Kevin Estre, of Lochau, Austria, driving the No. 9 K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 claimed victory today in the GT class Round 7 race at the MOMO Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park presented by Porsche, part of the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama weekend. It is Estre's and McLaren's second win in Pirelli World Challenge this season. The GTA win went to Bryan Heitkotter, of Fresno, Calif., in the No. 05 Nissan GT Academy / Always Evolving / ReplayXD Nissan GT-R GT3. In GT-Cup presented by MOMO, Colin Thompson, of Doylestown, Pa., piloting the No. 11 Porsche of Bucks County / PenVal Porsche 911 GT3 CUP scored his second win of the weekend.
The 40-car field took to the 2.38-mile, 15-turn road course in sunny Birmingham with a race-time temperature of 77 degrees. From the standing start, pole sitter Robert Thorne, of Littleton, Colo., in the No. 6 K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 led the field in lap one with Estre second, followed by Ryan Dalziel, of Windermere, Fla., in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing World PMO Porsche 911 GT3R in third, Olivier Beretta, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, with his No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari Ontario-Toronto-Alberta fourth, and Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 2 CRP Racing DeVilbiss/Hawk Performance Audi R8 LMS Ultra in fifth.
In GTA, Frank Montecalvo, of Highlands, N.J, in the No. 66 Bayshore Racing DragonSpeed Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 led from class pole, third overall in GT. As the field bunched up attempting to get through turn 2, a number of cars contacted including the No. 66 and the No. 25 Blancpain Lamborghini Gallardo R_EX of Nicky Catsburg, of Voorthuizen, Netherlands. The contact resulted in a full-course caution and the retirement of Catsburg from the race. Montecalvo continued on after the contact but slipped to 6th overall in GT, first in GTA. Heitkotter was second in class, 13th overall, with Henrique Cisneros, of Miami, Fla., in the No. 30 MOMO NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia in third, 14th overall.
Thompson and the rest of the GT Cup class field had their standing start aborted for a stalled car ahead of them in GT. As such, Thompson, Sloan Urry, of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 02 Engel & Volkers TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, TX, in the No. 17 Amsource Capital/Panther Pipeline GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup held their grid positions throughout lap 1.
On lap three the race returned to green flag racing. The top five continued in order with notable moves forward by a couple of drivers. Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 moved from ninth to sixth and Ryan Eversley, of Atlanta, Ga, piloting the No. 43 RealTime Acura Motorsports / HPD Acura TLX-GT was up to seventh from his 13th starting position. In GTA, Montecalvo got away clean and still led Heitkotter and Cisneros, while Thompson led Urry and Udell in GT Cup.
The field settled into a prolonged green flag session and during this time the battle for the lead began to heat up. Estre in second was able to stay very close to Thorne but struggled to find a way past. Finally on lap 15, Estre made a decisive, clean move up the inside of Thorne in turns five and six. The move stuck and Estre was able to draw away slightly from Thorne once past. Estre was awarded the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race for his pass. In GTA and GT Cup the top three in each class held position, but Heitkotter began to catch Montecalvo in GTA. By lap 11, Heitkotter passed Montecalvo for the lead in class, with Cisneros remaining in third. Heitkotter's pass was awarded the Invisible Clean Pass of the Race.
The race was green all the way until lap 19 when O’Connell was headed into turn five when his No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R caught on fire. O’Connell bailed out and assisted the fire crew in extinguishing the flames. O’Connell was checked out at the Barber Motorsports Park infield medical center and released. During the same lap, Chris Dyson, of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., pulled the No. 16 Team Bentley Dyson Racing Bentley / Breitling / Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 off the track due to a mechanical issue. Clearing the No. 3 Cadillac took five laps and allowed the field to re-collect for a late restart.
