SUNNY SWELTERING SONOMA SUNDAY

No.58 Wright Motorsports Pro Porsche 911

Pit Strategy paid off for Wright Motorsports Sunday noon and its Pro-Am team of Patrick Long and Scott Hargrove when they took their first win of the season at Sonoma Raceway in No.58 Porsche 911 GT3. When the pit window opened, Long was the first in the pits and co-driver Hargrove was first out, taking the lead from Wright teammates, Matt Campbell/Anthony Imperato in No.91 Pro-Am Porsche 911. Hargrove led the second half to take the Checkered Flag. The weather was in the mid nineties, but at least the smoke and haze from the Yolo County wild fires that enveloped the track Saturday afternoon had somewhat abated.

Dane Cameron & Memo Gidley

Dane Cameron and Memo Gidley

Also taking advantage of early in, early out were the Pro-Am teams, with Imperato & Campbell retaining their class lead, while relinquishing the overall lead. Moving up in class rank was Mike Hedlund, taking over for Dane Cameron in No.43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX. they moved into second place, ahead of GMG’s James Sofronas & Dirk Werner in No.14 Porsche 911.

Andy Lally/No.19 One11 Competition Pro-Am Porsche 911 didn’t make it past the exit of Turn 4 when he had an incident with Maxime Soulet/No.3 K-Pax Racing Pro Bentley Continental. Lally had to be retrieved from the corner, while Soulet continued. This brought out the first Safety Car for two laps, and a Steward’s Review post-race.

Guy Cosmo/No.31 TR3 Pro-Am Ferrari 488 pitted and retired after two laps.

No.19 One11 Competition Ferrari

Guy Cosmo & Patrick Byrne

No.3 K-Pax Racing Bentley

Left to Right: No.19 One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari; Guy Cosmo & Co-Driver Patrick Byrne; and No.3 Pro K-Pax Bentley Continental.

On Lap 6, Campbell set the fastest lap of 91.38 mph which held for the rest of the 48-lap race.

Two drivers drew drive-through penalties for passing during the Safety Car situation/on the restart: Kyle Marcelli/No.80 Pro-Am Racers Ed Motorsports Acura NSX and Alex Barron/No.38 KR2 Motorsports Pro-Am Porsche 911.

Caeser Bacarella/No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 in the Am class brought out the Safety Car when he went off going into Turn 4. He got restarted, but the caution had already been called. Early on in the race, Bacarella’s teammate, Martin Fuentes, had turned the fastest Am lap of 88.69 mph.

The hardest hit of the race was David Askew/No.63 DXDT Racing Pro-Am Mercedes-AMG, spinning out and into the concrete wall on the drag strip going into Turn 7. This brought out the Safety Car yet again.

There was some nail biting racing which Werner hopes got caught on TV. He said there were three rows of two cars scraping mirrors going into Turn 6. He stuck his nose in there and took advantage. The RealTime Acura came home with doughnuts on the driver’s door, but Hargrove came second in class.

The podium winners for the Pro Class were Long & Hargrove in first, Saturday’s winners Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina second in No.61 R.Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 and K-Pax’s No.9 Bentley Continental with Andy Soucek and Alvaro Parente. Vilander and Molina lead the Pro Standings with 148 points. Parente and Soucek are second in the standings, with 134 points. Long and Hargrove have 101 points for third place. With this being their last race of the weekend, many of the drivers had early flights and were faster out of the track or onto the choppers than they were on track.

Pro Class Podium

Left to Right: Andy Soucek, Alvaro Parente, Scott Hargrove, Wright Team Representative, and two team reps from R.Ferri Motorsports.

Hargrove credited their pit strategy to getting in front of the R.Ferri Ferrari as he didn’t think he could pass it on the track. He admits the strategy was different, leap-frogging in the pits, but it worked. It would have been even better if he hadn’t had trouble restarting the car. The track debris and marbles were a problem for him on the restart going into Turn 1. Tires were a key component for the team this weekend.

The Pro-Am podium winners were GMG Racing No.14 Porsche 911 with Sofronas and Werner, with RealTime’s Acura in second with Cameron and Hargrove, and Racers Edge’s No.80 Acura in third with Marcelli and Martin Barkey, despite their earlier drive-through penalty. Barkey and Marcelli lead the Pro-Am standings with 128 points.

Pro-Am podium winners

Left to Right: Anthony Imperato, James Sofronas, Dirk Werner, Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund.

Sofronas said he really wanted to do this race, as he loves the Sonoma track. The pit stop was a bit of an issue for the team, as Sofronas admits he’s bigger than the other drivers; and it was a bit awkward during the driver change with him adjusting the belts. The cautions helped as it gave him time to work on the belts. He likes racing at Sonoma so much, he also ran in the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race both days, coming in second in the Am class both days.

The GT cars sat on the pre grid in the hot, sweltering sun for more than a half hour. Some drivers took shelter in their pit shelters, while others were out talking to folks. Most of the cars had protective coverings to help cut the heat for the driver who took the first stint.

Patrick Long & Justin Bell

No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche

Colin Braun and Team

Left to Right: Patrick Long & Justin Bell; covered-up No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche; and Colin Braun and DXDT Racing Pro-Am team.

The next race for the series will be Rounds 9 & 10 over Labor Day weekend at Watkins Glen International.

No.34 Murillo Racing Mercedes

No.34 Murillo Racing Mercedes

In other Sunday races:
The Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race was won by Christian Szymczak and local driver Kenny Murrillo, overall and in the GT4 West ProAm category, driving No.34 Murrillo Racing Mercedes-AMG. They had also won on Saturday. In other classes, the winners were Preston Calvert and Matthew Keegan/No.51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT in the GT4 SprintX Am class; Jarrett Andretti and Colin Mullan/No.36 Andretti Autosport McLaren 570S; and Jeff Burton and Vesko Kozarov/No.91 Reardon Racing Audi R8 LMS in the GT4 West WAm class.

