Alvaro Parente snatched the lead from second on the grid in the first corner of the race and held off the Cadillac duo of Michael Cooper and Johnny O’Connell the rest of the way to win Race 1 at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Alabama.
The win is the second straight triumph for Parente in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 after inheriting the win on the streets of Long Beach last weekend.
“This one really tastes like a win,” Parente said. It was great at the beginning, alright in the middle, then very difficult in the end.
“I want to say a big thanks to Steve Conover, my engineer. All the team, K-PAX Racing, McLaren, Flying Lizard, they all did a great job. It was a great win, we really fought for it.”
Parente pulled away from the pole-sitting Cadillac of Cooper early on, only to see the field bunched up by the only full-course caution period in the 50-minute race.
The 14-minute caution period was necessitated by a hard accident for Parente’s teammate Colin Thompson in the No. 13 McLaren 650S GT3 just 11 minutes into the race.
Thompson, who has been suffering through flu-like symptoms throughout the weekend, made a heavy driver-side impact into the retaining wall following a spin exiting Turn 3.
The car suffered significant damage but the defending GT Cup champion was able to walk away unassisted.
Parente was able to hold off a hard charge by Cooper on the restart and used traffic to build a margin in the final laps to win by 1.046-seconds over the No. 8 Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, and a further 0.447 seconds ahead of O’Connell in the sister Cadillac.
The top three had the field covered throughout the afternoon, as fourth-place runner James Davison’s Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 finished over 11 seconds behind the podium finishers.
Although not in contention for the win, the fight for positions four through ten was fierce. Those seven cars finished within 3 seconds of one another and provided plenty of fireworks.
Davison in particular was impressive, leaping from 8th to 4th on the first lap. Later, his teammate Bryan Heitkotter fought a spirited duel for fifth with Porsche ace Patrick Long that Long ultimately won.
Long’s EFFORT Racing teammate Michael Lewis wound up 7th behind Heitkotter, followed by Andrew Palmer in the first of the Bentley Continental GT3s.
The field for Race 2 is set by the fastest race lap from Race 1, meaning Parente will start on pole by virtue of his fast lap of 1:24.726. Cooper was the only other driver to reach the 1:24s and will start second.
Outside of the GT class, Martin Fuentes took GTA honors for the sixth time in as many races ahead of Michael Schein and Drew Regitz.
Meanwhile, Alec Udell won his second GT Cup race of the year, and first since Round 1 of the championship at Circuit of The Americas.
Corey Fergus finished second with championship-leader Sloan Urry completing the podium.
Race 2 for the GT/GTA/GT Cup classes is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m. CT. Live streaming coverage will once again be provided on the series website.