The large Touring Car class of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Presented by Nissan got off to a good start – literally. They were one of two Sunday race groups at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which had a standing start. Forty-one cars got off the grid without a hitch … at the start. Amazing for that many cars. And one hard-luck driver from the previous day, TC driver, Aristotle Balogh/No.19 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC BMW M235R, gained 11 positions from his P21 grid spot at the start. He finished sixth overall and in class.
The first caution came on the first lap.
Left to Right: Patrick Gallagher, Joey Bickers, and Will Rodgers.
Pole Sitter Patrick Gallagher/No.54 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 repeated his Saturday victory to win overall and in TC Class. He led every lap.The media thought Gallagher looked like a young Steve Kinser. The 24-year old engineering college student didn’t know who was Kinser, and joked that his team call him Patt Damon. Adam Poland/No.33 Doghouse Performance Mazda MX-5 turned the fastest TC race lap of 1:35.601 on Lap 7. He finished second in class and overall.
Pole Sitter Joey Bickers/No.49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup won the TCA class, in sixteenth place overall. It was his third victory this season. He also turned the fastest TCA race lap of 1:44.044 on Lap 10. Bickers led the first four laps, before being passed by Eric Powell/No.23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup. Powell led for six laps before Bickers regained the lead and went on for the victory.
Will Rodgers/No.65 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 won the TCB class, after starting third. The only point he led was the last corner of the last lap. Tom O’Gorman/No.94.Black Armor Helmets Fit started second in class behind Ted Hough/No.68 Breathless Racing Mazda 2, but led every lap until Turn 11 of the last lap. Rodgers was on O’Gorman’s tail and the two contenders came into Turn 11 trying to maneuver around each other. Rodgers got a run and just went for it, edging O’Gorman by 0.121 seconds. For that move, Rodgers was awarded the Cadillac Best Move of the Race.It has been a tough week for the Rodgers, having lost his grandmother earlier in the week. She had been one of his biggest supporters and came to the races. O’Gorman turned the fastest TCB race lap of 1:52.038 on Lap Eight.
Aristotle Balogh/No.5 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC BMW M2 was awarded the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining eleven positions at the start of the race. He also won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining 15 positions in the race overall. He finished sixth after starting twenty-first.
The KIA Turning Point of the race was determined to be the late caution flag that equalized the fields. That was on Laps 17-18 for Andrew Rains/No.44 Rains Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coup TC who went off course.
There had been two penalties assessed in the Saturday race for this group, which dropped Henry Morse/No.14 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 from his winning position in the TCB class, which means he didn’t maintain his championship contention status on Saturday after all. Morse’s teammate, Will Rodgers was awarded the Saturday victory, and second-place TCB finisher, Tom O’Gorman/No.38 Black Armor Helmets Honda Fit kept the TCB points lead going into Sunday’s race.
The Touring race was a good one for track title sponsor, Mazda. After the race, Mazda claimed all three class winners in TC/TCA/TCB; two Manufacturer Championships of the three classes – TC and TCA; one driver Championship – Elivan Goulart/No.70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; and two team championships, TCA-S.A.C. Racing, and TCB-Hale Motorsports. And to continue, Mazda claimed all the Touring Rookie Champions: Anthony Geraci/No.69 S.A.C.Racing Mazda MX-5 in TC; Matthew Fassnacht/No.74. S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup in TCA; and Henry Morse/No.14 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 in TCB. Mazda has been the iconic road circuit’s title sponsor for the past 16 years. The track will celebrate its 60th Anniversary next year.
Left to Right: Scott Heckert, Andrew Aquilante, and Nate Stacy.
The PWC GTS race also had a standing start, which also went well for the 20 cars in the field. This is the only race of the day for a single class, and also the smallest field. Four other cars failed to start.
And like the preceding race with a standing start, this group also had its first caution on Lap One.
Brett Sandberg/No.13 ANSA Motorsports KTM XBow GT4 started fourth but went off course in Turn Five, bringing out the caution for two laps. He was able to continue to finish sixteenth. The other caution was three laps for Lawson Aschenbach/No.10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro who also went off course with mechanical woes. That caution was determined to be the KIA Turning Point.
Pole Sitter Scott Heckert/No.54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4 led flag to flag. He said “We had been struggling with (starting line) launches all year and worked on it so much we’ve gotten it to where it’s pretty good. After some contact yesterday when the car was sputtering, there was no rear-view camera so I couldn’t tell where I was in turn one so I just blocked inside anyway and tried to build a gap.”
Heckert won the Cadillac Best Move of the Race Award. Monday it’s back to the books for the young racer, who is studying engineering at Miami College.
The Margin of Victory was 1.101 seconds ahead of runner-up Andrew Aquilante/No.37 Calvert Dynamics Ford Boss 302, who started third. He was given The Optima Batteries Best Start Award for his two-position gain off the starting grid.
Aquilante turned the fastest race lap of 1:31.465 on Lap 9. Nate Stacy/No.14 Roush Performance Road Racing Ford Boss 302 finished third, after starting at the back of the 20-car field for an unauthorized tire change.
The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger was awarded to Scott Dollahite/No.46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora for gaining 13 positions in the race.
The PWC GTS Sunday race will air on CBS Sports Network Sunday 23 October 2016 at 4pm ET.