Patrick Long drove his No.58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to victory in the GT Round 2 of the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Case. Alec Udell captured his second straight GTA title Sunday and Preston Calvert of scored a second GT Cup win.
Long started third in the 24-car lineup and followed Alvaro Parente in the No.9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S into turn one in the 50-minute sprint race. Parente slid wide at the end of the long straight, Long dove into turn one and grabbed the top position. From that point, Long never looked back in scoring his ninth career Pirelli World Challenge GT triumph and taking the early GT class point lead.
Johnny O’Connell in the No.3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. finished second followed by pole sitter Alex Riberas in the No.61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3 in third. Long’s victory margin was 1.475-seconds.
“I thought that I had a (Porsche) 911 that was capable of winning all weekend,” said Long. “We went back and did our homework after our P3 qualifying position yesterday and we talked about how it was going to be to go out after IndyCar. The jury was out on if the clean race track and a lot of rubber was going to bode well for us. I think we all learned what the answer was going down into turn one. It was slick and it was just a train wreck basically, cars going in all directions. Luckily I was able to learn from my mistake yesterday and keep the car on the line and from there it was just clean air and I was able to reach the potential of what I thought the car had in it all weekend. We were running pretty hard. Johnny (O’Connell) had the capability of reeling me in when he had the pressure from Riberas in the Ferrari so I was actually pushing as hard as I could. I’ve been with Porsche for close to 15 years, I’m still a factory driver. The head of Porsche North America asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to win this championship. I wanted to come in rested and hungry like the rest of these guys that I’m up against. We have more competition than ever this year.”
Alec Udell in the No.17 GMG/Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R earned his second GTA class win of the weekend. Following Udell on the GTA podium were Michael Schein in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Mike Hedlund in the No.98 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S.
“I was able to come out clean in fourth down the straight,” said Udell. “In a situation like that, survival just takes over and you just look for the open space. This year jumping up into the sprint series which is the bread and butter of World Challenge for us to this date there’s obviously a lot of very strong guys – Patrick (Long), of course – and getting out there and being able to run with them is quite a good thing for me.”
Calvert took his No.77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a second consecutive win in the GT Cup category.
“It’s great to be back out there,” said Calvert. “It’s fun to drive with drivers that are so able. When you’re the slow car in the race because of class difference it’s fun to race with these folks and just make sure you don’t interfere with their race. It’s a short track, there’s a lot of cars, and it’s very important to keep watching your mirrors.”
The Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTA classes move to another street circuit next month at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 7-9. GT Cup competitors next hit the VIRginia International Raceway on April 28-30.
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