45-car PWC field for St. Petersburg
March 8, 2017
The Pirelli World Challenge Championships kick off its 2017 racing season this weekend (March 9-12) in the streets of St. Petersburg with the GT/GTA/GT Cup and GT4/GTS classes as North America's top GT Production-based road racing series opens its 28th consecutive season with Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Cadillac.
Forty-five entries are set to hit the tricky 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit near the St. Petersburg harbor for Rounds 1 and 2 of the Pirelli World Challenge campaign in the 12th appearance of the PWC teams and drivers at the Florida racing extravaganza.
GT4/GTS Presented by Case-It preview
They say variety is the spice of life and the GT4/GTS class will have quite the collection of sports cars in the St. Petersburg paddock area this weekend. Last year, the division saw the inclusion of the new GT4 machinery such as the KTM Xbow, Ginetta G55, SIN R1 GT4 and Lotus Evora against the muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang Boss 302.
Well, many of those machines return for the series title assault but even more new GT4/GTS cars are in the mix with the likes of the McLaren 570S GT4, Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4, Panoz Avezzano GT and the unveiling of the all-new Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
Leading the GT4/GTS pack this year is the 17-year-old phenom Nate Stacy, who placed second in the final standings and became the youngest GT4/GTS division winner last year. Stacy also jumped to the vaunted Flying Lizard Motorsports team to handle the No. 14 Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4 in an attempt to score the coveted point championship. Teaming with Stacy on the Flying Lizard Motorsports squad is young Spanish star Rodrigo Baptista in the No. 3 Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4. Both youngsters figure to be contenders throughout the 2017 GT4/GTS campaign.
Two-time GT4/GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach brings the new and exciting No. 10 Chevy Camaro GT4.R sports car for the legendary Blackdog Speed Shop operation from Chicago. Aschenbach captured four races in 2016 and battled for another series title down to the final race. Veteran Tony Gaples will again be Aschenbach's teammate for Blackdog Speed Shop in the No. 11 Chevy Camaro GT4.R.
Getting even younger in the class is the Performance Motorsports Group duo with 16-year-old Parker Chase in the No. 19 PMG Ginetta GT4 and 17-year-old Harry Gottsacker in the No. 29 Ginetta GT4. Chase made numerous runner-up finishes and podium places but didn't make it to the top of victory lane, but the Texas teenager looks primed for his first PWC GT4/GTS win.
Two 2016 winners who are back for a shot at the winner's circle at St. Pete are the Canadian pair of Anthony Mantella and Martin Barkey in the No. 8 and No. 80 Mantella Autosport KTM Xbow cars. Mantella captured one of the Utah rounds last year, while Barkey took top honors at Sonoma Raceway.
The popular SIN R1 GT4 lineup for the Florida-based Racer's Edge Motorsports team will be 2016 multi-time race winner Jade Buford in the No. 45 SIN R1 GT4 and local racer Jason Bell in the No. 2 SIN R1 GT4.
Other GT4/GTS contenders for the St. Pete doubleheader races include veteran driver Adam Merzon, a recent podium finisher in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in the No. 017 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4 and his teammate Cameron Cassels in the No. 018 Case-It Racing Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4 as well as Mark Klenin in the all-new No. 62 KPR/Tender Belly McLaren 570S GT, George Kurtz in the No. 04 GMG Racing McLaren 570S GT4, Ian James in the new No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT sports car, Bill Ziegler in the No. 9 ANSA Motorsports KTM Xbow and Cameron Maugeri in the No. 7 Krugspeed Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4.
The real Darkhorse in the GT4/GTS category at St. Petersburg will be multi-time race winner Andrew Aquilante in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302. Aquilante was a winner in 2016 in the SprintX finale last October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Streets of St. Petersburg: 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course
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