Touring Car championships at stake this weekend at MRLS; TC Rounds 11 and 12 40-minute races expected to be thrilling
All 3 TC Classes up for grabs on Saturday at the legendary road circuit
SALINAS, Calif. – It will be championship weekend for the three Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car classes at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca when 50 drivers and cars compete in the 40-minute Rounds 11 and 12 Saturday (Oct. 14). The season finales for TC are part of the California 8 Hours SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge race weekend schedule.
With the large overall number of TC entries, the Touring Car and TCA/TCB divisions will battle in separate events as 29 entries are scheduled in the TC events set for Saturday at 9:50 a.m. PDT (Round 11) and 4 p.m. PDT (Round 12) with 21 drivers set in the TCA/TCB features at 9 a.m. and 2:05 p.m. PDT.
“It should be an exciting weekend for our Touring Car competitors at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” said Jim Jordan, TC class manager for the Pirelli World Challenge. “It is always pressure paced when the point titles come down to the final weekend. It’s been a great year for TC racing and we expected that aspect to continue this weekend. The racing should be awesome.”
In the TC category, Paul Holton holds an eight-point advantage over Nick Wittmer with Greg Liefooghe and defending series champion Toby Grahovec still in contention. In TCA, the S.A.C. Racing teammates – Matthew Fassnacht and Elivan Goulart – are fighting for the 2017 points title with three drivers – Jake Pipal, P.J. Groenke and Canaan O’Connell – just three points apart in the TCB class.
Action begins Thursday with track testing while official practice and qualifying is scheduled for Friday.
Touring Car Preview – Holton in championship fight with Wittmer, Liefooghe and Grahovec
A 29-car Touring Car field is set to take to the famed 2.238-mile, 11-turn Northern California road circuit with manufacturers represented by Audi, BMW, Honda, Mazda and Nissan.
Holton, who turns 21 on October 11, brings the Touring Car point lead to Mazda Raceway after driving the No. 71 Pfaff C360R Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport sedan to two race victories and three runner-up finishes. Holton holds an eight-point advantage entering the final two TC events.
“My head is down and I am ready to execute at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” said Holton from Orlando, Fla., “Eight points isn’t an ideal lead in the championship, but it’s what I have to work with. Compass Racing knows how to win championships and I expect that knowledge from the team to give us an advantage come the end of the weekend.”
Holton’s point total of 183 currently leads the TC standings trailed by Wittmer at 175, Liefooghe at 162 and Grahovec at 156.
Wittmer, the veteran racer from Montreal, Que., Can., scored his first 2017 victory in No. 91 ST Racing BMW M235iR in Round 8 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on Labor Day weekend. Nick also has three second places and one third so far in 2017.
Liefooghe, the San Francisco racer, is the winningest TC driver this year with four wins in the No. 20 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M235iR. Greg recorded victories at VIR, Utah (twice) and COTA. He also has one second place and two pole positions in 2017.
Grahovec, whose Classic BMW racing operation has run up to five cars at a race this year, won the TC title last year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and brings his No. 1 Classic BMW BMW M235iR back with another shot at the title.
Other TC contenders at the PWC season finale races will be 2016 TC ‘Rookie of the Year” Anthony Geraci, of Glen Cove, N.Y., who won a pole position at VIR in the new No. 69 S.A.C. Racing Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport sedan as well as young (age 19) Mason Filippi of Alamo, Calif., who has a TC victory in CTMP in his No. 12 Winding Road Team BMW M235iR. Filippi is current fifth in TC points.
Currently in sixth in TC points is Anthony Magagnoli, in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing/FCP Euro BMW M235iR, who has recorded two podium finishes in his last four events.
The 29-car Touring Car field also features Jayson Clunie in the No. 2 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; former TC winner Vesko Kozarov in the No. 3 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z; John Weisberg of Webster, N.Y., in the No. 5 REDCOM Laboratories/Micro Precision Components/BERG Racing Mazda MX–5; Rodrigo Sales, in the No. 8 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M235iR; Randy Hale in the No. 17 Hale Motorsports Mazda MX-5; Aristotle Balogh in the No. 19 ART Racing BMW M235iR; J.W. Roberts in the No. 26 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; past TCB series champion Johan Schwartz in the 28 AutoTechnic Racing BMW M325iR; Justin Raphael, in the No. 29 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; former race winner Travis Washay in the No. 30 Indian Summer Racing Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport; Tony Rivera in the No. 34 Brass Monkey Racing Nissan 370Z; college student Samantha Tan in the No. 38 ST Racing/GPI Inc./Laurel BMW of Westmont, Ill., BWM M235iR; Mark Drennan in the No. 54 Hooverspeed Mazda MX-5; Steve Bottom in the No. 58 Steve Bottom Racing Nissan 370Z; Scott Thomas in the No. 82 AutoTechnic BMW M235iR; Henry Schmitt, in the No. 87 in the BMW of San Francisco BMW M235iR; Chris Ohmacht, in the No. 92 Classic BMW Motorsports BMW M235iR; Joshua Foran in the No. 93 Team HMA Honda Accord; Karl Wittmer, in the No. 99 Honda Ste-Rose Honda Accord; Jason Coupal of Rochester, N.Y., in the No. 009 REDCOM Laboratories/Micro Precision Components/BERG Racing Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport.and Daren Jorgensen in the No. 065 Rearden Racing BMW M235iR.
