Parente Wins GT Class, Fuentes GTA Class in Pirelli World Challenge Race
Alvaro Parente won Sunday’s Pirelli World Challenge Round 5 race at the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Martin Fuentes won in GTA.
Parente was awarded the win after a post-race technical infraction led to a 10-second penalty being assessed to provisional race winner Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS.V.R. O’Connell has been awarded second place with Patrick Long taking third in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The race was held under sunny, 73-degree weather conditions. When the green flag flew, pole sitter Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650 GT3 drag raced door-to-door down the Shoreline Drive front straight with second-on-the-grid O’Connell. The two drivers went side by side through turn 1, with O’Connell’s machine grazing the tire wall on the outside of the turn. That allowed fourth-on-the-grid Long to move into second. Colin Thompson, who had started third, followed Long and slotted into third in his No. 13 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650 GT3. O’Connell made in through turn 1 in fourth.
Before the field could complete the first lap, James Sofronas, in the No. 14 GMG/Spyder/Mobil 1/Thermal Club GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R came together with Austin Cindric, in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650 GT3. The contact left the No. 6 machine wounded along the Seaside Way back straight. Race Control issued a full-course yellow. The safety car picked up the field with Parente, Long, Thompson, O’Connell and Andrew Palmer, in the No. 87 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3 rounding out the top 5.
In GTA, Frankie Montecalvo, who started 2nd in class and 12 overall in his No. 66 Dime R&D Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 moved into the lead over polesitter Fuentes in his No. 07 Hublot/Under Armour Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Fuentes had started 7th overall. The two drivers slotted into 12th and 13th overall when the yellow came out.
On the Lap 9 restart, Parente launched cleanly to lead the field down the long Shoreline Straight as Long moved to the outside looking for a way around the driver of the No. 9 machine. Parente made it through turn 1 in the lead, while O’Connell, who took an inside line on the restart was able to squeeze back into second exiting turn 1. On the completion of the lap, Parente, O’Connell, Long, and Palmer completed the top 4 as Thompson entered the pits with what appeared to be a cut tire. In GTA, Fuentes reclaimed the lead over Montecalvo on the restart.
On lap 11, Bryan Heitkotter, in the No. 05 Always Evolving/Replay XD Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R made contact with the tire wall in turn 1. A full-course caution was issued to remove the damaged 05 machine. At the yellow, Fuentes sloted into 10th overall maintaining the lead in GTA, while Montecalvo had dropped back to 13th overall and second in class.
Of note, Michael Cooper, the GT Championship points leader coming into the race weekend, started from the back of the field after not posting a time during Saturday’s qualifying session due to an engine breathing issue with his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. Cooper was on a charge and moved into 11th overall when the second caution of the race was issued.
With 21 minutes remaining, the race restarted and with a tremendous launch O’Connell rocketed to the lead around Parente. Through turn 1, Parente slotted into second in front of Long in third. O’Connell was awarded both the Cadillac Move of the Race and the Motortrendondemand.com Clean Pass of the Race. In GTA, Fuentes remained in the lead over Montecalvo, 12th overall in the race. Cooper continued his charge moving into 8th.
By lap 15, O’Connell pushed his lead to an 0.822 second gap over Parente, and a 2.455 second gap over Long. By lap 18, Cooper, had moved into 6th and began a battle with JD Davison, in the No. 33 Nissan/GT Academy Nissan GT3 GTR. Through turn 10, Cooper passed Davison to move into 5th. Cooper then set his sights on Palmer for fourth position and by lap 20 had closed on the driver of the No. 87 machine. On lap 21, Cooper and Palmer went door-to-door down the Shoreline Drive straight, but Palmer was able to hold 4th through turn 1. Cooper though kept the pressure on and took the inside line exiting turn 8 to win the drag race down the Seaside Way back straight to take 4th.
In GTA, Fuentes maintained his lead in class moving up to 9th overall in the race. On lap 23, Montecalvo was issued a drive through penalty for contact with Peter Cunningham, in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT. Tim Pappas, in the No. 54 Papent.com Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R moved into second in GTA.
On lap 26, Race Control issued a debris/fluid on track flag for turns 9 and 10. Soon after, Cooper’s ATS-V.R slid into the tire wall through turn 9 and the No. 8 car came into the pits for a mechanical issue ending his charge.
At the checkered, O’Connell crossed the line ahead of Parente by 1.138 seconds, with Long in third, 8.012 seconds behind Parente. Fuentes finished first in GTA and 8th overall with, Pappas second, and 11th overall. Newport, California’s Brent Holden, in the No. 44 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 finished third in class and 13th overall. The post-race technical infraction reversed first and second places in GT. Results are final. For Parente it’s his first career Pirelli World Challenge win. Fuentes continued his dominating season with his 5th consecutive GTA race win.
Of note, Davison was awarded the Optima Battery Best Start award for gaining seven positions. The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award went to Holden for gaining seven positions overall during the race.