Lap 25 saw the same top five move cleanly through turn one and after five laps the order of Estre, Thorne, Dalziel, Beretta, and Skeen took the checkered flag in that order in GT. In GTA, Montecalvo spun on the restart lap through turn 2, but was able to continue. Bret Curtis, of Austin, TX, in the No. 32 Turner Motorsport/SPECTRA Resources Corp/United Steel Supply/Valspar Paint BMW E89 Z4 GT3 and Tim Pappas, of Boston, Mass., in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3R gained positions and now were in 2nd and 3rd. In GT Cup, Thompson continued to lead, but Udell was able to get around Urry for second. The pass was awarded the MOMO GT Cup Turning Point of the Race.
Estre was able to take a 4.271 differential to the checkered. Michael Lewis, of Laguna Beach, Calif., took sixth place in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3R. It's Estre's second victory in the series with his earlier win coming at Circuit of the Americas in Round 2. In GTA, Heitkotter scored his first career Pirelli World Challenge win and second consecutive win for Nissan on the weekend (teammate JD Davison scored the Saturday Round 6 victory in GT). Thompson won his sixth GT Cup presented by MOMO race of the 2015 season, with a 2.959 differential over Udell, and a 4.387 differential over Urry.
Of note, Eric Lux, of Buffalo, N.Y., in the No. 08 DragonSpeed Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 Rembrandt Charms/Monticello Motor Club was awarded the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start gaining six positions when the lights went out for the standing start. Lux also won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger award for gaining 10 positions during the race.
"The start was pretty uneventful. We rolled off instead of taking a standing start due to a car stalling in front of us," said Thompson. "We took the green two corners from the start line. I was able to get a good run through the corner and I could focus on pulling out a gap. We have something good to base off of after winning a title last year in another series. Jeff Stone (Team Manager) is really doing a good job. We treat each race as if we’re hundreds of points behind and shoot for the win every time."
"It was a very good race for us," said Heitkotter. "We started this program late. So every race was a test session for us. We’re finally at the pace we expect to be. Big thanks to the crew, Mike especially given it’s his last race. Good for us to get a win for him. Car stayed very consistent throughout the stint. I pressured Montecalvo and Chris Dyson, they made a mistake and I capitalized. No doubt I am in a pretty big championship points hole. I reset my season after Long Beach. We look to finish as high as possible and see where the chips fall. Not a great start to the season but we’ve learned a lot since then. Quite a bit different than what I’ve been driving before. The class of cars and drivers is pretty amazing. It’s been a learning experience and we will go from here."
"So at first we got a good start, the first really good start of the season," said Estre. "We were to P2 before the first yellow flag. Robert (Thorne) and I were able to pull a gap from Dalziel on the next restart. Robert was faster at some parts and I was faster in other parts of the track. This track is not very easy to pass at and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. The only team order we have is no contact, or we’ll kill you. That was the deal. Finally I was able to brake later into Turn 5. He was clever enough not to turn. I saw Johnny’s car, really sorry for him. I had another great restart, pulled a gap of two seconds and just managed it. K-PAX Flying Lizard is a great team. We are back in the game now with some great points, and the other guys scored less. Really happy for the team. It’s been a tough two weeks but we are pleased to win."
Results are provisional until posted final. In GT, Beretta maintains a slim 10-point lead over Dalziel in GT (679-669), while Martin Fuentes leads in GTA with 337 points. Thompson continues to lead in GT Cup.
Rounds 6 and 7 of the GT/GTA, and GT Cup presented by MOMO class will air on CBS Sports Network on Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Teams and drivers now head to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada on May 15-17.
BIRMINGHAM, AL – Results from Saturday's 29-lap 69.02 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT/GTA/GT Cup Round 7 race, part of the MOMO Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park presented by Porsche, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses,driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GT, (5), Kevin Estre, Lochau Austria, McLaren 650S GT3, 29.
