The Pirelli World Challenge Sports Car series took to the downtown waterfront streets of Saint Petersburg, Florida for rounds three, and four of its 11 event, 20 round championship season. A total of 61 race cars, in four classes, (GT, GTA, GT- Cup, and GTS) made the trip to the sunshine state to contest the Cadillac Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg.
The Pirelli World challenge is fast becoming one of the premier sports car racing series in North America, the 50 minute sprint race format, and the Formula 1 style standing starts, are fan favorites wherever the series competes. The race cars are also very, fan friendly, featuring a number of manufacturers that fans can easily identify with; cars that you see on the street every day, in all, over 19 brands are represented within the series.
Action started early Friday morning when the GTS cars took to the starting grid for round three of the championship season. Dean Martin from Westland, Michigan, driving the #50 ReHagen Racing, Ford Mustang, posted the fastest qualifying time with a lap of 1:19.001and would start from the pole. Spencer Pumpelly from Atlanta, Georgia, also in a Ford Mustang, would fill the front row of the grid.
When the lights went out, Martin got a great launch and lead the field into the tight right hand turn one, Kurt Rezzetano in another Ford Mustang, came from his sixth starting position to second immediately behind Martin, as they negotiated through turn one. Pumpelly, who started alongside Martin, fell into third behind Rezzetano. The three drivers swapped the lead among themselves over the course of the 50 minute event, but when the checkers waved, it was Martin earning his fifth career, Pirelli World Challenge victory, Rezzetano finished a scant .686 seconds behind Martin for second, and Pumpelly took the final spot on the podium.
Martinson, who had made significant contact with the concrete wall in turn four. On the ensuing restart, Pumpelly held the top spot, followed closely by Martin and Rezzetano. Rezzetano’s teammate, Andrew Aquilante was able to get by Rezzetano and set out to catch Pumpelly and Martin. On lap 18, Martin slid wide in turn one, opening the door for both Aquilante, and Rezzetano to motor by. Pumpelly held off the charge of the Calvert Dynamics Ford Mustang teammates, and scored his first ever Pirelli World Challenge Victory. Aquilante finished second, with teammate Rezzetano taking third place honors. Round three winner, Dean Martin recovered to finish fourth.Round four of the GTS class championship series, saw the three drivers again, up front and battling for the top position. A full course yellow came out on lap three for Dan
Round three for the GT, GTA, and the GT-Cup would find 41 cars on the starting grid. After a wet qualifying session late Friday afternoon, Ryan Eversley, in the Real Time/Accura Motorsports, TLX-GT Accura posted the best time of 1:23.434. Conditions were very different as the cars went to the grid Saturday morning, the sun was shining brightly, temperatures were comfortable, and the track was dry and a bit slick. Eversley would launch his Accura from the pole, with Kevin Estre in the K-PAX McLaren just to his right starting second.
When the starter’s lights went out, Eversley jumped out front with third place starter, Ryan Dalziel on his rear bumper, Estre would slot into third. Farther back in the field, the Ferrari of Henrique Cisneros stalled at the start, and was collected by five other competitors just short of the start/finish line, bringing out a full course caution. After a lengthily delay to remove the wrecked cars, and clean the racing surface, the field went back to green. Eversley maintained his lead over the Porsche 911 of Dalziel, and Johnny O’Connell in the ATS-VR GT3 Cadillac. With only a few minutes remaining in the allotted 50 minute sprint race, Eversley continued to lead with Dalziel second, and Mike Skeen in an Audi R8 LMS running third, Skeen was able to get by the Cadillac of O’Connell in turn one.
The race finished under a full course caution for the Nissan GT-R of Bryan Heitkotter, after he lost control and backed hard into the third turn wall. Eversley drove under the yellow and checkered flag to secure the victory in the GT class, Dalziel, and Skeen finished second and third respectfully. The Porsche 911 GTR3 of Michael Lewis took the GTA win, and Phil Fogg, in the Zoro, GT3 Cup Porsche 911 secured the GT Cup victory.
Pilgrim on the provisional pole, Nick Catsburg from Voorthuizen, Netherlands in a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 starting second, and the bright red Ferrari of Oliver Beretta, from Monte Carlo rounding out the top three starting positions. As the lights on the starters stand flickered out, the field roared into the tight, right hand turn one. Beretta made an excellent start from his third place starting position, and came out on top exiting turn one, Catsburg was tucked tightly under the rear of Beretta’s Ferrari, and Pole sitter Pilgrim was relegated to fifth place after going three wide with Ryan Dalziel, and Kevin Estre through turn one.Round four of the Cadillac Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg had the Pretty, Black Cadillac ATS-VR GT3 of series veteran Andy
When the field came down the to complete lap one, it was Beretta, Catsburg, and Estra holding the top three positions. As the drivers dove into turn one on the second lap, Estra moved to the inside of Catsburg for second place, as the three cars came out of turn one, they were hard on the binders to avoid the nearly, track blocking, five car accident in turn two. The race went under yellow to clean the wreckage from the track, after almost thirty minutes the field again took the green.
With just a little under half of the race to go, Beretta maintained position and finished a close 1.180 seconds ahead of second place Nick Catsburg, Kevin Estre rounded out the top three. Frank Montecalvo in his AMG SLS GT3 Mercedes finished first in the GTA division, and after starting from pit lane, Colin Thompson in a GT3 Cup, 911 Porsche won round four of the GT cup class.
Next up for the Pirelli World Challenge series is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 17-19.