James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., is a local favorite at Long Beach. Credit: Mark Weber/SCCA
However, SCCA Pro Racing officials determined following Race #1 that Aschenbach passed under a local caution, which ultimately dropped him to fourth in the final race standings. Aschenbach would not be denied in Race #2 as he put together a dominating performance, leading from the standing start all the way through the checkered flag to score his sixth career World Challenge victory.
Aschenbach's performance in both races makes him a clear favorite in Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech. However, even he is looking up to Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., in the GT championship standings.
O'Connell leads Aschenbach by 11 points, 270-259, with two of 12 GT races in the books courtesy of his awarded victory in Race #1 at St. Pete and a runner-up performance in Round #2. He and teammate Andy Pilgrim, of Marina Del Rey, Fla., will both be tough to beat on the streets of Long Beach. Pilgrim is currently third in the GT driver standings on the back of a fifth-place run in Race #1 and a third-place performance in Race #2 at St. Pete. O'Connell drives the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, while Pilgrim pilots the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V.R.
There is no shortage of talented local racers in the GT class, what with five Southern California residents in the entry list. Global Motorsports Group accounts for four of those drivers, fielding the No. 4 StopTech Porsche 911 GT3 for Dino Crescentini, of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 for James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif.; and the No. 44 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 for Brent Holden, also of Newport Beach; in addition to the exciting new No. 40 APS, Inc./Under Armour Audi R8 for Anders Hainer, of Hidden Hills, Calif. Sofronas currently stands fourth in the GT driver standings and already knows the feeling of winning on his home turf with a 2009 GT victory at Long Beach.
Tomy Drissi, of Los Angeles, Calif., is the fifth local GT racer, driving the No. 47 TruSpeed Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3. Drissi, the 2009 Trans-Am Series champion, is no stranger to racing on the streets of Long Beach, with several Trans-Am and American Le Mans Series appearances. Joining Drissi and Aschenbach on the four-car TruSpeed Motorsports team is Justin Marks, of Davidson, N.C., in the No. 46 GoPro/Mooresville Motorplex Porsche 911 GT3 and Jeff Courtney, of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 Kenda/Recstuff.com Porsche 911 GT3 for JCR Motorsports/TruSpeed.
K-Pax Racing will field a pair of top contenders in four-time World Challenge GT champion Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., and Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo. Figge is fifth in the GT driver standings thanks in large part to a third-place run in the first race at St. Petersburg, a race in which he led the first 16 laps.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., will be looking to get his season back on track in Long Beach after a nightmarish season-opening doubleheader. He qualified his Chevrolet Corvette on the pole position for Race #1 but pulled into the pits on the formation lap and missed the entire race with a differential problem. The problem reared its ugly head again in Race #2 as Skeen only managed one lap before retiring.
He will debut a new car this weekend, the No. 2 Hawk Performance Nissan GTR, as part of a three-car entry from CRP Racing. Joining Skeen are Jason Daskalos, of Albuquerque, N.M., in the No. 12 Hawk Performance Nissan GTR and Brian Kubinski, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 02 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette.
The other Corvette in this weekend's GT field will be the No. 11 Black Dog Racing Chevrolet Corvette in the hands of Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill. Gaples is currently sixth in the GT driver standings.
Further bolstering a strong GT entry are Steve Ott, of Houston, Texas, and Dave Welch, of Bothell, Wash. Ott is currently eighth in the GT championship standings and will again drive the No. 85 Racing for Our Heroes Porsche 911 GT3, while Welch is 10th in points and will pilot the No. 77 GoPro/StopTech/Eibach/425 Motorsports Ferrari F430GT.
Justin Bell, of Los Angeles, Calif., couldn't have asked for a better debut weekend in World Challenge competition as he swept both GTS races in the St. Petersburg doubleheader as a stand-in for 2011 GTS champion Paul Brown.
Bell is back behind the wheel of the No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S for Paul Brown Racing this weekend as he goes for the GTS hat trick. He definitely has history on his side as Brown claimed the class victory on the streets of Long Beach last season.
However, Bell had to face down stiff competition at St. Pete and it won't get any easier this weekend. Six-time World Challenge class champion Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., finished second in both of the season's first two races and is sure to be reckoned with in his No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Bell currently leads Cunningham by 35 points, 302-267, in the GTS driver standings.
Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., is third in GTS points on the strength of a pair of top-four efforts in St. Pete. He took the class pole for Race #1, showing plenty of speed in the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro and is another top contender for the victory this weekend.
This weekend's GTS field is filled with accomplished road racers including three-time World Challenge class champion Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, Texas, who is making his 2012 World Challenge debut in the No. 28 LG Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro; five-time World Challenge champion, Michael Galati, of Olmstead, Ohio, in the No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima; GRAND-AM Rolex Series race-winner and former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Colin Braun, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 38 Kia Motors America Kia Optima; and IMSA and Trans-Am champion Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 68 Hot Wheels Porsche Cayman S, who is currently fifth in the GTS driver standings.
Other top GTS contenders include Brad Adams, of New Orleans, La., who is eighth in points and will again drive the No. 96 Voodoo/DatDog/Yo MTV Raps! Ford Mustang FR500C and Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 34 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Esayian is currently ninth in the GTS standings.
