Ferrari First and Second in GT class, Cadillac wins title

No. 29 MOMO/NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia wins from pole

The Pirelli World Challenge season came to a close with a dominating performance by a pair of Ferrari 458 Italias during Sunday afternoon’s race at Laguna Seca in Salinas, California.

The pair of MOMO/NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italias locked out the front row in qualifying. Making their first Pirelli World Challenge start of the season, Alessandro Pier Guidi took pole position with Alessandro Balzan qualifying in second position. When the lights went green for the standing start of Sunday’s 50-minute race, Balzan took the lead in the no. 29 MOMO/NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia and held it all the way to the checkered flag.

Pier Guidi finished right behind in second position in the no. 30 MOMO / NGT Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia, and set the fastest lap of the race. The duo were well clear of the rest of the field, with Pier Guidi finishing 24 seconds ahead of the third-placed car.

Olivier Beretta, in the no. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia, entered the weekend in contention for the driver’s championship. After qualifying in twelfth position, Beretta advanced to third but was slowed with a penalty in the closing stages of the race. He would ultimately retire from the race with a few minutes remaining. Despite the result, Beretta finished the season in second position in the GT championship, with three victories.

Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O'Connell survived the Pirelli World Challenge Series Monterey Grand Prix presented by Cadillac season finale to win his fourth consecutive GT drivers' championship.

Johnny O'Connell celebrates
Johnny O'Connell celebrates
Bob Chapman for Cadillac Racing

O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) took the standing start from his fifth place qualifying position. Coming across the line to complete the first lap of the 50-minute timed race he was in second position, with his championship protagonist, Olivier Beretta, No. 61 Ferrari in seventh. As the raced progressed Beretta began to pick off competitors coming from seventh to behind the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R of O'Connell on lap 16, 27-minutes into the race. Over the next eight laps Beretta was charging after O'Connell. On lap 24, as the pair of championship challengers were coming through the famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Corkscrew turns, Beretta hit O'Connell spinning them both. Beretta was able to get his Ferrari restarted quicker as he rejoined the race. O'Connell restarted his ATS-V.R and rejoined the race in 14th. A few laps later Beretta was called in by the SCCA officials to perform a drive-thru penalty. However, he rejoined still in a strong points paying position ahead of O'Connell. On lap 32 as Beretta was feverishly trying to make-up positions he had contact with the Acura of P.D. Cunningham in the final turn forcing the Italian to pull his Ferrari off track, handing O'Connell his fourth championship in as many years.

"What a crazy race," O'Connell said. "I was able to get a great start. I didn't think I was going to be able to get Dalziel (Ryan, No. 31 Porsche). When we went into Turn 2 I was behind the silver Ferrari and the red one got into me a little. I was surprised how fast Olivier was coming through the field. I knew he would get to me. But getting there and getting bye is two different things. I was minding my tires as best as I could while digging as hard as I could. I wasn't sure what he was thinking behind the wheel there in the Corkscrew. He took us both out. He wasn't really close to me. When we crested the hill he was four or five cars back. It was a Hail Mary move. I didn't get brushed I got drilled. There was so much time left, he just had to bide his time. The Cadillac Racing guys build a strong car. When I got back going the car was good and still quick. I was thinking he was going to get a penalty and he did.

"I am proud of everyone at Cadillac Racing. This whole team is made up of Joe Montana's, we are a fourth quarter team.

"We had some adversity this year, the crash at Long Beach while running upfront. I had a car that could of won that race. When I got taken out, I got a huge fine and hit in the points. Then at Barber we were running fast and burned a car down. The spirit of the team came to the front at that point. What people don't see is the hundreds of thousands of hours that the Cadillac Racing crew put into those race cars. I am just the guy who gets to put it on display for 100-minutes on the race weekend."

Jim Campbell, GM vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsport, said "Johnny and the No. 3 ATS-V.R team's focus, determination and never-give-up approach made the difference, right down to the last lap of the season. We are so proud of O'Connell's fourth consecutive championship. His win in the all-new ATS-V.R makes the championship extra special."

Campbell added, "the ATS-V.R's LF4.R 3.6 liter direct injected, twin turbo V6 delivered the right combination of power, reliability and efficiency to help Johnny race to the championship."

