SALINAS, Calif. – An incredible GT points fight between veterans Alvaro Parente and Patrick Long headlines the season-ending Pirelli World Challenge Championships presented by Nissan this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
One hundred and twenty-two Pirelli World Challenge drivers are entered for the 2016 finale this coming weekend and champions across the series’ eight classes will be officially crowned as part of the blockbuster Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Grand Prix presented by Nissan.
GT and GTA drivers will race round 20, while GT Cup pilots are set to race in round 19. SprintX rounds five and six will run, while rounds 18 and 19 are scheduled in GTS. TC, TCA and TCB classes will run rounds 11 and 12. The weekend marks the 15th time the series will race at the 11-turn 2.238-mile road course.
With more than 10 world–renowned manufacturers represented by some of the top drivers in the world, the GT class features some of the best sports car racing on the planet. Sixteen drivers are entered for this weekend’s season finale race.
With only one race left in the GT season and only nine points separating the two main protagonists in the battle for the class driver’s championship, it all comes down to this coming weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
McLaren Factory driver Parente enters the weekend with 1,554 points and will look to add to an already impressive trophy mantle that includes 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.
Parente leads over Porsche factory driver Long, the 2011 GT drivers champion, who comes into the weekend second in GT driver points with 1,545. Long will pilot the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Wright Motorsports.
Long also looks to help Porsche repeat as GT Manufacturer’s Champions in 2016 – Porsche comes into the weekend only one point behind McLaren.
K–PAX Racing is also bringing two McLaren 650S GT3s for McLaren GT Academy Driver and reigning GT Cup drivers champion Colin Thompson, as well as young up–and–comer Austin Cindric.
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 the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Championship and the Global Rallycross Championship, and will pilot the No. 6 K–PAX Racing McLaren 650S.
Cindric scored his first career PWC pole earlier this season at Mid-Ohio and scored two more poles at Sonoma. In addition, he recently captured an ARCA stock car victory at Kentucky Speedway.
If Parente and Long falter, Cadillac teammates Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper will be ready to pounce.
Four–time and defending GT champion O’Connell sits only 104 points behind Parente. The Cadillac Factory driver comes into the weekend on a roll after winning both races at Sonoma, and he will need to match that performance if he hopes to win his fifth series championship with the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS–V.R GT3.
O’Connell’s teammate Cooper also has a shot at the championship – the reigning GTS champion comes into the weekend tied with O’Connell in points. Cooper will drive the No. 8 Cadillac Racing ATS–V.R GT3.
At Sonoma, Martin Fuentes scored his seventh second-place finish of the season to secure the GTA championship and the Sportsman Cup presented by B.R.M Chronographes. Along with the cup, Fuentes will collect a B.R.M championship chronograph at the awards banquet following the finale weekend at Laguna Seca.
Fuentes will look to add to an impressive season, having already scored nine wins. He will pilot the No. 07 Hublot/Under Armour /Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, has spent the second half of the season on a charge closing the gap on Fuentes, winning eight of the last 12 races. Schein has locked up a second place finish in the GTA points race and will look to close out the season with a strong result.
Jorge De La Torre returns to the series after injuries sustained in an incident in a warm-up session at Lime Rock put him on the sidelines. De La Torre will pilot the No. 4 Delgac LLC/De La Torre Racing Motor Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3.
GT Cup is a spec class with drivers piloting the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, and the 2016 season has featured a tremendous battle between two young, up–and–coming sportscar talents.
Alec Udell posted an impressive 12 wins this season behind the wheel of his No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and mathematically clinched the class championship at Sonoma. He moves over this weekend to compete in SprintX.
Sloan Urry has put together another tremendous campaign in Pirelli World Challenge GT Cup competition and will, for the second year in a row, finish second overall in the championship. He will pilot the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup this weekend and looks to notch his sixth win of the season.