A lot can happen in a triple-header weekend and after a double-edged SprintX finale at Circuit of the Americas, Wright Motorsports will be the first to attest to that. Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister kicked off the week with a victory and ended it with a second place podium and third place SprintX championship. Michael Schein and Jan Heylen emerged runner-ups in the SprintX PRO/AM championship and salvaged a third place podium out of a very challenging weekend.
Friday’s makeup race granted the No.58 squad an early advantage with the class pole and second place slot overall from CTMP. A brilliant start by Bergmeister sent him around Jeroen Bleekemolen for the overall lead and that was it. After a flawless pit sequence, Bergmeister handed off the car off to Long who pulled away from the field and drove to the “throw-back duo’s” first SprintX win as teammates and first together since 2014.
Race 1 was all about adapting and overcoming for the Porsche factory pairing. After getting clipped by a competitor heading into turn one, Long worked his way back through the field with no damage sustained to the Porsche. From there, Bergmeister managed to stay on the lead lap and finish in eighth place.
Sunday's race saw a similar "Bergmeister start" as the German launched into the class lead from his third place starting position. He held onto it until the pit window opened and Long cycled into second place. From there, the Long kept it smooth, fast and conservative, allowing himself to bring home a points-heavy second place finish.
With help from Bergmeister, Long was able to wrap up the SprintX season as third in the drivers championship. Additionally, Wright Motorsports claimed second in the SprintX team championship. Long will also leave Austin with a comfortable extension in the overall championship lead, carrying 28-points over Alvaro Parente and 32-points over Michael Cooper into the final two rounds in Sonoma.
“This was a fantastic weekend, all things considering."said Long "Three SprintX races brought a lot of adversity for everyone. It was great to be back on the top step of the podium with Jörg on Friday night. Saturday was the toughest for us. Sunday’s race was huge in allowing us to recover and give a minimal amount of points away to our rivals. This has been just the overall points weekend that we needed, but there’s still a lot on the line heading into Sonoma. I’m confident that Wright Motorsports will give me a car to fight to the end of this like they have all season. We’re just going to put our heads down, push all the way to the very last lap of the championship and try to close this thing out on top.”
What was deemed to be a promising weekend for the No.16 Porsche, presented Schein and Heylen with a slew of challenges. It all started with Friday’s makeup race, when a strong run from fifth to second place was disrupted by a penalty for contact, which demoted the Porsche to fifth place. Saturday rolled around and Schein was able to run smoothly in third before handing it off to Heylen who would take it to the finish. With five minutes remaining, the Belgian was still running comfortably in third when the No.16 lost drive on the front straight, forcing the group into an early retirement.
Despite starting from the back of the pack on Sunday, Heylen and Schein weren't going to let the bad mojo win again. At the start, Heylen drove from seventh in class to third place. Schein then took over and brought it to the checkered flag for a third place podium finish; eleven positions ahead of their twenty-third place starting slot. This recovery ended up pinning Heylen and Schein to a second place finish in the SprintX drivers championship, just 13-points shy of James Sofronas.
"It was clearly not the weekend that Jan, myself and the team had hoped for." said Schein "We came into the last SprintX event with a slim championship lead and things just didn’t go our way. After the makeup race our seven-point lead went down to three and not finishing Race 1 hurt us quite a bit. Fortunately, we pulled off a podium on Sunday, but we were really just fighting an uphill battle the entire weekend. All of this aside, it’s been a great SprintX season driving with Jan, Wright Motorsports and Porsche. We had a lot of success this season, but unfortunately we just weren’t able to bring that together on top this weekend."
While the SprintX championship might be in the books, the fight is still on for the final two rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint Championship September 14-17 at Sonoma Raceway.
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