Attrition marked Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge of Long Beach presented by StopTech and that attrition continued to post-race technical inspection. Brandon Davis grabbed the overall and GT class win. Paul Brown and Shea Holbrook earned the GTS and Touring Car class wins, respectively, after the first-place finishers on the track were disqualified during post-race technical inspection.
Davis, the 2009 Drivers' Champion making his first Pirelli World Challenge start since a podium finish a season ago at Long Beach, started second in the No. 10 ACS Express/Sun Micro Ford Mustang Cobra and battled with Jason Daskalos through the early part of the 31-lap race. On lap 10, Davis and Daskalos' No. 7 Dalsin Developments Dodge Viper went side by side through three consecutive corners before sneaking past Daskalos just before the final of the street circuit's 11 turns.
Once past Daskalos, Davis extended his lead to several seconds, patiently weaving through traffic in the 36-car race. With 10 laps to go, Davis was feeling the pressure from behind from James Sofronas' No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3. Sofronas closed the lead to under a second, but couldn't finish the charge to Davis.
At the finish, Davis was 2.41sec ahead of Sofronas for his fifth-career World Challenge win. Davis covered the 31-lap, 61.008-mile race at 83.881mph.
"It was great,” Davis said. “I've tried so hard in the Mustang to run up there the last few years. One of the issues we've always had with the Mustang is it's been really hard on tires. It was one of those races that it just seemed like it was destiny. We started behind Pat Long and just assumed that we were going to be looking for who was coming from behind us because he had been so quick all weekend. Fortunately for us, he rolled on the start and went to the back.
“We started to see Sofronas coming late in the race and I didn't want to see him in the Porsche. We were luckily able to hold him off, we got some help in traffic. Just coming back to Long Beach and getting the win, we're very happy.”
Sofronas was hoping for a win at his hometown race, but earned his best finish at Long Beach since a win in 2009.
“What I didn't know was that Patrick Long got a stop and go for rolling on the start, so I thought I was just fighting for positions in the top three,” Sofronas said after the race. “I was picking off cars left and right in the braking zones.
“I had no radio contact with my crew chief, so I had no idea what position I was in, or where I had moved up to. As it turned out, I guess I was racing for the lead in the last half of the race and I had no idea. I thought I was chasing Brandon for second. If I had known, I don't think I would have driven it any differently. I was driving the wheels off of it. I was definitely letting it all hang out. The bottom line is that the car was great, the team was greater and the driver was just a small part of that result. I'm happy for the team.”
Daskalos moved from fourth on the grid to take the lead on the standing start, shooting past polesitter Patrick Long, in the No. 45 TruSpeed/Privacy Star Porsche 911 GT3. After falling back in his battle with Davis, Daskalos was overtaken by Sofronas for second on lap 18 and, with tires fading, found himself locked in a battle with Dino Crescentini and Mike Skeen for third position.
Both Crescentini and Skeen moved past Daskalos, but when Crescentini's No. 4 Centric Parts/StopTech Porsche 911 GT3 brushed the wall on lap 25 and Skeen's No. 2 CRP Racing/Cragar Wheels Corvette suffered mechanical damage on lap 28, Daskalos inherited third place and a podium finish.
Tony Gaples used the attrition to his advantage, making a steady climb from his 10th-place starting position to fourth at the checkered flag in his No. 11 Kleinschmidt/Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Corvette. It was the fourth top-five finish in 83 career World Challenge starts for Gaples.
Polesitter Long started to roll before the lights went out on the standing start, pausing to try to correct his mistake and opening the door for Daskalos' great jump. Long was given a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start, which he served on lap five and fell from third to 12th after the penalty. By the finish, Long had worked back to fifth place.
Long still leads the Drivers' Championship after three rounds with 417 points. Sofronas sits second with 346, followed by Skeen (243), Gaples (237), and Daskalos (236). Porsche leads the Manufacturers' Championship with 27 points, followed by Cadillac and Volvo.