The largest race entry, with 25 cars, was for TC America-TCR & TCA Classes. This race was for single drivers, no co-drivers. It was won overall and in the TCR class by Mason Filippi, another local driver, racing No.12 Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster. The TCR Cup class was won by Bryan Putt/No.15 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi Sport. Tyler Maxon/No.74 Copeland Motorsports Mazda Global MX5 Cup won the TCA class.

Ian James won the Pirelli GT4 America race over 20 other drivers including Spencer Pumpelly/No.66 TRG Porsche Cayman and Matt Brabham/No.20 CRP Racing Porsche Cayman. James drove No.50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano to win overall and in the Pro Class. Drew Stavely/No.12 Ian Lacey Racing Ford Mustang won the Am class.

In the TC America-TC Class race, Cameron Evans won in No.82 Copart/BimmerWorld Racing BMW M240iR Cup. All but one of the 12 drivers ran a similar car.

SPORTY SONOMA

Sporting a new name and format, the Pirelli World Challenge has evolved into the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. Rounds 7 & 8 are this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Nineteen bright and flashy GT sports cars are entered with many familiar names. Saturday they had qualifying, after two practice sessions on Friday. The qualifying was broken into two sessions, one for each of the two races – Saturday afternoon and Sunday noonish. After their qualifying they joined all the Blancpain drivers for a well-attended autograph session in the cool shade under the grandstands. It proved so popular, it ran 40 minutes past time.

This weekend Sonoma Raceway, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, ran a different configuration. It is 2.50 miles long, incorporating Turns 7, 8, 9 and the Bus Stop/chicane in Turn 10 plus long 11. This no-name configuration hasn’t been run in recent memory.

No.61 Pro Ferrari Blancpain GT

Miguel Molina of Spain had the pole for the first GT race Saturday afternoon, in No.61 Pro R Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, with a lap of 1:37.310. He and teammate Toni Vilander of Finland kept their lead after their pit stop for driver change. Scott Hargrove/No.58 Wright Motorsports Pro Porsche 911 GT3 started second, but soon was passed for position by two Bentleys, Rodrigo Baptista/No.3 Pro and Andy Soucek/No.9 Pro. They ran together for the first half of the race. After the pit stops sorted out the order, it was again the Ferrari, with the two Bentley Continentals in second and third with drivers Maxime Soulet and Alvaro Parente. Vilander won the Pro Hard Charger Award for the fastest race lap of 90.70 mph.

Blancpain GT podium winners

Left to Right: Andy Soucek, Alvaro Parente, Toni Vilander, Miguel Molina, Rodrigo Baptista, and Maxime Soulet. Plus Happy Team Representatives with their Blancpain clock for top team.

In the Pro-Am category, Pole sitters Mike Hedlund/No.43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX started the race, with co-driver Dane Cameron finishing. The two are about as local as one can get, with Cameron growing up 15 miles from the track, and Hedlund hailing from Silicon Valley’s Redwood City. Cameron said he hasn’t raced at Sonoma Raceway for ten years, but back in the day when he worked for the Russell School, he ran every course configuration the track had. Hedlund also has many laps on the wine country circuit.

Blancpain Pro-Am Podium winners

Left to Right: James Sofronas, Dirk Werner, Dane Cameron, Mike Hedlund, Matt Campbell and Anthony Imperato.

Second and third in Pro-Am were Anthony Imperato and Matt Campbell in No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3, and James Sofronas and Dirk Werner/No.14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3.

No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari

No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari

The lone entry in the Am category was Martin Fuentes and Caeser Bacarella in No.7 Ferrari 488 GT3. They finished 13th.

Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina

Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina

This was the first time for R.Ferri Motorsport at Sonoma Raceway, for the team and for the drivers, so they had no experience with the track. They also had a fill-in engineer as their regular European engineer had family business back home. Vilander said the Ferrari handled well in the corners, whereas some of the other cars had more power on the straights. Despite the track surface, the Ferrari drivers were able to manage the tire degradation fairly well. Vilander said that qualifying was important, and their car has had no reliability issues so far. They see little improvements with each race.

Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund

Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund

Cameron said they were able to keep their lead after the pit stop, and then stretch it out. They also were able to manage the tire degredation. Team Owner P.D. Cunningham was on hand for the celebration. No one knows just how many victories this makes for his long-running RealTime team. Something to check.

While the GT Series is international with all foreign manufacturers, 23 of the 38 drivers are American, with another five coming from North America. Other countries represented are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari

Dane Cameron & Son autographing posters

Ferrari GT steering wheel

Left to Right: One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari during pit stop; Dane Cameron & son signing posters; and GT Ferrari steering wheel.

The TC Class race Saturday afternoon was uneventful, with the 12 cars mostly parading around the road course. These sprint races have single drivers with no scheduled pit stops. Pole sitter Johan Schwartz/No.80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M240IR Cup won the 40-minute race, leading flag to flag. Second and third were Teammate Steve Streimer/No.81 BMW, and Robert Nimkoff/No.20 Auto Technic Racing BMW M240IR Cup. The only incident was with third-place Toby Grahovec/No.26 Classic BMW BMW M240IR Cup came together in Turn 7 with Shaun Webster/No.31 Hard Motorsport BMW M235IR Cup. Webster spun but both cars continued.

EYE CANDY COURTESY THE BENTLEY BOYS
1951 Bentley

Black Bentley

1935 Bentley

Left to Right in Bentley Corral: 1951 Bentley; Black Bentley; and 1935 Bentley.