2. GT, (1), Robert Thorne, Littleton, Colo., McLaren 650S GT3, 29, -4.271.
3. GT, (6), Ryan Dalziel, Windermere, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3R, 29, -5.297.
4. GT, (7), Olivier Beretta, Monte Carlo, , Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 29, -6.639.
5. GT, (4), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 29, -7.330.
6. GT, (10), Michael Lewis(R), Laguna Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3R, 29, -8.564.
7. GT, (12), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac ATS-VR GT3, 29, -8.726.
8. GT, (11), Bryan Heitkotter(A), Fresno, Calif., Nissan GT-R GT3, 29, -9.080.
9. GT, (16), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TLX-GT, 29, -12.666.
10. GT, (14), Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif., Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 29, -13.563.
11. GT, (31), JD Davison, St Petersburg, Fla., Nissan GT-R GT3, 29, -13.914.
12. GT, (13), Ryan Eversley, Atlanta, Ga., Acura TLX-GT, 29, -14.430.
13. GT, (18), Bret Curtis(A), Austin, Texas, BMW E89 Z4 GT3, 29, -19.255.
14. GT, (20), Timothy Pappas(A), Boston, Mass., Dodge Viper GT3R, 29, -19.972.
15. GT, (19), Martin Fuentes(A), Mexico City, MX, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 29, -20.402.
16. GT, (15), Henrique Cisneros(A), Miami, Fla., Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 29, -20.722.
17. GT, (30), Eric Lux(A), Buffalo, N.Y., Mercedes Benz AMG SLS GT3, 29, -20.918.
18. GT, (23), Christina Nielsen(R)(A), Aarhus Denmark, , Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 29, -21.289.
19. GT, (17), James Sofronas, Pound Ridge, N.Y., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 29, -21.613.
20. GT, (21), Henrik Hedman(A), Ft Lauderdale, Fla., MercedesBenzAMG SLS GT3, 29, -21.856.
21. GT, (24), Jeff Courtney(A), Milwaukee, Wis., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 29, -25.996.
22. GT, (26), Drew Regitz(A), Denver, Colo., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 29, -26.284.
23. GT, (22), Dan Knox(A), Pilot Point, Texas, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 29, -29.342.
24. GT, (3), Frank Montecalvo(A), Highlands, N.J., Mercedes Benz AMG SLS GT3, 29, -29.972.
25. GT, (27), Bill Ziegler(A), Ponte Vedra, Fla., BMW E89 Z4 GT3, 29, -31.273.
26. GT, (29), Walt Bowlin(A), Tarpon Springs, Fla., Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 28, -1 lap.
27. GT, (28), Jorge De La Torra(A), Mexico, , Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 27, -2 lap.
28. GT, (25), Joseph Toussaint(R)(A), Houston, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3R, 26, -3 lap.
29. GT, (8), Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, N.Y., Bentley Continental GT3, 22, -7 lap.
30. GT, (9), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac ATS-VR GT3, 18, -11 laps.
31. GT, (2), Nick Catsburg, Voorthuizen NLD, , Lamborghini GallardoGT3FL2, 1, -28 laps.
32. GTC, (32), Colin Thompson, Doylestown, Pa., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29.
33. GTC, (34), Alec Udell, The Woodlands, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -2.959.
34. GTC, (33), Sloan Urry, Salt Lake City, Utah, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -4.387.
35. GTC, (35), Lorenzo Trefethen(R), Napa, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -9.141.
36. GTC, (36), Phil Fogg_Jr, Portland, Ore., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -9.306.
37. GTC, (38), Mitch Landry, Lake Charles, La., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -14.937.
38. GTC, (40), Victor Gomez(R), San Juan, Puerto Rico, Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 29, -20.050.
39. GTC, (37), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 28, -1:11.484.
40. GTC, (39), Eduardo Cisneros(R), Miami, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3 CUP, 28, -1 lap.
Time of race: 50 minutes, 46.654 seconds.
Average speed: 81.555 mph
Margin of victory: 4.271 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-14, #6 Robert Thorne; laps 15-29, #9 Kevin Estre
Fastest race lap: #9 Kevin Estre, 1:24.150 (101.818 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #6 Robert Thorne, 1:23.618 (102.466 mph)