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World Challenge GP of Texas at COTA TC, TCA, TCB race report

On Saturday Greg Liefooghe won the Touring Car Round 9 race at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Texas at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Kenny Murillo and Canaan O’Connell won the TCA and TCB class races, respectively.

Liefooghe, driving the No.20 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M235iR, started from the pole and had to fight off Nick Wittmer throughout the 15-lap TC event to win the Touring Car Round 9 by 1.537 seconds.

Third was Anthony Magagnoli in the No.80 Rooster Hall/FCP Euro Racing BMW M235iR.

“It was a huge battle,” said Liefooghe. “I think Nick’s car was better than ours at the start of the race. Then our car came in and we were a little bit stronger at the end. Even though there are a lot of passing zones here, the cars perform really close together so it’s difficult. It was great racing with them, it’s super clean. We came out on top but we know they’re going to come out strong tomorrow.”

Murillo in the No.33 Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car out ran Matthew Fassnacht in the No.33 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 and reigning TCA champion Elivan Goulart in the No.70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car.

“The restart was kind of tough on me, since I kind of blew it,” said Murillo. “But, I just kept my head down to scout out what everyone else was doing and scan for any weaknesses. It was kind of a challenge to get around Elivan (Goulart). It’s a little tough when you have ten cars behind you and you’re not sure if that’s going to help you out. But I got a little lucky that I was on the last lap so they were fighting for second and third. Now I’ll be ready to try again tomorrow.”

O’Connell in the No.24 TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonic moved closer the TCB point lead with his class win. P.J. Groenke was second Saturday in TCB with the No.25 TechSport Racing Chevrolet Sonic while third went to Ted Sahley in the No.02 Believeland Motorsport Mazda 2.

“It was interesting that (the race) ended up being between P.J. (Groenke) and myself and he is a phenomenal teammate on and off the track,” said O’Connell. “I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes because he was glued to my bumper the whole race. I don’t do a lot of mirror-driving. At the Bondurant racing school, we do a lot of lead/follow where students follow the lead driver. The Circuit of the Americas has been a track that I’ve really wanted to race on since it was created and to be able to do that and the first time take home a victory I’ll never forget this moment.”

On Sunday, Nick Wittmer won win the Touring Car Round. Kenny Murillo and Jake Pipal won the TCA and TCB class races, respectively. Wittmer enjoyed a great standing start from his pole position and went on to win the race after surviving several on track battles. At the finish line, Wittmer scored his first 2017 TC victory in the No.91 ST Racing BMW M235iR coupe by 0.270 seconds over reigning TC series champion Toby Grahovec in the No.1 Classic BMW BMW M235iR. Third went to Matt Travis in the No.26 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.

“They were not going to let me get away,” said Wittmer. “For sure, I love the standing starts. We made a little bit of a bad choice with some aero changes just before this race because we had lower top speeds yesterday (Saturday when Wittmer finished second). Yes, it gave me top speed but it really hurt me on the carousel and the high-speed turns. I had to make my car extra wide so the guys couldn’t get by me that easily. But other than that we had a crazy race out there. Some rubbing and tugging but no crazy moves from anybody. Beautiful racing, no complaints – Samantha Tan Racing, BMW Motorsports, Fuse Lenses – they all put it together and we brought it home; a second place and a first place today. I think that puts me up in second place and really close on the championship so Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is going to be an awesome race. This is my favorite track.”

Murillo captured his third win in the last four races in the No.33 Murillo Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car. Jeff Sexton in the No.89 Winding Road TFB Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Car, Daniel Williams in the No.22 TechSport Racing Scion FB-5 and Tom O’Gorman in he No.94 Shea Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si.

“The race today was crazy,” said Murillo. “There was a lot of action going on, especially early on. I was trying to stay out of it but it’s hard to do when you’re in the position I was in. I needed a little luck to get through, and from watching ahead to see how they were racing each other. It was pretty violent and I knew that something was going to happen so I wanted to be able to capitalize on it. Three wins out of four races entered. We’re really happy with how we’re doing with the crew. We’re putting in a lot of hard work and we’re happy with how World Challenge handles things. They welcomed us with open arms and made it real easy for us to participate with these great drivers and great programs.”

Pipal won the TCB division with his No.6 Jake Pipal Racing Honda Fit. At the finish, it was Pipal over Blake Thompson in the No.37 ISellMiataParts Mazda 2 and Jasper Drengler of in the No.02 Drengler Racing Honda Fit.

“I just drove the best I could,” said Pipal. “I kept smooth and tried to be consistent throughout the entire race. It looks like they got into a little bit of a wreck so I just capitalized on their mistake and kept putting down laps and kept on going and picking them off. The Honda Fit is a great chassis, I can go through corners so much faster than anybody else. Then I have Carbotech brakes on there and they make the best brake pads around and I can out-brake everybody. Finally a huge shout out to Zamp helmets for keeping me safe.”

Rounds 11 and 12 for the three Touring Car classes move to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as part of the California 8-Hour GT Weekend on Oct. 13-14.


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