In addition to four GT entries, Southern California-based Global Motorsports Group will also field the No. 95 GMG Mitsubishi EVO in the GTS class for Bill Ziegler, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Also returning to action this weekend are Brian Kleeman, of Towson, Md., in the No. 07 Nissan/DXD/Clutches/UpRev Nissan 370Z; Roger Miller, of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 23 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S; Alfonso Perri, of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the No. 26 Picture Cars East Ford Mustang Boss 302S; Harry Curtin, of Buffalo, N.Y., in the No. 29 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro; Ric Bushey, of Virginia Beach, Va., in the No. 51 Nissan/SPL Pro/Sparco/Motul Nissan 370Z; and Greg Shaffer, of Harrisonburg, Va., in the No. 52 Nissan/SPL Pro/Sparco/Motul Nissan 370Z.
This weekend will see the 2012 World Challenge debut of veteran racer Don Istook, of River Oaks, Texas, in the No. 01 REVO TECHNIK Audi TT RS. Istook made three World Challenge starts last year, scoring a best result of sixth in Touring Car at Long Beach.
GT: Qualifying Lap: 1:21.729 (86.686 mph), Patrick Long, Porsche 911 GT3, 2011
Race Lap: 1:22.604 (85.768 mph), Patrick Long, Porsche 911 GT3, 2011
Average Speed: 79.479 mph, Lawson Aschenbach, 2006
Closest Margin of Victory: 0.730 seconds, Ron Fellows over Tommy Archer, 2006
GTS: Qualifying Lap: 1:28.729 (79.847 mph), Jason von Kluge, Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 2011
Race Lap: 1:29.962 (78.753 mph), Paul Brown, Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 2011
Average Speed: 69.622 mph, Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX, 2010
Closest Margin of Victory: 21.735 seconds, Paul Brown over Ben Crosland, 2011
GT: 2011: Brandon Davis, Ford Mustang Cobra
2010: Kuno Wittmer, Dodge Viper
2009: James Sofronas, Porsche 911 GT3
2008: Brandon Davis, Ford Mustang Cobra
2007: Eric Curran, Chevrolet Corvette
2006: Ron Fellows, Cadillac CTS-V
GTS: 2011: Paul Brown, Ford Mustang Boss 302S
2010: Tyler McQuarrie, Lotus Exige S
TC: 2011: Shea Holbrook, Honda Civic Si
2010: Robert Stout, Scion tC
PREVIOUS POLE WINNERS
GT: 2011: Patrick Long, Porsche 911 GT3
2010: Kuno Wittmer, Dodge Viper
2009: Randy Pobst, Volvo S60
2008: Brandon Davis, Ford Mustang Cobra
2007: Ron Fellows, Cadillac CTS-V
2006: Tommy Archer, Dodge Viper
GTS: 2011: Jason von Kluge, Ford Mustang Boss 302S
2010: Tyler McQuarrie, Lotus Exige S
TC: 2011: Lawson Aschenbach, Honda Civic Si
Nick Wittmer, Honda Civic Si
Pirelli World Challenge Championships
GT/GTS Round 3
Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech
Long Beach, Calif.
Pirelli World Challenge Championships GT/GTS Round 3
Streets of Long Beach
11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit
Sunday, April 15 - 8:25 a.m. (PDT)
Green Light (standing start):
Sunday, April 15 - 4:15 p.m. (PDT)
Combined races: TBA Laps or 50 minutes (whichever comes first)
Television (on NBC Sports Network):
Sunday, April 29 - 3:00 p.m. (EDT)
Live Internet Telecast (on www.world-challengeTV.com):
Sunday, April 15 - 7:00 p.m. (EDT)
Timing/Scoring: Live Timing & Scoring and lap notes via the SCCA(r) Pit Board are available for all sessions through www.world-challenge.com.
The Most Relevant Road Racing In The World
Celebrating its 23rd season in 2012, 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 10 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
The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Championships will again feature combined class sprint races for GT, GTS and Touring Car but a new class of race car, B-spec comes on line at selected events. Seven of the eight venues that hosted World Challenge events in 2011 will see the series return this year, with the eagerly anticipated Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returning to the World Challenge schedule for the first time since 2008. A 12-race schedule is planned for the GT and GTS classes, with 14 rounds slated for Touring Car and nine for B-Spec. All classes wrap up their 2012 championships at the Sonoma Grand Prix at Infineon Raceway on the weekend of August 24-26.
This weekend, World Challenge has 35 cars on the entry list amongst the two classes, split with 18 cars in GT and 17 cars in GTS. The GT entry list for Long Beach includes the Cadillac CTS-V.R, Porsche 911 GT3, Volvo S60, Chevrolet Corvette, Audi R8, Nissan GTR and Ferrari F430 GT. GTS features two different types of Ford Mustangs, the FR500S and the Boss 302 S, along with the Chevrolet Camaro, Nissan 370Z, Audi TT RS, Porsche Cayman S, Mitsubishi EVO, Kia Optima and the Acura TSX now powered by V6 engines. The variety of makes and models on the World Challenge grid makes it as diverse as any race series in North America.
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.