Sweet Home Alabama! 50 Pirelli World Challenge Drivers Set to Compete at Beautiful Barber Motorsports ParkBIRMINGHAM, AL (press release) – Fifty Pirelli World Challenge drivers across the series' GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS classes are set to battle it out April 22-24 at the beautiful, yet challenging Barber Motorsports Park, part of the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama weekend. GT and GTA drivers will race Rounds 6 and 7, while GT Cup and GTS pilots race in Rounds 5 and 6 – part of the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Birmingham presented by Porsche. This weekend marks the third straight season PWC will compete at the picturesque 15-turn 2.38-mile permanent road course.
O'Connell leads Championship Heading into Birmingham – GT Preview
The Pirelli World Challenge GT class features some of the best sports car racing on the planet – over 10 world-renowned manufacturers including Acura, Audi, Bentley, Cadillac, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche are represented by some of the top drivers in the world.
Four-time and defending 2015 GT Driver's Champion Johnny O'Connell started the 2016 season with a win in Round 2 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). At Long Beach, O'Connell crossed the line first and was given the provisional win, but a post race technical inspection led to a 12-second penalty moving him back to second – still, O'Connell leads the Driver's Championship heading into Birmingham with 458 points. O'Connell will pilot the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3. O'Connell's teammate Michael Cooper, the 2015 GTS Driver's Champion, comes into the weekend third overall with 407 points following a Long Beach that he'd essentially like to forget. Cooper's Cadillac Racing No. 8 ATS-V.R GT3 encountered an engine breathing issue and he was unable to post a time in qualifying. Starting from the back of the field for Round 5, Cooper made a valiant effort to get to the front running as high as 4 th but ultimately had to settle for a 15th on the day after a mechanical issue pulled him out of the race.
You have to go back to 2011 to see another driver listed as the PWC GT champion. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long came out on top that season and he returns to the series to pilot the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long won Round 1 at Circuit of the Americas, and finished third at Long Beach in Round 5. He comes into the weekend sitting fifth in the standings with 363 points. Long's teammate is up-and-coming driver Michael Lewis in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Lewis scored back-to-back wins at St. Petersburg and sits second behind O'Connell with 417. Long and Lewis will not only look to dethrone O'Connell in 2016, but help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer's Champion in 2016. Porsche leads Cadillac 43 to 39 heading into the Birmingham weekend.
Nissan Motorsports and Always Evolving return with two GT-R GT3s for JD Davison and Bryan Heitkotter. Davison comes into the weekend sixth in Driver's Championship points – he will pilot the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3. Heitkotter will drive the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R and comes into the weekend 12th in the championship points standings.
K-PAX Racing returns with three McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, McLaren GT Academy Driver and 2015 GT Cup Driver's Champion Colin Thompson, and young up-and-comer Austin Cindric. Parente crossed the line second at Long Beach but was awarded the win after O'Connell's penalty was assessed. It was Parente's first career Pirelli World Challenge win. Coming into the weekend, Parente sits fourth overall with 398 points. Parente's impressive racing resume includes winning the 2005 British Formula 3 Championship, the 2007 World Series by Renault Championship and the 2015 International GT Open Championship – he will drive the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Thompson dominated in GT Cup last year winning 13 of 18 class races and will pilot the No. 13 K-PAX Racing machine. Cindric has raced in a number of series previously including Mazda's Road to Indy's USF2000 series and the Global Rally Cross Championship and will pilot the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Thompson sits 10th in the championship points standings.
Rising sportscar racer Kyle Marcelli will drive the No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8. Marcelli sits seventh overall in the GT Driver's Championship coming into the weekend.
Absolute Racing joins the series and will run two Bentley Continental GT3s with Adderly Fong and Andrew Palmer piloting the cars. Fong won the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup and was Vice Champion of the 2015 GT Asia series, while Palmer returns to PWC last competing in the series in 2014 – Palmer was the 2015 North American Endurance Cup (LMPC) Driver's Champion. Fong will drive the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, while Palmer drives the No. 87 machine. Palmer currently sits ninth in the championship.
Sports car veteran Jon Fogarty enters his second year in PWC in the No. 99 Gainsco Auto Insurance /Bob Stallings Racing McLaren 650S. Fogarty's impressive racing resume includes 16 career Rolex Series victories, while being the 2007 and 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Co-Champion. Fogarty finished 3 rd in Round 2 at COTA.
Calvert Dynamics Racing enters the No. 78 Phoenix Performance Porsche 911 GT3 R for Andrew Davis. Davis comes off a 2015 campaign that saw him co-drive the championship-winning car in the GS Class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship. Among many racing accomplishments, the Athens, Georgia resident has an extensive history with Porsche, winning the 2011 Rolex GT Championship for the German manufacturer.
Seven-time series Driver's Champion Peter Cunningham owns almost every statistical record in the series and will look to add to it in 2016 behind the wheel of the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing's Acura TLX-GT. Cunningham's teammate Ryan Eversley finished sixth overall in the GT Championship in 2015 – he will run the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT. An additional note on the Acura TLX-GT – the platform is now in line with FIA GT3 standards and moves from an all-wheel to a rear-wheel drive platform matching all of the other platforms in the GT class.
Fuentes Continues Dominance after Winning at Long Beach – GTA Class Preview
The GTA driver classification recognizes gentlemen drivers competing in GT class machinery. At season's end, the GTA driver that accumulates the most points will be awarded the GTA Championship and the Sportsman Cup presented by B.R.M Chronographes. Along with the cup, a B.R.M championship chronograph will go to the champion.
