AUSTIN, Texas – Patrick Long, Martin Fuentes and Alec Udell took GT, GTA and GT Cup victories, respectively, in Round 1 of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season at the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas brought to you by VP Racing Fuels at the Circuit of the Americas.
Long, in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3, led into turn one from the pole on a rolling start as the field spread out four and five wide dramatically behind him. Charging on Long's No. 31 from behind was Bryan Heitkotter, in the No. 05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R, who took over the lead with an outside maneuver exiting turn 1, earning him the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race Award. Heitkotter also was awarded the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start for improving five positions on the opening lap.
In GTA, pole-sitter Martin Fuentes, driving the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Hublot Underarmour Ferrari 458 Italia, led from the start with 2014 GTA Champion Michael Mills, driving the No. 46 Mills Racing BMW Z4, in second and Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3-R, in third early.
In the GT Cup class, Udell, in the No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, took the lead on the rolling start from pole-sitter Sloan Urry, in the No. 22 TruSpeed Autosport Security National Mortgage/Avasis Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with Austin-based driver Will Hardeman, in the No. 18 WPD/Moorespeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup following in third. By the end of lap one, Urry had regained the lead from Udell.
Contact on the opening lap between James Sofronas, in the No. 14 GMG Racing GMG/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Duncan Ende, driving the No. 67 TRG-AMR Merchant Services LTD/Linospresso USA Aston Martin Vantage GT3, brought out a short full course caution as both cars sat damaged. The No. 90 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Joseph Toussaint also had to be removed from the track after incurring a bent right-front corner suspension.
With the green flag back in the air with 39 minutes to go in the 50-minute race, Heitkotter kept the lead in GT as the battling got dramatic behind him, with Long holding second ahead of Michael Cooper, in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R and JD Davison, in the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GTR GT3. Davison then passed Cooper later on during the restart lap and then started to challenge Long for second.
GTA saw Fuentes hold down the lead as Schein passed Mills for second, as those two were running 19th and 20th overall, with Fuentes a bit further up the track in 13th overall.
On the move early in GT was Michael Lewis, in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3, who had worked his way up to fifth after just five laps, having started in ninth.
In GT Cup, Urry remained in the lead over Udell and Hardeman, with Alex Welch, driving the No. 08 GMG Red Beard Racing/Morgan Adams Foundation/Torque Branding Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, in fourth. Udell was able to close on Urry for the lead, however, and Hardeman at the same time was challenging Udell for second position in a close GT Cup race.
On lap eight, Johnny O'Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R, got around Lewis for fifth in GT.
Lap 11 saw Udell and Hardeman use traffic to their advantage to get around Urry, with Udell pulling a gap over the next lap to the tune of 2.5 seconds.
At the halfway point of the race, Long had turned up the pressure on Heitkotter for the race lead as the two had pulled a small gap from Davison and Cooper, with O'Connell in fifth and Lewis in sixth, ahead of K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 teammates Alvaro Parente and Colin Thompson.
The lead gap was maintained at half a second as the laps clicked away, with Heitkotter's Nissan out front on Long's Porsche, but with 12-minutes to go, the lead margin was down to just over three tenths of a second.
In GTA, Fuentes continued to lead, having built a 16-second gap over Mills in second with further distance back to Schein's Porsche in third.
A bit further back, a nose-to-tail train of hard-battling cars – from positions ninth to 16th – was being led by Andrew Palmer, in the No. 87 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, and Ryan Eversley, in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT.
With 10-minutes to go the lead battle intensified as Long executed a decisive pass to take over the top spot and pulled away from Heitkotter to take the win in the season opener in GT. It is Long's sixth career Pirelli World Challenge victory. Heitkotter finished second ahead of Cooper, who passed Davison late on the last lap to complete the podium in his GT debut for Cadillac Racing. Davison finished fourth ahead of O'Connell in fifth.
In GTA, Fuentes took the victory for his second career class win, with Mills second and Schein completing the podium.
Udell was able to build a gap in GT Cup to take the victory, the fourth of his PWC career, with Urry passing Hardeman for second in the late stages of the race. Udell's drive earned him the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award, having improved seven overall positions during the race.
"At the start, I saw a bunch of smoke in my mirrors and I knew something fast was coming up. I didn't leave him (Bryan Heitkotter) the outside but he made some race track that I didn't know was there," said Long. "I had to settle in and I was scratching my head about where I was going to make a pass if possible. Towards the end, I could see he might be getting a little warm as he put his hand out the window and his tires were getting worn too. So I just kept hitting my marks and tried to wear him down a little. When I forced a little error in turn 12, I kind of over-undered him in 13. Then I had to run because traffic was difficult at times and I didn't want to get held up. I couldn't stay close in the high-speed stuff because I had a lot of aero push. I was poking my nose out to get some air over my car. I knew I had to pass in the esses due to the agility of my car. I knew in the tight stuff I could rotate the car a little better. Traffic is tough at times and I'm going to learn how different things work in the races. I knew it was an all-out sprint type of racing in PWC. When you are on the Porsche factory team, you know that every single time you sit in the car that it is a sprint. Overall, just a great way to start to the 2016 PWC season for Effort Racing and Porsche."
