Then I realized halfway after the second safety car that it was going to be hard to pass him since he had good pace. And then came that crazy last lap; I can’t describe what went on there. I think there was a little bit of dirt into turn four, Johnny (O’Connell) had a bit of a moment, Pat (Long) tried to pass him on the outside and fought hard for the position in the braking zone and Johnny obviously wasn’t going to back down. I was looking to see and thought, ‘He’s going to go for it,’ and Johnny defended his position, Pat went wide, and I went by. It was a great year. What a fantastic year for Pirelli World Challenge. It’s a great and unique thing going on here in the GT racing world”.
In the GTA division, Michael Schein of Glen Cove, N.Y., held the lead for the majority of the 31-lap event in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R over MacNeil and Tim Pappas of Boston, Mass., in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
However, on the final lap, Schein was knocked off the track by another machine and MacNeil drove his Porsche into the lead and the victory. Pappas finished second in GTA with Andrew Kim of Seoul, South Korea scoring the final podium slot in third with the No. 78 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3.
‘The race today went well because we won, but for the most part it wasn’t really going our way,” said MacNeil. “(Schein) was doing a great job in his Porsche; he was able to get out of the corners better than I was and was good on the braking. It was pretty much impossible to pass him unless he made a mistake or somebody made one for him. It just happened to be the latter in this race today. I was following an Acura for the last five, six laps of the race and he’s dropping between two and four wheels off, every single lap that I was behind him. It’s been frustrating because I can’t really see, and he’s in a different class, and I’m trying to chase a car that’s directly in front of him to get the win. It ended up helping me because he dropped two wheels exiting turn nine and basically lost it into turn ten and basically collected Schein who was in the lead and I was right there to capitalize. Sometimes things just go your way like that. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be on the top step of the podium.”
Fergus battled Sloan Urry of Salt Lake City, Utah for the entire GT Cup action with Corey besting the the driver of the No. 20 TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup by just six-tenths of a second at the checkered flag. Chris Thompson of San Clemente, Calif., placed third in the GT Cup division Sunday.
“It’s definitely taken us a little bit longer than expected for us to figure this GT Cup car out,” said Fergus. “It’s been a long time coming. We actually blew up an engine on Thursday and we were told that we were packing up and going home. On Thursday evening, we got a call at the last minute saying that there’s an engine on the way. So we put it on the pole, the first pole of the season; got a track record, which was awesome, and we won today which was pretty good payback for the guys who stayed up pretty late and put the engine back in. It means a lot to us. I’m really happy for the whole team this weekend.”
For these final rounds of the year for GT/GTA and GT Cup, additional recognition and awards were given for the following:
The Optima Batteries Best Start award was given to GTA No. 16 Michael Schein (Glen Cove, N.Y.) in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R for capturing nine positions off the starting grid. MotorTrendOnDemand Clean Pass of the race went to GT No. 05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3 driven by Bryan Heitkotter.
The KIA Turning Point of the race was determined to be the last-lap restart into green and white flags.
The Cadillac Best Move was awarded to GT No. 9 Alvaro Parente for re-claiming three positions from the rolling-start grid right at the onset of the race.
VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger award was given to GT Cup No. 00 Corey Fergus for his nine-position gain over the course of the race.
Fastest laps in each class were earned by the following drivers: In GT Class, No. 58 Patrick Long Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R with a 1:25.983 lap. GTA No. 16 Michael Schein in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R with a 1:27.058. GT Cup No. 00 Corey Fergus with a 1:30.028.
This round of the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA and GT Cup racing begins broadcasting on CBS Sports Network on Sunday October 16th, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. Check your local listings for channel information and encore presentations. Also, relive the entire PWC competition year by viewing archives at MotorTrendOnDemand.com.
Monterey, CA – Results from Sunday, Oct 9, 2016 Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT-GTA Round 20 GT Cup Round 19 Race Round 11, part of the Grand Prix Presented by NISSAN at MRLS. Results are provisional until posted Final.
Pos. PIC, Class, Name, Hometown, Car, Laps, Status 1. 1, GT, Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch GA, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 27, Running 2. 2, GT, Alvaro Parente, Porto Portugal, McLaren 650S GT3, 27, Running 3. 3, GT, Michael Cooper, Syosset NY, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 27, Running 4. 4, GT, Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno CA, Nissan GTR GT3, 27, Running 5. 5, GT, Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 27, Running 6. 6, GT, Jon Fogarty, Bend OR, McLaren 650S GT3, 27, Running 7. 7, GT, J.D. Davison, Denver CO, Nissan GTR GT3, 27, Running 8. 8, GT, Gunner Jeannette, Salt Lake City UT, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 27, Running 9. 9, GT, Spencer Pumpelly, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 27, Running 10. 10, GT, Ryan Eversley, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 27, Running 11. 11, GT, Michael Lewis, Laguna Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 27, Running 12. 1, GTA, Cooper MacNeil, Hinsdale IL, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 27, Running 13. 2, GTA, Tim Pappas, Boston MA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 27, Running 14. 3, GTA, Andrew Kim, Seoul South Korea, Bentley Continental GT3, 27, Running 15. 4, GTA, Andy Wilzoch, Aurora CO, Porsche GT3R, 27, Running 16. 5, GTA, Brent Holden, Newport CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 27, Running 17. 1, GT Cup, Corey Fergus, Columbus OH, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 27, Running 18. 2, GT Cup, Sloan Urry, Park City UT, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 27, Running 19. 6, GTA, Michael Schein, Glen Cove NY, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 27, Running 20. 18, GT, Austin Cindric, Charlotte NC, McLaren 650S GT3, 27, Running 21. 19, GT, Colin Thompson, Doylestown PA, McLaren 650S GT3, 26, Not Running 22. 3, GT Cup, Chris Thompson, San Clemente CA, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 26, Running 23. 7, GTA, Jorge De La Torre, Mexico City, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 25, Running 24. 8, GTA, Drew Regitz, Denver CO, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 21, Not Running 25. 25, GT, Fabian Hamprecht, Beckenried Switzerland, Bentley Continental GT3, 9, DNF 26. 26, GT, Kyle Marcelli, Barrie ON, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 1, DNF 27. 27, GT, Mike Skeen, Charlotte NC, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 0, DNF 28. 28, GTA, Martin Fuentes, Mexico City Mexico, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, 0, DNF 29. 29, GT, Jonathan Summerton, Redwood City CA, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 0, DNS 30. 30, GT Cup, Alex Welch, Englewood CO, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 0, DNS