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St. Pete Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday Pirelli World Challenge notebook from St. Pete…

Photo: Brian Cleary/PWC

***Scott Hargrove’s first career Pirelli World Challenge victory came following a massive effort from Pfaff Motorsports to rebuild his Porsche 911 GT3 R from an accident in qualifying. The Canadian said the team finished repairs to the car with just five minutes to the closing of the pre-grid.

***Hargrove had tagged the inside wall in Turn 11, which damaged the suspension and sent the car nose-first in to the Turn 14 tire barriers. As a result, he was relegated to a 7th place starting position, after losing his quickest time in qualifying for bringing out a red flag. His original time would have put him fourth on the grid.

***The former Mazda Road to Indy star will start tomorrow’s Race 2 from the pole, courtesy of setting the fastest lap in Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint season-opener. Callaway Competition USA’s Daniel Keilwitz will line up alongside Hargrove. Click Here to view the grid.

***Daniel Morad, who finished third, said CRP Racing’s decision to go with scrubbed Pirellis paid dividends at the start, when he managed to take the lead in slippery conditions, although faded late with tire degradation. 

***It was an eye-opening PWC debut for Toni Vilander, who finished second on Saturday. The Finn questioned several calls in the post-race press conference, including the start and restart procedures, as well as getting a warning for allegedly blocking the No. 26 Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R of Keilwitz.

***The No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS of Parker Chase, which was caught up in the three-car accident at the start, has undergone a gearbox change for Race 2. Chase was forced to retire from the race after he was unable to get his car out of reverse gear following the crash.

***GTS Race 1 winner Lawson Aschenbach will start Race 2 from the pole (Click Here for grid), alongside Muehlner Motorsports’ Gabriele Piana, who impressed in his PWC debut, having grabbed pole and finishing second in the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR.

***Piana, who recently claimed overall victory in the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, has a busy season ahead in Europe, with plans to contest the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup (Silver Cup), VLN and Nürburging 24 with Black Falcon, while piloting a BMW M4 GT4 in the GT4 European Series.

***The Swiss-based Italian, however, hasn’t ruled out additional PWC races, potentially with Muehlner, which is planning to expand into a two-car Porsche GT4 operation for the next round at Circuit of The Americas. Team owner Bernhard Muehlner told Sportscar365 that he’s seeking funded drivers for several of the seats.

***While the team is new to PWC competition, Muehlner assisted Reiter Engineering’s Lamborghini Gallardo effort in the series in 2014.

***Mike Hedlund’s second place GTSA class finish means the Flying Lizard Motorsports driver will be donating more than $1,500 to a local charity. Hedlund made the pre-season pledge to donate $0.50 for every Twitter follower he has should he score a podium finish, or $1 per follower if he wins. He had 3,131 followers at the time of the checkered flag, which equates to $1,565.50.

***Ian James was one of four retirements in the GTS race, with the Panoz driver having dropped out due to continued electrical gremlins to his Panoz Avezzano GT4, which had crank sensor issues in qualifying. Teammate Preston Calvert, in his Panoz debut, finished sixth in GTSA.

***While R. Ferri Motorsport and TR3 Racing had been running different configurations of the Ferrari 488 GT3 this weekend, both of the Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, fielded by Pfaff Motorsports and Alegra Motorsports, are utilizing Porsche’s Evo kit. However, unlike the Ferrari, there are no differences in the Balance of Performance between the two permitted versions.

***Vilander will have a fellow factory Ferrari co-driver for the SprintX races. While not yet announced, it’s expected the seat will be filled by one of AF Corse’s full-season FIA World Endurance Championship pilots, with a different driver teaming with the Finn for COTA than for the rest of the season.

***Ex-Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler, meanwhile, is expected to join Hargrove in the Pfaff Porsche for the SprintX rounds.

***TRG is working to field its Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 at Long Beach, according to team owner Kevin Buckler, who told Sportscar365 they will enter only a single Aston Martin Vantage GT4 at COTA, as part of its full-season GTS SprintX program.

***Buckler said much of his focus is going into his new winery in downtown Petaluma, Calif., which is expected to break ground mid-year. The Adobe Road Winery, overlooking the city’s waterfront, will include a racing museum and event space for his growing wine and hospitality business. 

***An active effort is also being made to field TruSpeed’s second Audi for Long Beach. The ex-Stevenson Motorsport chassis is in the paddock this weekend on display behind the team’s tent, which has resulted in significant interest from prospective drivers. 

***SRO technical director Claude Surmont is not present this weekend, with the Belgian instead manning base in Europe to oversee data from St. Pete, as well as SRO-sanctioned GT4 tests at Donington Park and Zolder, ahead of the British GT Championship and GT4 European Series seasons.

***The SRO received more than 70 entry requests for the GT4 European season, showing the explosive growth of the platform not only in North America but around the world. 

***A large delegation from Audi Sport customer racing is on-site at St. Pete, including global boss Chris Reinke and the newly named Head of the U.S. division, Bernd Goeres, who is attending his first PWC race.

***Sunday’s action will kick off with GTS Race 2 at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by the final GT race of the weekend at 3:15 p.m. Both races will be broadcast live on, with tape-delayed broadcasts airing on CBS Sports Network: March 18, 3 p.m. ET (GT) and March 24, 9:30 p.m. ET (GTS).

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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