PETERSBURG, Fla.(March 12, 2017) – Veteran Patrick Long of Manhattan Beach, Calif., took advantage of a wild first turn skirmish Sunday and 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●It on the harborside 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit. Young Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Tex., captured his second straight GTA title Sunday and Preston Calvert of Potomac, Md., scored a second GT Cup win.
Long started third in the 24-car lineup and followed Saturday GT winner Alvaro Parente into turn one in the 50-minute sprint race when reigning GT champion Parente went wide on the slippery Albert Whited Airport front straightaway. When Parente’s No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S 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.
Long, who raised $81,000 Wednesday evening with co-host and St. Pete IndyCar Series winner Sebastien Bourdais for All Children’s Hospital in the annual “Karts4Kids” charity event, had to hold off the challenge late in the 39-lap GT feature of four-time GT champion Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R., pole sitter Alex Riberas of Spain in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3 and Parente. Long’s victory margin was 1.475-seconds.
The factory Porsche driver used that initial turn one move on the first lap to gain a five-car length advantage over O’Connell, the 20-time race winner in PWC, and actually extend his lead to 3.4 seconds by lap 30. A late race caution period caused by Saturday’s runner-up finish, Australian JD Davison of Miami, Fla., closed up the field and put pressure on Long’s margin. On the lap 37 restart, Patrick pulled out a 1.8-second lead before taking the checkered flag. Long currently leads the provisional GT points with 46.
O’Connell finished second, Riberas third, Parente fourth and young Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y., in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R bringing up the fifth position.
“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.”
The popular O’Connell dodged the wild first turn mayhem and challenged Long throughout the GT event, while fighting with Riberas and Parente in a spirited battle that saw bumper-to-bumper action.
Riberas, the young sports car star with European racing experience, was impressive in his first Pirelli World Challenge competition including a pole position and third and fourth place finishes in the return of the famed No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3. Alex moved his machine up alongside O’Connell once in turn two in an attempt for the second spot but couldn’t get by the cagey veteran.
Parente came charging back from the first turn slide and pressured Riberas and O’Connell but had to settle for fourth with Cooper fifth. The leading GTA driver, Clemson University mechanical engineering student Udell, in the No. 17 GMG/Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R finished sixth overall. It marked Udell’s second GTA class win of the weekend.
Following Udell on the GTA podium Sunday were Michael Schein of Glen Cove, N.Y., in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 98 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Calvert took his No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a second consecutive win in the GT Cup category.
The Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTA classes move to another street circuit next month at the legendary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 7-9 in Southern California for Round 3 in the 2017 tour, North America’s top GT Production-based road racing series. GT Cup competitors next hit the track in the championship-opening SprintX action at VIRginia International Raceway on April 28-30.