Go to next page for GTS and Touring, plus results
Both the GTS and Touring Car results changed following technical inspection. On the track, Brown (LEFT) led from pole and pulled away from the field in the No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filter Ford Mustang Boss 302S, leading the first 28 of the 29 laps the GTS cars completed. With two laps to go and a hometown win in sight, a transmission problem left the Southern Californian with just first and fourth gear.
Jason von Kluge's No. 19 Varsity Ford Ann Arbor/Steeda Ford Mustang Boss 302S passed Brown in the race's final corner, with both drivers sideways trying to find traction. While von Kluge celebrated the win, an emotional Brown was left to digest a race that slipped away. Von Kluge was stripped of the win and disqualified from the race for a non-compliant part following the race.
Later, Brown – who before the technical violation was discovered, would have led 52 of 69 laps on the season and not had a win to show for it – was given the news that he had won.
“I usually start crying when I talk about how much this race means to me,” Brown said. “This entire program was put together by friends and family. It's all volunteers and we've been working our butts off. This last week has been hell, between pulling all-nighters to get here and moved in, to have a car able to run up front consistently, it means a lot.”
The team also raised money in the effort for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, who is raising funds to upgrade the trauma center. The cause is special to Brown and his family, when many years ago his wife was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and had her life saved at the hospital.
“If it wasn't for the support of my wife, my good friends, my crew chief Adam Cox and the dedication of the guys on the team, we'd have never been able to do this,” Brown said.
Ben Crosland, driving the No. 25 Interbank FX/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S, finished third on the track and inherited the runner-up position when each of the GTS competitors moved up one finishing position.
Defending Drivers' Champion Peter Cunningham inherited third in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, followed by Brad Adams (No. 75 VooDoo Music/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) and Pratt Cole (No. 96 USA Cares/Western Metal Ford Mustang FR500S). Cole almost didn't make the race following a mechanical failure in qualifying, but the team got the pieces needed to get the car on track for a fifth-place finish.
Brown now leads the GTS Drivers' Championship with 373 points, followed by Eric Foss (321 points), Cunningham (312), von Kluge (255) and Crosland (231). Ford leads Acura in the Manufacturers' Championship, 30 to 27. Foss finished ninth in GTS after a tire failure on his No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude's Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S.
The Touring Car technical inspection left Holbrook (LEFT) as just the second female winner in the history of Pirelli World Challenge. The 21-year-old finished originally finished second in the No. 67 Lucas Oil/MyPluggz.com/K&N Filters Honda Civic Si in what would have been her highest career finish as a professional driver.
Holbrook finished on the track behind the No. 01 Revo Technik/Carbotech Volkswagen GTI of Rafael Navarro IV, but Navarro's car was disqualified after technical inspection. Navarro led the last 22 laps on the track until the checkered flag.
“I've had a rough start to the year,” Holbrook said. “We got into an accident on lap eight at the first race, and it put a cloud over our head. The only reason I was able to get into a car for race two was because some fans came together to put me in the seat. We started dead last and finished eighth, so that was pretty good for me. We came here in yet another car, and that was stressful. I'm also a full time student, and I had a lot going on. To be honest, I wasn't sure if was prepared for this weekend. It just all fell into place. All of our hard work had finally paid off. And to be top dog at the Grand Prix of Long Beach is just amazing. I'm at a loss for words.
“I went into the 2011 season thinking there were certain accomplishments I wanted to make, and I literally just made all of them within this one race weekend. I'm really happy, the crew worked so hard, and I have to thank Branden Peterson Racing for taking a chance and helping us with this car.”
With the win, Holbrook becomes the first female World Challenge winner since Melanie Snow captured the S1 class win at Sears Point in a Porsche in 1996.
Holbrook also earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award and the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving 14 positions from her 33rd overall spot on the combined class grid.
Devin Cates earned his best career World Challenge finish with a runner-up in Touring Car, 5.926 seconds behind Holbrook. Cates drove the No. 23 Cutaway Creations/Cates Engineering Volkswagen GTI to the finish after starting fourth in Touring Car.
