Alvaro Parente got his Pirelli World Challenge GT title defense off to the best possible start, with a dominant win in Saturday’s opening round on the streets of St. Pete.
Parente took his No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 to a 10.135-second win over a hard-charging James Davison in the No. 007 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, who ended up second.
Davison got around the pole-sitting No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniel Mancinelli on the final lap, with the Italian, in his PWC debut, running wide and nearly hitting the wall.
Mancinelli lost the lead to Parente on the second lap, who charged from third on the grid in the McLaren, behind the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS of Pierre Kaffer.
Davison, meanwhile, jumped from fourth to second in the closing laps, getting around Kaffer with five minutes to go, prior to a right-rear puncture by the Audi, after contact with the wall.
The late-race chaos promoted the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long to third at the end, ahead of Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac ATS.V-R and Bryan Sellers, who completed the top-five in the No. 6 K-PAX McLaren.
Alex Riberas was sixth in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari, with Michael Cooper seventh and Peter Kox bringing the No. 93 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 home eighth in its series debut.
Pole-sitter Mancinelli, meanwhile, finished 14th following the last-lap drama.
GTA class honors went to Alec Udell, who took his No. 17 GMG Racing Porsche to an impressive 9th place overall finish, ahead of GT drivers Jon Fogarty and Adderly Fong.
Michael Schein and James Sofronas were second and third in class, giving GMG a double podium finish.
The 50-minute race saw only a single full-course caution, when Marko Radisic’s Ferrari 458 Challenge car caught fire and stopped on the front-straight.
It resulted in a lengthy cleanup, and also handed GT Cup honors to Preston Calvert in the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, as the only other car in the class.
Race 2 for GT/GTA/GT Cup is set for 3:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.
RESULTS: GT Race 1