Pirelli World Challenge: California Dreaming!
Last weekend at Sonoma Raceway the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) served as the undercard match for the IndyCar GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. PWC may be the undercard, but it’s a series that punches way above its weight. California serves as the final two locations for the PWC season. We say “locations” rather than “races” because a PWC race weekend is a non-stop event with multiple racing sessions occurring over a weekend. As the Aussies might say, a PWC weekend is flat out like a lizard drinking.
The World Challenge series was born in 1990, and celebrated its 25th anniversary season in 2014. For the second year in a row, Sonoma Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca serve as the final two race weekends of the season. At Sonoma it was a sweep of both GT racing events for Johnny O’Connell, a driver that has one of the best resumes in sports cars in North America, with his Sunday win at Sonoma counting as his 20th in PWC in 98 starts. Overall he has 61 wins driving a General Motors car. O’Connell, hailing from Flower Branch, GA has a long California history as he served as a driving instructor at the Bob Bondurant Driving School at Sonoma decades ago. O’Connell wasn't the only driver to put on a show as 2011 GT champion, and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long started in 14th place in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R and made his way to finish in fourth place.
Patrick Long is second in the points (only 9 points) to Alvaro Parenta of K-PAX Racing as they head to Laguna Seca for the season’s final weekend on October 7-9. This final battle is also a bit of a California competition as Patrick Long hails from Manhattan Beach and K-PAX racing hails out of Sonoma a pair of stunning McLaren 650S’. PWC will give fans their money’s worth at Laguna Seca as the weekend will determine the GT season championship.
The GT race alone fields 29 cars across three different car classes. If you can think of a car manufacturer, it was on the grid. McLaren, Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Nissan, Bentley and Cadillac just to name a few. Often, a fan turns up to a high profile race and watches a two hour parade lap as team conserve fuel or hope for safety car where the pit stops will determine track position. On the other hand, PWC has always provided pure racing, fender to tail, non-stop and flat out for the entire weekend (we lovingly refer to it as "bumper cars"). You'd be hard pressed to watch a PWC race and not be excited and maybe even a little geeked out. Perhaps the best aspect of PWC is the access allowed to the fans. The garages and paddock area are always accessible as fans can get close to the track prepped beast as well as watch mechanics make final adjustments in preparation for qualifying and the race. (If you've followed sports car or endurance racing for any significant amount of time, you'll see familiar faces all over the place). Please check out our gallery below to see the awesome range of vehicles that battle it out in the PWC.
If you're looking for a modern racing series to experience that provides an all encompassing feast for the senses, PWC is a good place to start.
For ticket information and schedules for the final race on October 7-9th at Laguna Seca go to: http://www.mazdaraceway.com/.