"I am very happy to start the season with the win today," said Fuentes. "It started out tremendously with the pole and then a win in the first race of the season. Scuderia Corsa gave me a great car today. We started out strong in the practices on Friday too. The track was very hot today and it was completely different from this morning's qualifying when it was cooler and we didn't have the best grip. Then, this afternoon, it got hot and the track was slippery. So it was really one extreme to the other in a single day at the track. We had a very good setup for the hot weather. We were able to manage it as we have a lot of things on the car to help us. No issues with the car so far this weekend. I was getting in the middle of some wild GT action at the end of the race. But the team said to stay away from the GT cars and drive my own race. It's a great way to begin the year."
"It was very tight racing in the early portion of the race today," said Udell. "It usually is in the Porsche GT Cup class. Once I was able to open a margin, it was smooth sailing after that. I just kept my head down and ran clean laps. It's so exciting to win in my home state. I can't give enough credit to GMG for setting up a great car today. It's just a super way to open the 2016 season. I'm ready to race again right now. I'm anxious for the race tomorrow (Sunday)."
"The start is always an improvisation and you have to be able to make the proper move in the heat of the battle," said Heitkotter. "I saw a place to go and it opened up for me and I took advantage. As the race went on, we were struggling a little bit with the tires wearing a bit. And we knew his car would be stronger towards the end as the Porsche has more weight in the back. In the esses, he had his best opportunity and he took it. It was good racing though and Patrick raced clean. I think we had the fastest lap today so it will be very nice to start on the pole in race two. (Bryan will start 1st in Sunday's race)."
All results are provisional until posted final. GT/GTA/GT Cup drivers next hit the track at COTA for Round 2, scheduled for Sunday at 2:15 p.m. central time. Watch the race live on motortrendondemand.com and live timing on world-challenge.com. Catch all the action from COTA on an expanded CBS Sports Network broadcast, Sunday March 13 at 10:30 a.m. eastern.
AUSTIN, Texas – Results from Saturday, March 5's 23-lap Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT/GTA/GT Cup Round 1 race, part of the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas presented by VP Racing Fuels, with finishing position, class, first name, last name, hometown, laps, and fastest laps.
1. GT, Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach, CA, 2:07.720
2. GT, Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno, CA, 2:07.680
3. GT, Michael Cooper, Syosset, NY, 2:08.186
4. GT, JD Davison, Denver, CO, 2:08.057
5. GT, Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, GA, 2:07.811
6. GT, Alvaro Parente, Porto, Portugal, 2:08.495
7. GT, Michael Lewis, Laguna Beach, CA, 2:08.506
8. GT, Andrew Palmer, Los Angeles, CA, 2:08.745
9. GT, Colin Thompson, Doylestown, PA, 2:08.908
10. GT, Ryan Eversley, Atlanta, GA, 2:09.027
11. GT, Kyle Marcelli, Barrie, Canada, 2:09.012
12. GT, Austin Cindric, Charlotte, NC, 2:09.127
13. GTA, Martin Fuentes, Mexico City, Mexico, 2:09.168
14. GT, Adderly Fong, Hong Kong, 2:09.325
15. GT, Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, WI, 2:09.668
16. GTA, Michael Mills, Houston, TX, 2:09.976
17. GTA, Michael Schein, Glen Cove, NY, 2:10.333
18. GT, Andrew Davis, Athens, GA, 2:09.319
19. GTA, Drew Regitz, Denver, CO, 2:11.848
20. GT, Frankie Montecalvo, Highlands, NJ, 2:10.945
21. GT Cup, Alec Udell, The Woodlands, TX, 2:12.733
22. GT Cup, Sloan Urry, Park City, UT, 2:12.621
23. GT Cup, Will Hardeman, Austin, TX, 2:12.889
24. GTA, Walt Bowlin, Tarpon Springs, FL, 2:12.825
25. GTA, Jorge Torre, Mexico City, Mexico, 2:14.569
26. GT Cup, Corey Fergus, Columbus, OH, 2:14.797
27. GT Cup, Alex Welch, Englewood, CO, 2:14.728
28. GT Cup, Anthony Imperato, Batavia, OH, 2:15.550
29. GT Cup, Preston Calvert, Potomac, MD, 2:16.499
30. GT, Jon Fogarty, Bend, OR, 2:08.947
31. GT, James Sofronas, Villa Park, CA, 2:09.606
32. GT, Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, CA,
33. GTA, Joseph Toussaint, Houston, TX,