After more than a dozen hard-fought races throughout North America, the 25th anniversary season of Pirelli World Challenge draws to a close this weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, with championships to be decided in the GT, GT-A and GTS categories.
The scenic 15-turn, 3.048-mile outer course near Salt Lake City plays host to the double-header event, which was originally scheduled to a single round. However, one of the St. Petersburg rounds, which was weather-impacted, was rescheduled for the title-deciding weekend in Utah.
ENTRY LIST: Miller Motorsports Park
While there are still five drivers mathematically in the running for the championship, the fight for end-of-year GT honors will likely come down to a two-horse race between Cadillac Racing’s Johnny O’Connell and CRP Racing driver Mike Skeen.
O’Connell, who seeks his third consecutive World Challenge crown, holds a 42-point lead over the driver of the No. 2 Audi R8 LMS ultra, meaning Skeen would need to win and O’Connell finish third or worse in Friday’s Round 15 to take over the points lead heading into Saturday’s season finale.
The two drivers have been evenly matched for much of the season, with three wins a piece, although Skeen has one additional pole than the GM factory driver.
Cadillac also seeks its third straight manufacturer’s championship but is currently at a seven-point deficit to Audi, heading into another circuit that’s expected to better suit the FIA GT3-spec cars such as the R8 LMS ultra and Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, which won in the hands of Anthony Lazzaro last time out at Sonoma Raceway.
Other GT3 contenders to watch out for include the pair of Dyson Racing Bentley Continentals, which recorded its first podium and two fastest race laps in California. Guy Smth is again set to handle driving duties of the No. 88 entry alongside Butch Leitzinger in the No. 08 machine.
While out of the championship chase, Ryan Dalziel could also play spoiler this weekend, as the Scot looks for his third victory of the year, after not finishing outside of the podium in his four races with EFFORT Racing to date.
The 13-car GT field is completed by Andy Lee, who makes his class debut in the No. 20 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2. Lee won the GTS race at Miller in 2012.
GT-A, meanwhile, has recently gone the way of EFFORT’s Michael Mills, who captured four class wins in the last five races in his Porsche 911 GT3 R. With a 48-point lead, the Texas native can wrap up the inaugural championship by completing the 70 percent distance requirement needed to score points in both races.
However, should he falter, both Henrik Hedman (DragonSpeed) and Dan Knox (Lone Star Racing) could be there to pick up the pieces.
Mark Wilkins is also on the brink of a championship, but in GTS. The Kinetic Motorsports Kia Racing driver holds an 80-point advantage over Black Dog Racing’s Lawson Aschenbach, meaning the No. 38 Kia Optima will likely have to hit trouble in one or both of the races to be in the hunt.
Defending champion Aschenbach, however, is coming off a strong run in his Camaro, which has taken class wins in three of the last four races.
GTSport Racing’s Jack Baldwin, meanwhile, sits nearly 200 points back in third, and while still having a mathematical shot of the title, the veteran driver will need some luck on Friday and Saturday in order to be crowned champion.
Official track action kicks off on Friday, with the first 50-minute GT/GT-A/GTS race set for 4:50 p.m. MT time. The second race of the weekend gets underway on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. MT. Both races will be streamed live on World-Challengetv.com.