Sunday, September 13, 2015

O'Connell, Cooper Win Pirelli World Challenge Championships

The two Pirelli World Challenge championships were decided at Laguna Seca on Sunday. One was settled quietly. The other was as dramatic of a finish to a season you could ever script.

Alessandro Balzan won the Pirelli World Challenge GT race with his NGT Motorsport teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi making it a 1-2 for the Ferrari team but while those two ran away with the race, the championship battle got physical.

Johnny O'Connell was running third with his main championship rival Olivier Beretta in fourth from 12th on the grid entering the final ten minutes of the race. Entering the corkscrew, Beretta made contact with O'Connell's Cadillac, causing both cars to spin. Beretta was able to get back underway quickly and took over third position while O'Connell sat idle and didn't getting back going until he had dropped to 14th position. Beretta was given a drive-through penalty and exited in seventh position with O'Connell still in 14th. The Monegasque driver needed to get to sixth with O'Connell in 14th and Beretta attempted to make a pass on the #42 Acura of Peter Cunningham for sixth exiting the final corner but the two made contact and forced Beretta off course. The #61 Ferrari came to a stop and his race was over.

O'Connell was able to continue and finish in 12th position and win his fourth consecutive Pirelli World Challenge GT championship. O'Connell is now tied with Randy Pobst for most PWC titles.

Ryan Dalziel finished third in the race with Andy Pilgrim finishing fourth. Michael Lewis rounded out the top five with Cunningham finishing sixth. James Davison was seventh ahead of Eric Lux and Bryan Heitkotter. Ryan Eversley rounded out the top ten with Frank Montecalvo finishing ahead of O'Connell in 11th.

O'Connell won four races in his fourth championship season and had five podiums.

Kris Wilson won his fifth race of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge GTS season but it was Michael Cooper who took the GTS championship with a tenth place finish. It is Cooper's first career championship and it is Blackdog Speed Shops third consecutive GTS championship. Wilson ends the season with the most victories in 2015.

The #07 Aston Martin of Wilson held off Jack Baldwin by 2.302 seconds as championship runner-up Andrew Aquilante finished third, a half second off Baldwin's Porsche. Ben Clucas finished fourth, just over ten seconds behind Wilson. The Chevrolet Camaro of Andy Lee rounded out the top five just ahead the Ford Mustang of Jack Roush, Jr. Derek Hill finished seventh in his first start of 2015 in the #27 Maserati. Dean Martin was eighth with Nick Esayian and Cooper rounding out the top ten.

Other notable finishers in GTS: The Maseratis of Jeff Courtney and Patrick Byrne finished 11th and 12th. Jon Fogarty finished 15th in his lone start in 2015. Kurt Rezzetano finished 17th. Freddie Hunt, Mark Wilkins and Vesko Kozarov were all involved in an accident on the starting grid. Wilkins stalled and Hunt had nowhere to go but the back of Wilkins' Kia. Kozarov was caught up after Hunt hit Wilkins into the path of the Bulgarians Nissan.

Michael Cooper won four races in 2015 with six podiums and nine top fives. He finished in the top ten in 15 of 17 races.