Martin Fuentes has started the season in dominate fashion winning all five races to date. He enters the weekend leading the GTA Driver's Championship with 550 points and will pilot the No. 07 Hublot, Under Armour Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
The 2015 GTA Driver's Champion Frankie Montecalvo sits second in the championship with 454 points and will pilot the No. 66 DIME Racing Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Montecalvo put together a dominating second half of 2015 winning seven of the final nine races and will be sure to challenge Fuentes throughout the 2016 season.
The GTA field also includes Jorge De La Torre in the No. 4 De La Torre Racing Motor Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3. De La Torre sits third in the GTA championship coming into the Barber weekend. Rounding out the seven-car GTA field are Michael Schein in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, Drew Regitz in the No. 19 iRACERCOACHING.com Audi R8 LMS GT3, Joe Toussaint, in the No 90 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 911 GTR, while Walt Bowlin and Larry Pegram share duites in the No. 23 M1 GT Racing Audi R8 GT3.
Urry and Udell Set to Continue Duel at Barber – GT Cup Preview
Entering its sophomore season in 2016, GT Cup is a spec class featuring drivers piloting the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Sloan Urry, in the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup comes into Barber having won three of the first four races – he sits atop the GT Cup Driver's Championship standings heading into this weekend with 456 points.
Up-and-coming driver Alec Udell, piloting the No. 19 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup also looks to make a push for the podium at Barber. Udell won in Round 1 at COTA, his fourth career PWC win. He comes into the St. Pete weekend second in GT Cup points with 404.
Corey Fergus, the 2015 TC Driver's Champion, has moved up into the class and will pilot the No. 00 Byers Porsche, US LED, Motul Motorsports Promotions machine. Fergus had an impressive 2015 campaign scoring three TC wins and 13 top 5 finishes. He sits fourth in class driver's championship points.
Preston Calvert returns in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Calvert sits third in the GT Cup standings.
Sandberg and Aschenbach Lead Class Heading into Barber – GTS Class Overview
The GTS class has featured some of the best wheel-to-wheel competition seen in racing in recent years. And 2016 will be no different with any of six or seven different drivers piloting machinery from any of six or seven different manufacturers having a shot to win a GTS race.
ANSA Autosport is one of a number of teams debuting a new platform in PWC in 2016. Brett Sandberg pilots the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 – Sandberg won Round 2 at COTA and comes into the weekend leading the GTS Driver's Championships standings with 396 points. Teammate Dore Chaponick Jr. will pilot the No. 12 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4.
With defending GTS Driver's Champion Cooper moving up to GT, four-time series and two-time GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach will pilot the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28. Since 2013, a Blackdog Chevy has claimed the GTS Championship – Aschenbach did so in 2013 and 2014, with Cooper winning in 2015. Aschenbach got off to a good start at COTA winning Round 1 and finished second in Round 2 and sits second in the GTS Driver's Championship standings heading into the weekend. He will team with series veteran Tony Gaples who will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Z28. Gaples made his 151th career start earlier this year at COTA.
Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302, and 16-year-old phenom Nate Stacy in the No. 14 Rehagen Racing/Stacy Racing machine team up to lead the Ford charge. Roush won back-to-back at St. Petersburg and comes into the weekend fifth. Stacy had a good start to the 2016 season finishing second in Round 1 and fourth in Round 2 and comes into the weekend fourth with 332 points. Roush and Stacy as well look to help Ford win its second consecutive Manufacturer's Championship in 2016 – coming into the weekend Ford leads the championship.
TRG-AMR brings an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 to the GTS battle with Derek DeBoer and Jason Alexandridis sharing duties in the No. 09 car.
JCR Motorsports and Jeff Courtney lead a number of teams bringing the Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 into the series – Courtney will pilot the No. 99 RecStuff.com, Kenda machine. Ron Ballard will pilot No. 93 AK&J Sealants RT Motorsports Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4.
Yet another team bringing a new platform to PWC is the Performance Motorsports Group. Fifteen-year-old Rookie Parker Chase will pilot the team's No. 19 Ginetta GT4. Parker has had a good start to the season and sits third in the class driver's championship with 344 points.
Rounding out the 23-car field is Kevin Marshall, in the No. 44 VSA Motorsports Lotus GT4, Mark Klenin, in the No. 62 Schomp/Premiere Copy Klenin Performance Racing Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4, Anthony Mantella in the No. 8 Gulf KTM X-Bow GT4, teammate Martin Barkey in the No. 80 MBRP Sportlab Sawmill Creative car, John Allen in the No. 16 John Allen Racing John Allen Racing/Itech/FahrenheitIT/Bilt Racing Service/CSF/Isringhausen/Joe Gibbs Oil Porsche Cayman, Harry Gottsacker, in the No. 29 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4, a to be announced driver in the No. 45 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN Cars SIN R1 GT4, Scott Dollahite, in the No. 46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora, a to be announced driver in the No. 54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN Cars/Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4, Alline Cipriani, in the No. 55 Ginetta USA Ginetta GT4, Birmingham native Clint Guthrie in the No. 66 Racing for Children's / Medical Properties Trust Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo, Dave Ricci in the No. 71 Breathless Racing Southeast Guardrail Chevrolet Camaro and teammate Ernie Francis, Jr. in the No. 98 Breathless Racing/Beta Tools/Liquid Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302.
Event/Circuit: Barber Motorsports Park, 15-turn 2.38-mile road course
Qualifying: Thursday, April 21 5:15 PM – 5:45 PM, GTS Qualifying
Saturday, April 23 8:45 AM – 9:30 AM, GT-GTA-GT Cup Qualifying
Race Lengths: 50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS)
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com ):
Friday, April 22 1:15 – 2:10 PM GTS Race # 1
Saturday, April 23 9:45 – 10:45 AM GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 1
1:45 – 2:45 PM GTS Race #2
Sunday, April 24
9:15 – 10:15 AM GT-GTA-GT Cup Race # 2
All times listed above Central