***Saturdays’s SprintX season-opener provided plenty of post-race drama, after seven teams, including the leading three cars, were handed drive-through penalties for not meeting the minimum pit stop delta of 60 seconds (for GT Pro-Pro) or 90 seconds (GT Pro-Am or Am-Am) in the race. It’s understood all of them were within 1.5 seconds from meeting the minimum time, which was measured from total time pit-in to pit-out.
***A number of teams, including CRP Racing, which was leading at the time, are left scratching their heads. “We believe we were very safe in the window, and I think the first time as a series mandating the pit stop limits without providing proper access to that information to the teams was probably not the smartest move,” Ryan Dalziel said. “It is what it is. If that many teams got it wrong, we have to figure out why.”
***Adding to the confusion, one of the affected teams indicated to Sportscar365 that the time from pit-in to pit-out without stopping is 23 seconds, which when adding the 30-second pit stop time for Pro-Pro class cars, falls short of the minimum 60-second pit delta. Mike Skeen, who finished second in the race, admitted their conservative approach to the pit stop minimum paid dividends.
***Daniel Mancinelli of TR3 Racing, which ended up taking the shock victory, overcame contact with the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS of Pierre Kaffer while battling for the lead prior to their pit stops, sending both cars through the grass at the Esses and knocking Kaffer out of contention with suspension damage. No penalty was issued. “He crashed into the side of me at 200 km/h. It was too dangerous,” Mancinelli told Sportscar365. “He should think more and be a little bit more quiet otherwise it can be very, very dangerous.”
***It was a race to forget for K-PAX Racing, with contact on the first lap putting overall championship leader Alvaro Parente eight laps down with suspension damage, and the sister No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3 of Bryan Sellers also pitting on the opening lap but for a left-rear puncture. The team’s Pro-Am class No. 98 entry of Mike Hedlund and Michael Lewis was the best-finishing of the McLarens in 16th overall.
***Three GTS entries: the Nos. 017 and 018 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs and No. 019 Stephen Cameron Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 are pulling double-duty between the GTS Sprint and SprintX races this weekend.
***A differential issue for the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro GT4.R of Lawson Aschenbach in qualifying resulted in teammate Tony Gaples sacrificing his diff for the GTS championship contender and not starting Saturday’s race.
***Aschenbach told Sportscar365 they hope to get Gaples in tomorrow’s Race 2 and are working to get a replacement part to the track.
***The No. 8 Mantella Autosport KTM X-Bow GT4 of Anthony Mantella received a five-position grid penalty for GTS Race 1 after a Stewards’ Decision from St. Pete, where the Canadian driver was involved in a multi-car incident.
***The Audi RS 3 LMS scored victory in its Pirelli World Challenge debut, with Paul Holton taking his C360R entry to top overall honors in Saturday’s TC season-opener. It marked the first TCR-based car in the series. Matthew Fassnacht and Canaan O’Connell, son of Johnny O’Connell, captured their first series wins in the TCA and TCB classes, respectively.
***The 40-minute race was marred by a violent end-over-end crash for Jason Fichter in the No. 7 Shea Racing Honda Accord, which resulted in a red flag. Fichter climbed from the car and was evaluated and released from Danville Medical Center, where he was taken to for precautionary checks.
***Mike Skeen’s SprintX pole-sitting lap of 1:42.989 obliterated the previous PWC GT qualifying recored at Virginia International Raceway held by Andy Pilgrim, who set a 1:56.086 lap time in his K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 in 2010. The staggering 13-second improvement has come over the seven-year period that’s seen the series evolve from World Challenge-specific cars to the global FIA GT3-spec machinery.
***James Davison, who was a late addition to the lineup alongside Jonathan Summerton this weekend in the No. 111 DIME Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, only received the call last night and arrived at the track at 9 a.m., less than 90 minutes prior to the Miami-based Australian turning his first laps in the Huracan GT3 in qualifying.
***The Audi R8 LMS GT4 car on display here this weekend is chassis No. 001, which has served as an initial test car for the German manufacturer, according to Brad Kettler, Audi Sport customer racing North America’s Director of Operations.
***Kettler’s group made modifications to the new Audi RS 3 LMS car for its integration into the TC class this year. The TCR-spec car is running with 185 pounds of ballast, mounted on the passenger side of the car, a 70 percent throttle limiter and alternate ECU with a 40-horsepower reduction, following a submission test with the car at VIR three weeks ago.
***Four Audi RS 3 LMS cars are making its U.S. debut this weekend, with six of the cars having already been delivered to customers in the States. PWC plans to adopt a dedicated TCR class in 2018, which will allow the Audi and other cars built to the emerging global platform to run unrestricted.
***The 55-car TC division this weekend also features 15 BMW M235iR entries, in what’s marked massive growth for the German manufacturer’s single-make series car.
***Watch the fourth round of the GTS championship Sunday at 11:10 a.m. ET on Motor Trend on Demand, with second SprintX race of the weekend set for 1:15 p.m. The races will air on CBS Sports Network on Sun. May 7 at 6 p.m. ET (SprintX) and Sun. May 14 at 5 p.m. ET (GTS).