There’s a record-breaking number of drivers for this weekend’s season finale Pirelli World Challenge Championships Presented by Nissan at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – 127. That’s the highest-ever number for the SCCA Pro Racing Series. The scheduled races, some championship deciders, include GTA-GT Cup, GTS, Sprint X and TC-TCA-TCB. There will two races for each group.
This is the fourteenth time the World Challenge Series has raced at Laguna Seca.
There is cross-over between the various PWC classes, with some drivers and/or cars in more than one event. Makes for some interesting times in the Timing & Scoring area, sorting out all the drivers and cars.
This is definitely a manufacturer-driven series, with 22 different manufacturers and 38 different models.
Although it is an American series with a majority of the drivers being from the US, there are drivers from six foreign countries, with Canada sending ten drivers, two are from Mexico, and there’s one each from Portugal, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
One of the more interesting aspects of the PWC driver lineup is the wide age diversity. There are more than a handful of young teenagers too young to hold street driving licenses, and other competitive drivers old enough to be their grandfathers…all going for championships. Classic Age and Treachery versus Youth and Good Looks. And each has its turns on the podiums.
Thursday of the four-day weekend was a test day and one of the top GT drivers took a ride on the wild side in Turn Nine during the morning session. Johnny O’Connell/No.3 Cadillac Racing ATS-V R. GT3 is alright, but his car was brought in on the flat bed truck. The race crew went to work and Johnny O was back out for the afternoon session. O’Connell is third in the standings for the PWC GT class, and made a killer inside pass at the Sonoma race last month in Turn Seven of the last lap to snatch the victory from teenager, Pole Sitter Austin Cindric/No.6 K-Pax Racing McLaren 650S GT3, who had led the entire race to that point. Cindric was 17 years old at the time, and O’Connell is 54 years young, the most successful GM factory driver. Cindric is now 18 and in addition to racing full-time this season in PWC, he also races in a wide variety of other series, including ARCA (with victory at Kentucky), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski and NASCAR K&N Series.
This weekend there are some tight championship battles ahead. A total sweep of a race including bonus points would garner 117 points, with a victory counting for 110 of those points. Points go down to thirtieth place.
In the highly competitive (and feature) GT class, all eyes are on the top four drivers, who still have a mathematical chance at the Drivers’ Championship: Alvaro Parente/No.9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 with 1554 points; Patrick Long/No.58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R with 1545 points; O’Connell and teammate Michael Cooper each with 1451 points. Parente has five wins, six poles and five fast laps. Long has three wins, three poles and two fast laps. O’Connell has three wins. Cooper has two wins, one pole and three fast laps.
The tight GT race extends to the Manufacturer also. McLaren leads with 131 points, with five wins and eight poles. Porsche is second with 130 points, with five wins and six poles. Cadillac has three wins, one pole and three fast laps.
The Zoom-Zoom radar screen over the Start-Finish line isn’t working at this point, so it’s hard to say what the top speed is coming down the front straight, but during Thursday’s test someone on pit wall clocked the GTS cars at 125 mph
The weather has been picture-perfect touristy-type, with no morning fog, blue skies, breezes and lots of warm sunshine. A few clouds roll in in time for beautiful sunsets. What more could you ask for the last PWC races of the season.