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GT World Challenge America

St. Pete Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from St. Pete…

Photo: Brian Cleary/

Photo: Brian Cleary/

***Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge GT season-opener resulted in a number of damaged cars, with the Marko Radisc’s Ferrari Challenge car going up in flames early and the No. 69 Champ1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Pablo Perez Companc retiring on the opening lap after contact damaged the car’s radiator.

***Ryan Dalziel, in his debut with CRP Racing, lost ground early after an exhaust issue, also caused by contact, which sent fumes inside his new Mercedes-AMG GT3. Dalziel made multiple stops while under the race’s first caution and salvaged a 16th place finish overall.

***The No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Ryan Eversley made it to the grid, after waiting on spare parts since Eversley’s accident on Thursday, but retired with less than 10 minutes remaining due to an issue with the left-rear of the car.

***Alex Riberas will start Sunday’s race from the pole, thanks to setting a 1:14.125 lap in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3. The Spaniard will line up alongside Race 1 winner Alvaro Parente.

***Andrew Aquilante’s pair of  GTS wins marked the third consecutive year the Mustang Boss 302R swept the weekend on the streets of St. Pete. Dean Martin and Spencer Pumpelly took wins in 2015, with Jack Roush Jr. sweeping the weekend last year.

***Aquilante credited the revised Turn 3 complex, adjusted prior to Friday’s race, for helping him achieve the sweep. Both of his race-winning moves on Lawson Aschenbach came in that corner. “I have to thank the guys that put the curb in there because that made the race weekend, to be honest,” he said.

***The No. 45 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4 of Jade Buford, who finished third in Friday’s opening GTS round, failed to start Race 2 after the car developed electrical issues while on the pre-grid. Buford was due to start second in the race.

***A number of GTS competitors had restrictor changes overnight, including the pair of Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro GT4.Rs. “Yesterday I was hanging with the Mustang but today I couldn’t, so I wasn’t able to mount an attack,” Aschenbach said.

***It’s the first time in recent memory that PWC has undergone BoP changes during the middle of a race weekend.

***The Panoz Avezzano GT, which also had restrictor adjustments, recorded a double retirement in its debut weekend, with cooling issues forcing Ian James out of Race 1 early and contact with another car cutting his race short on Saturday,

***Pablo Perez Companc, the younger brother of former WRC and WEC driver Luis, is set for a GTA Sprint-only campaign with the Champ1 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Argentinean is taking part in his first planned season-long program since his horrific crash in the 2007 Indy Lights season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which resulted in serious leg injuries.

***Despite Champ1’s Sprint-only program, at least two additional Mercedes-AMG GT3s are expected for the SprintX rounds, fielded by DXDT Racing. Second drivers for both the Black Swan Racing and CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG entries, meanwhile, have yet to be announced.

***Black Swan owner/driver Tim Pappas told Sportscar365 he plans to expand into the GTS class later this season with a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR. Pappas took delivery of the car last August but has yet to detail its schedule, or driver. 

***Kyle Marcelli is expected to be announced as the co-driver alongside Alex Riberas at R. Ferri Motorsport for the SprintX rounds. The Canadian has been in the team’s pits all weekend, wearing a team shirt. Marcelli won last year’s SprintX season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in an Audi R8 LMS ultra.

***SprintX drivers for K-PAX Racing are expected to be announced next week. Look for a heavy influence of McLaren GT factory and/or Academy drivers in the lineup supporting full-season pilots Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund.

***GAINSCO Bob/Stallings Racing is still scheduled to forgo all SprintX rounds except its home race at Circuit of The Americas in September. The team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R is the former Calvert Dynamics chassis that suffered a serious fire at Utah Motorsports Campus last year. Mechanics from both BSR and Porsche rebuilt the car at Porsche Motorsport North America’s headquarters in California during the winter months.

***Preston Calvert, who claimed GT Cup victory on Saturday, will shift his focus to SprintX for the remainder of the season. Calvert told Sportscar365 this weekend’s outing in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car is currently a one-off. 

***Daniel Mancinelli wasn’t the only driver to have been reclassified this weekend, as Chinese PWC rookie Yufeng Luo was moved from GT to GTA prior to Race 1. PWC rules still state that a GTA driver will automatically graduate to GT should he finish in the top-three overall or score two top-five finishes, but as in the case of Mancinelli, adjustments are also at the stewards’ discretion.

***Mancinelli’s TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 car sports a unique livery made up of graphics depicting the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

***GM Racing Director Mark Kent confirmed that the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R has been given permission to run in Creventic’s 24-hour race at Circuit of The Americas in November, marking the German-built car’s U.S. debut. “We have agreed to allow that car to run in that specific race in the U.S. because it doesn’t compete against our Cadillacs. We think it’s going to be great exposure for that car and help Callaway with their program,” Kent told Sportscar365.

***Kent said it’s “strictly a business decision” for the GT3-spec car not to be eligible in PWC or the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “We’re been trying to keep swim lines intact, and that’s why you don’t see the Callaway Corvette here today,” he said.

***There are no plans, meanwhile, to see the Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 car outside of PWC in the near future, according to the GM racing boss.

***Race 2 for GT/GTA/GT Cup gets underway Sunday at 3:15 p.m. with live coverage on Motor Trend on Demand and on the channel’s YouTube page. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the GT event Sat. March 18 at 2 p.m. ET, with the GTS races set for Wed. March 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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