Robb Holland finished third in the No. 66 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30, with teammate Aaron Povoledo finishing fifth in a matching No. 88 machine. Rookie Thomas Ehlen earned a fourth-place finish in the No. 72 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si.
The start of the Touring Car race was marred with contact between polesitter and Championship leader Lawson Aschenbach (No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si), second-starting Ron Zitza (No. 60 Gila Monster/Zotz Racing Volkswagen Jetta) and Povoledo. Aschenbach and Zitza finished 8th and 9th in class, respectively, after the accident knocked them both out of the race.
Aschenbach continues to lead the Touring Car Drivers' Championship with 367 points, followed by Cates (278 points), Holbrook (252 points), Zitza (246) and Holland (235). Honda leads the Manufacturers' Championship with 27 points, followed by Volkswagen (24) and Volvo (9).
The Pirelli World Challenge of Long Beach presented by StopTech will air on Versus on Saturday, April 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
1. GT, (2), Brandon Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 31.
2. GT, (5), James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 31, -2.410.
3. GT, (4), Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Dodge Viper, 31, -18.590.
4. GT, (10), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 31, -20.799.
5. GT, (1), Patrick Long, Belleaire, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3, 31, -23.706.
6. GT, (8), Rob Morgan, Ladera Ranch, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 31, -25.438.
7. GT, (7), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 31, -28.063.
8. GT, (9), Andy Pilgrim, Marina Del Rey, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 31, -32.761.
9. GT, (11), Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 31, -1:24.750.
10. GT, (15), Jason Carter(R), Dallas, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 30, -1 lap.
11. GTS, (18), Paul Brown, Covina, Calif., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 29, -2 laps.
12. GTS, (19), Ben Crosland(R), Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Mustang FR500S, 29, -2 laps.
13. GTS, (21), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 29, -2 laps.
14. GT, (3), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 28, Mech.
15. GTS, (22), Brad Adams(R), New Orleans, La., Ford Mustang 500S, 28, -3 laps.
16. GTS, (25), Pratt Cole, Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Mustang FR500S, 28, -3 laps.
17. GTS, (26), Ernie Jakubowski, Oakville, Ontario, Porsche Cayman S, 27, -4 laps.
18. GT, (6), Dino Crescentini, Mahattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 26, Crash.
19. TC, (33), Shea Holbrook, Groveland, Fla., Honda Civic Si, 26, -5 laps.
20. TC, (30), Devin Cates, Broad Run, Va., Volkswagen GTI, 26, -5 laps.
21. TC, (34), Robb Holland, Denver, Colo., Volvo C30 FWD, 26, -5 laps.
22. TC, (32), Thomas Ehlen(R), Vancouver, British Columbia, Honda Civic Si, 26, -5 laps.
23. GT, (12), Patrick Lindsey, Santa Barbara, Calif., Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 25, Mech.
24. TC, (29), Aaron Povoledo, Toronto, Ontario, Volvo C30 FWD, 25, -6 laps.
25. TC, (35), Don Istook, Fort Worth, Texas, Audi TT, 25, -6 laps.
26. GTS, (23), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Acura TSX, 21, Mech.
27. GT, (13), Fred Roberts, Mississauga, Ontario, Dodge Viper, 20, Mech.
28. TC, (31), Eric Meyer, Indianapolis, Ind., Mazda RX-8, 18, Mech.
29. GTS, (24), Richard Golinello(R), Oldsmar, Fla., Ford Mustang FR500S, 15, Mech.
30. GT, (16), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60 AWD, 13, Mech.
31. GTS, (20), Eric Foss, Dallas, Texas, Ford Mustang FR500S, 7, Mech.
32. GT, (14), Brent Holden, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 6, Mech.
33. TC, (27), Lawson Aschenbach, Darnestown, Md., Honda Civic Si, 1, Crash.
34. TC, (28), Ronald Zitza, Orlando, Fla., Volkswagen Jetta, 0, Crash.
35. GTS, (17), Jason von_Kluge(R), Ann Arbor, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 29, -2 laps.
36. TC, (36), Rafael Navarro, Temecula, Calif., Volkswagen GTI, 27, -4 laps.