ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Walking through the Pirelli World Challenge paddock during the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend, June 21-24, you'll see some of the world's most exotic racing sports cars.
Cars like Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley, Mercedes, Audi, McLaren, Maserati, Camaro, Mustang plus wild machinery like Panoz, Ginetta, KTM and Sin Car GT4 make up one of the coolest collection of racing sports cars in the world. And they won't look as pretty after racing 50 minutes in a flat-out sprint race.
The banging and rubbing of the cars as the talented drivers attempt to negotiate the tough four-mile, 14-turn road circuit is an exciting difference from the high-speed missiles of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
But don't discount the racing and the likes of international driving stars such as Alvaro Parente, Michael Christensen, Toni Vilander, Scott Hargrove and youngsters Rodrigo Baptista, Alec Udell and Parker Chase in the GT division. Plus American stars such as Lawson Aschenbach, James Sofronas, George Kurtz, Jade Buford and 18-year-old Harry Gottsacker.
It's not unusual to see cars three or four wide entering turn five at Road America and amazingly, they all continue to battle through the circuit in a doubleheader (races on Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24) for the popular Pirelli World Challenge sports car series.
Former Pirelli World Challenge GT point champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal is considered to be one of the favorites when the green flag drops on Saturday and Sunday. Now driving the all-new No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 sports car, Parente has captured 11 features in the last two and a half PWC campaigns including an impressive win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month.
"Alvaro is special," said Jim Haughey, team principal for K-PAX Racing. "He has a great combination of experience, skill, humbleness, and not too much ego but, enough to kick your butt on track when he has the car to get it done. Alvaro is a pleasure to work with so yes, we all wanted him back and feel fortunate to have him in the Bentley after two years in the McLaren."
"It has been a tremendous opportunity to race in North America and with a top team like K-PAX Racing," said Parente. "They helped me adapt to the new tracks and we had a great season with the championship. Last year, we fought hard until the end and just lost out for the title. Now, coming back with K-PAX and the new Bentley GT3 car is exciting for me and the whole team. The Bentley is a different challenge for us, but we believe we can race for another championship. Watch the K-PAX Racing Bentleys in 2018."
European stars Christensen, in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Vilander, in the popular No. 61 RFerri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3, have been successful drivers around the world in sports car competition but make their debuts in the Pirelli World Challenge this season. Canada's Hargrove, a stellar open-wheel star, brings his Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R this weekend.
The young contingent for the GT events will be led by Parente's K-PAX Racing teammate, Baptista, the Brazilian native who was impressive in his rookie season in GTS. Udell, the Clemson University mechanical engineering student, moved up to the GT category. Chase, just 17, has shown sensational talent in the GTS division and now drives the TruSpeed Audi R8 LMS sports car. Former GTA series titleholder Martin Fuentes of Mexico City returns to Road America this weekend in his No. 07 Ferrari 488 GT3.
Similar to the GT and GTA divisions, the highly-competitive GTS class hosts a spectacular group of machinery and a strong driver lineup.
Five-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the popular No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, returns as the winningest driver in the GTS class and seeks a repeat of his 2017 title run. The Vanderbilt University grad again teams with longtime PWC veteran Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevy Camaro GT4.R.
Gottsacker, a recently awarded Eagle Scout, is another serious contender in GTS in the Racer's Edge Motorsports/FRAM Sin Car GT4.
Former PWC race winners James Sofronas, a two-time 2017 PWC series champion, in the No.14 GMG Audi R8 LMS GT4, George Kurtz, the 2017 GTSA champion, in the No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Audi R8 LMS GT4, Ian James in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT and Jake Buford in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 are veterans in the mix this weekend along with Florida's Shane Lewis and Gar Robinson in the Robinson Racing Mercedes AMG GT4, Mike Hedlund in the Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS GT4, Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee in the JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo and Drew Staveley in the No. 13 G3 Racing Ginetta G55.
Other GTSA contenders for the Road America doubleheader races include another 2016 GTSA race winner Jason Bell of Tampa, Fla., in the No. 2 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4; Orey Fidani of Etobicoke, Ont., Canada in the No. 13 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR; Marko Radisic of Belgrade, Serbia in the No. 22 Precision Driving BMW M4 GT4; Adam Merzon of Greenwich, Conn., in the No. 23 Case●It Racing by Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS; Frank Gannett of Steamboat Springs, Colo., in the No. 24 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55; James Pesek of Harrisonville, Mo., in the No. 40 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 and Steve Burns of Park City, Utah in the No. 43 VP Fuels/Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55.
Veteran PWC racer Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., is another top GTSA challenger this weekend at Road America in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS along with former GT SprintX winner Preston Calvert of Potomac, Md., in the No. 51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezanno GT; COTA GTS Overall race winner Alan Brynjolfsson of Tampa, Fla., in the No. 77 Volt Racing Ford Mustang GT4; James Clay of Blacksburg, Va., in the No. 83 Bimmer World BMW M4 GT4; Fred Roberts of Toronto, Ont., in the No. 89 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4 and multi-time pole winner Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4.
Courtney is also racing for the charity, Patriot Education Fund, this weekend in the two GTS events to raise money to help military personnel with their college educations following their service for the country.
Saturday, June 23
9:20 AM - 9:35 AM, GT/GTA Qualifying
9:40 AM - 9:55 AM, GTS/GTSA Qualifying
50 minutes (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS/GTSA)
Live Internet Telecast (on world-challenge.com):
Saturday, June 23
4:35 PM - 5:35 PM GT/GTA/GT Cup/GTS/GTSA Race # 1
Sunday, June 24
2:45 PM - 3:45 PM GTS/GTSA/GT Cup/GTS/GTSA Race # 2
Tickets for the KOHLER Grand Prix and Pirelli World Challenge are still available and additional details, including ticket pricing, an event schedule and camping information can be found at www.roadamerica.com or by calling 800-365-7223. Anyone 16-years-old and under are FREE with a paying adult at the gate. All races will run rain or shine.
About Road America
Established in 1955, Road America is located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The world's best racers have competed at this legendary four-mile, 14-turn road circuit for over 60 years. The 640-acre, park-like grounds offer amazing viewing opportunities, fantastic concessions and high-speed excitement to hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. In addition to public race weekends, Road America offers a variety of group event programs, the CTECH Manufacturing Motorplex for karting and supermoto, and the Road America Motorcycle and Advanced Driving Schools. For more information, visit www.roadamerica.com Follow Road America on www.facebook.com/RoadAmerica and on Twitter: @roadamerica or call 800-365-7223.