Photos Above: world-challenge.com
The Pirelli World Challenge visits Sonoma Raceway, formerly Sears Point Raceway, in the Sonoma Mountains, California for the final weekend of GT action in the 2017 season on September 15 – 17.
There are 42 entries in the GT field with 14 cars entered in the GT (GT3) category, six in the GTA class (GT3 for non-professional drivers) and one in the GT Cup class. In the GTS (GT4 classes) there are eight entries in the GTS category and 13 in the non-professional GTSA class.
With the SprintX championship concluding at the previous round from the Circuit of the Americas, Texas, Sonoma will see the 2017 overall GT championships decided.
Patrick Long, driver of the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, leads the Overall GT Driver’s standings on 320 points, 28 ahead of the second-placed Alvaro Parente in the #9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3. Just four points behind Parente and driving the #8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R is Michael Cooper.
“The COTA races were points days that we needed,” said Patrick Long, ahead of the Grand Prix of Sonoma. “I’m going to Sonoma with my head still down, 100% full throttle and completely focused because, as we learned last year, it’s never over till it’s over. We just have to push to close this out for the manufacturers, drivers and year-end championship.”
With five victories so far this season, and a second place in the previous SprintX round at the Circuit of the Americas, Patrick Long must go into the final two races of the 2017 championship as firm favourite. However, with 50 points on offer for the winners of the final two races and only 32 points separating the top three, anything could happen.
The Overall GT Manufacturer’s Championship fight is equally close with only seven points covering the top three. Porsche leads the standings on 113 points, six points clear of Cadillac. McLaren GT sits just one point behind Cadillac.
With Lawson Aschenbach, driving the #10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4, having secured the 2017 Sprint GT Drivers Championship, all eyes will be on the fight for second place where Ian James in the #50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT has a 17-point advantage over Martin Barkey in the #80 KTM Xbow GT4. James has displayed a high level of consistency as the season has progressed with victories at Road America, Mid-Ohio, Utah and the Circuit of the Americas. It would be brave to bet against him.
The format of the weekend sees qualifying for all classes taking place on the Saturday morning with one-hour races for the GT/GTA/GT Cup classes and GTS classes taking place on Saturday afternoon and evening and again on the Sunday morning and afternoon.
The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season has witnessed some close, highly competitive racing across all the classes and the Grand Prix of Sonoma will be no exception. If you enjoy GT racing at its best, you won’t want to miss it.