Cadillac Racing program manager David Caldwell said, "what a season! We introduced the all-new Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 into competition at St. Pete. We had some adversity throughout the season when Johnny was forced into the spare car for three races. Through hard racing and a great team of professionals from Cadillac Racing, GM Powertrain and everyone involved on the marketing side Johnny was able to win his fourth drivers' championship."

Results from Sunday's 35 lap 78.329 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT/GTA/GT Cup Round 20 race, part of the Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Presented by Cadillac, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GT, (2), Alessandro Balzan, Rovigo, Italy, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 35.
2. GT, (1), Alessandro PierGuidi, Tortona, Italy, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 35, -2.760.
3. GT, (3), Ryan Dalziel, Windermere, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3R, 35, -26.819.
4. GT, (6), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac ATS-VR GT3, 35, -27.409.
5. GT, (8), Michael Lewis(R), Laguna Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3R, 35, -28.664.
6. GT, (9), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TLX-GT, 35, -41.198.
7. GT, (13), JD Davison, St Petersburg, Fla., Nissan GT-R GT3, 35, -48.641.
8. GT, (14), (A)Eric Lux, Buffalo, N.Y., Mercedes Benz AMG SLS GT3, 35, -55.910.
9. GT, (17), Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno, Calif., Nissan GT-R GT3, 35, -58.705.
10. GT, (11), Ryan Eversley, Atlanta, Ga., Acura TLX-GT, 35, -1:05.035.
11. GT, (16), (A)Frank Montecalvo, Highlands, N.J., Mercedes Benz AMG SLS GT3, 35, -1:05.711.
12. GT, (5), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac ATS-VR GT3, 35, -1:07.462.
13. GT, (7), Kevin Estre, Lochau Austria, , McLaren 650S GT3, 35, -1:10.890.
14. GT, (19), Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif., Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 35, -1:13.745.
15. GT, (18), (A)Christina Nielsen(R), Aarhus Denmark, , Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 35, -1:14.667.
16. GT, (20), Robert Thorne, Littleton, Colo., McLaren 650S GT3, 35, -1:16.173.
17. GT, (10), Guy Smith, Beverly UK, UK, Bentley Continental GT3, 35, -1:18.121.
18. GT, (23), Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, N.Y., Bentley Continental GT3, 35, -1:19.008.
19. GT, (25), (A)Mike Hedlund, Woodside, Calif., Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 35, -1:24.336.
20. GT, (22), (A)Timothy Pappas, Boston, Mass., Dodge Viper GT3R, 35, -1:25.466.
21. GT, (26), (A)Bret Curtis, Austin, Texas, BMW E89 Z4 GT3, 35, -1:26.038.
22. GT, (21), James Sofronas, Pound Ridge, N.Y., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 35, -1:38.072.
23. GT, (27), (A)Drew Regitz, Denver, Colo., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 34, -1 lap.
24. GT, (15), (A)Martin Fuentes, Mexico City, Mexico, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 34, -1 lap.
25. GT, (24), (A)Henrik Hedman, Ft Lauderdale, Fla., MercedesBenzAMG SLS GT3, 34, -1 lap.
26. GT, (28), (A)Alex Welch, Englewood, Colo., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 34, -1 lap.
27. GT, (4), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 34, -1 lap.
28. GT, (12), Olivier Beretta, Monte Carlo, , Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 31, -4 lap.
29. GT, (29), (A)Jorge De La Torra, Mexico, , Aston Martin Vantage V12, 31, -4 lap.
30. GTC, (30), Colin Thompson, Doylestown, Pa., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 34.
31. GTC, (32), Sloan Urry, Salt Lake City, Utah, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 34, -8.239.
32. GTC, (31), Alec Udell, The Woodlands, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 33, -14.616.
33. GTC, (33), Lorenzo Trefethen(R), Napa, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 33, -58.310.
34. GTC, (35), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 33, -1 lap.
35. GTC, (34), Victor Gomez(R), San Juan, Puerto Rico, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 33, -1 lap.
36. GTC, (36), Mitch Landry, Lake Charles, La., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 32, -2 lap.

Time of race: 50 minutes, 39.076 seconds.
Average speed: 92.787 mph
Margin of victory: 2.760 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-35, #29 Alessandro Balzan
Fastest race lap: #30 Alessandro PierGuidi, 1:25.087 (94.689 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #30 Alessandro PierGuidi, 1:23.734 (96.219 mph)

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