TCA Preview – S.A.C. Racing teammates Fassnacht and Goulart battle for title showdown
Six different drivers have won TCA races in the first ten events including the two challengers for the 2017 points crown –Fassnacht and Goulart, both in S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-R Cup cars.
Fassnacht, the Madison, N.J., veteran, holds a 12-point lead over the 2016 TCA champion Goulart from Shelton, N.J. He began the 2017 PWC season with double victories at VIR and has made the podium five additional times (3 seconds, 2 thirds) for point lead entering the MRLS doubleheader set for Saturday.
Goulart, 37, was impressive in 2016 with five wins and 12 top-five placings in securing his first PWC title and returned in 2017 with two victories and four runner-up finishes.
With Fassnacht and Goulart dueling for the TCA crown, past 2017 winners such as Kenny Murillo of Santa Rosa, Calif., Tom O’Gorman of Mason, Ohio, and Shea Holbrook of Orlando, Fla., (both in Shea Racing Honda Civic Si cars) could be contenders at MRLS this weekend. Murillo has won three times including one at Utah and twice at COTA in the Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup.
Other to contend in the TCA division will be Kevin Anderson of Huntington Station, N.Y.; Paul Whiting of Las Vegas, Nev., Tim Probert of Houston, Tex., Daniel Moen of Rindge, N.H., Cameron Parsons of Santa Ana, Calif., and Jeff Sexton of Austin, Tex.
TCB Preview – Pipal, Groenke and O’Connell just 3 points apart for championship
In the TCB class, only three points separate the point leader Pipal, Groenke and O’Connell with two 40-minute races remaining in the 2017 PWC schedule. All three have won in 2017 and expect some tough racing in both Saturday contests.
Pipal, the 19-year-old from nearby Oakdale, Calif., is a regular at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, having come through the open-wheel ranks. Jake has collected 220 points with three wins this year in his No. 6 Pipal Racing Honda Fit.
Groenke, the Richmond Hills, Ont., Canada, veteran, and O’Connell of Chandler, Ariz., son of four-time PWC GT champion Johnny O”Connell, come to MRLS driving identical TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonics (No. 25 and No. 24 respectively). Groenke has 218 points with one win, while O’Connell has 217 points and five victories in 2017. Either driver could take home the TCB title Saturday afternoon.
Also contending with the three TCB point leaders will be Blake Thompson of Oak Creek, Wis., James Wilson of Kyle, Tex., Taylor Handwerk of Jim Thorpe, Pa., Jasper Drengler of Shawano, Wis., and Stephanie Andersen of Racine, Wis.
The Touring Car class champions will be honored on Saturday evening, Oct. 14, at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, Calif.
All Touring Car races from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be available for viewing on www.MotorTrendOnDemand.com and www.world-challenge.com.
2.238-mile, 11-turn permanent road circuit
Qualifying: (All times listed are PDT)
Friday, October 13, 2017
2:40 PM – 2:55 PM Pirelli World Challenge TCA/TCB
2:55 PM – 3:10 PM Pirelli World Challenge TC
Races: (All times listed are PDT)
Live Internet Telecast (on motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com):
Saturday, October 14, 2017
9:00 AM – 9:40 AM Pirelli World Challenge – TCA/TCB Round 11 Race (40 minutes)
9:50 AM – 10:30 AM Pirelli World Challenge – TC Round 11 Race (40 minutes)
2:05 PM – 2:45 PM Pirelli World Challenge – TCA/TCB Round 12 Race (40 minutes)
4:00 PM – 4:40 PM Pirelli World Challenge – TC Round 12 Race (40 minutes)
40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)
Television (on CBS Sports Network): All times listed re: CBS broadcasts are Eastern.
TC/TCA/TCB: October 25, 8:00 p.m.