When ANSA Motorsports traveled to Ohio last week, no one knew that it would be a crazy week for the teams and drivers of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge championship. GTS Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship battles were heating up, as the series headed to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Honda Racing, part of the Honda Indy 200 weekend.
The action started on Thursday with a promoter test day and the first and only practice session scheduled in the afternoon. Brett Sandberg was one of the fastest drivers all day, and did a great job once again with his team’s engineers to prepare for qualifying.
Between Road America and Mid-Ohio, ANSA Motorsports did an excellent job rebuilding Bill Ziegler’s car, after the bad crash he sustained during round 11 at Road America. Ziegler came to Mid-Ohio happy and focused all day Thursday on setting up his car for the two rounds on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile, permanent road course.
On Friday, Sandberg, in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM-Bow GT4, captured the pole, his seventh of the season, for GTS Round 13 at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. His qualifying performance was excellent, since he was able to keep his direct championship rival, Lawson Aschenbach, behind him on the grid. Ziegler, driving the No. 9 ANSA Swisher Racing KTM X-Bow GT4, qualified 15th.
Drivers were ready to go racing Friday afternoon, when the weather decided to change everything. Due to heavy thunderstorms and lightning, race 1 (round 13) was postponed. It was announced later that the race will be rescheduled at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the season-finale weekend in October. Officials also decided that race 2 (round 14) will take place as scheduled on Saturday and that cars will be gridded, according to qualifying results.
On Saturday morning, Sandberg was ready to have a good race and hoping for his third win of the season. Unfortuntely the driver from Allendale, New Jersey, had a slow launch, allowing Aschenbach to pass before turn 1, while contact between Jade Buford and Jeff Courtney drew a yellow flag, as both cars left the track.
“I don’t know if it was the reflection of the sun on the light board, but I couldn’t see the first light. I never saw the initial set of lights come on, and I was late when the second set lit,” Sandberg announced after the race. “So I was sitting there waiting, when everyone took off. Jade (Buford) might have done the same thing, because he didn’t go either. And he got collected at the start (with Jeff Courtney). I fell back dramatically and had to work my way back into contention. I had a good race with Jack (Roush Jr.) for third, and I think his tires might have worn a little more with the bigger car. I was able to get into third at that point. I knew I needed to get by him between turns 4 and 12. Luckily I was able to and get back on the podium.”
Sandberg had to drive like a champion during the race to contend with the V8-GTS-powered cars. Earlier he made a move on Martin Barkey for fourth, then after quite a few laps of Roush Jr’s. holding off Sandberg for the third-place spot, he was finally able to take an inside line on turn 9 of lap 22 to capture third place. At the end, Sandberg scored his seventh podium finish of the season and kept the championship lead, with six races to go. Ziegler had a problem-free race and finished 13th.
Watch extended coverage of the Mid-Ohio GTS race on CBS Sports Network, Thursday, Aug. 11, at 10 p.m. EDT.
GTS competitors next hit the track at Utah Motorsports Campus on Aug. 12 for rounds 15 and 16.
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Photos by Chris Green, Copyright.