Ryan Winchester and Ernie Francis Jr. opened the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec season with a pair of wins in class, respectively, Saturday at the Cadillac Sports Car Challenge weekend at Circuit of The Americas.
Winchester completed Race One with an average speed of 68.341 mph around the 2.3-mile, 20-turn COTA National Course, and averaged 77.130 mph in Race Two.
In the opening 25-minute sprint, Winchester started his No. 72 Ultimate Racing/HPD/Honda Civic Si from the overall Motul Pole as the field took the green flag for the rolling start. While teammate Remo Ruscitti pressured him throughout the 13-lap contest, Winchester was able to use traffic in the end to open up a 2.909-second win at the finish. It was Winchester's first series victory.
Rookie Ruscitti had to then fend off his third teammate, Brett Sandberg and a charging Dan Martinson t the checkered flag to finish second in the No. 71 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si in his series debut. Martinson made a late run in his No. 42 Go4ItRacing Schools/Hawk/Emich Pontiac Solstice to finish third after starting fifth. Martinson earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race for his move at the finish.
Sandberg finished fourth in the No. 70 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si, followed by the No. 68 Honda Civic Si of Orlando's Jon Miller.
The Touring Car B-Spec action was furious throughout, with Motul Pole winner Francis Jr. taking the early lead in his No. 98 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2. That lead was never comfortable, with Charlie James, of Joplin, Mo., pulling his No. 0 SafeRacer MINI Cooper alongside numerous times with the pair occasionally making contact, re-arranging the mirrors on each car.
In the end, Francis became the youngest winner in Pirelli World Challenge history at 15 years, three months and 25 days, one day after setting the same record for a series pole. Francis Jr. also earned the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race for his run. James finished second in his series debut. Francis Jr. was joined, on the podium, by his father, Ernie Francis, of Davis, Fla., who moved from seventh on the grid to third in his No. 2 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2.
The elder Francis earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing five positions overall in the race.
Johan Schwartz finished fourth in his No. 01 Endurancekarting.com MINI Cooper, followed by Robbie Davis in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mini Financial Services MINI Cooper.
The opening race was slowed by a three-lap caution to attend to the No. 78 Fiat of Austin/Wild Bubbas Fiat 500, which rolled for the second time this weekend after being struck by another car. Driver Jim Cleveland, of Australia, was not injured in the incident. Cleveland did earn the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award.
Starting from the Motul pole, as a result of winning Round One, Winchester completed the Saturday sweep in Touring Car, winning the second sprint race of the day. Winchester was able to take the win in much more comfortable fashion, keeping at least a two-car length lead over his teammate Sandberg throughout the race.
“It's pretty special to win my first races in World Challenge here at Circuit of the Americas,” Winchester said. “It's such a great facility. It means a lot. The guys worked really hard all day in testing. In qualifying we were able to put it on the pole, which was huge. I think being on the pole was very important, especially with our cars, because when you catch the B-Spec pack, if you get them in the Esses you're stuck for a while.
“It's great to be back with Compass360. I think they are the best team in the paddock. They put great Hondas on the track every time. This is a strong start compared to last year. Last year, I got taken out in the first race at St. Pete and didn't even get to compete in Round Two. I started 2012 in a huge hole, and was able to make it back to third in the points but that was the best I could get. This year, starting off with two wins and a pole position means a lot. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Sandberg was able to make the most of his fourth place starting position, getting around Martinson and his teammate Ruscitti in the first couple laps of the race. From there, he went on to score his best-career finish in second place.
Martinson again looked to spoil the Honda sweep, but Ruscitti was able to pass the Solstice on the final tour of the 10-lap race for third, a move that garnered him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race. The Compass360 podium sweep was the first for the team in Pirelli World Challenge competition.
“The first race was cool,” Ruscitti said. “I almost got Ryan at the beginning and the TCB cars just got in the way of us a little at the end. In the second race, I had to make a pass on the last lap to get back to third. It was cool to get the podium sweep for Compass360. I raced with Ryan once before with the team and I just met Brett this weekend. They're great guys and it's a lot of fun racing with them.”
Martinson finished just off the podium, in fourth, followed by Sarah Cattaneo in the No. 43 IDoBorrow.com Honda Civic.
In Touring Car B-Spec, the race was just as close as it was in Round One. Francis Jr. added to his racing resume, doubling up on Saturday, taking Race Two.
James led the majority of the race, but the high school student set up the winning pass coming out of Turn 20, leading onto the front straight. He pulled up on the rear bumper of then-leader James, and won the drag race to the line, taking the victory by inches.
“It feels great so far,” Francis Jr. said. “I've only won some amateur races up until now. The first pro win, it's really exciting.
“[James] was in front for most of the second race. I couldn't make the pass on the inside of the final corner, so I had to duck on the outside of him in the last turn and go through the grass. It was a drag race to the finish and I got him by about a foot.”
James enjoyed the close battles with Francis Jr. in both races and was complimentary of the young winner.
“Junior drove a great race,” James said. “It was fun racing with him; I had a good time the whole time. His car just had a monster third gear, and he had a really good pull and he got me at the line. Most other laps, I was able to get him back into Turn One, but the finish line is where it is and it worked for him.
“We definitely bumped a few times. He hit my back, I hit his back. We touched mirrors a time or two. We had some real hard racing, no hard feelings.”
Davis took the third step on the podium, and was a factor until the last lap, as part of a four-car group that was able to break away from the rest of the field. Joel Lipperini was the final car in the lead pack, and finished fourth in No. 81 Race Labz/Honda/HPD/Raceshopper Honda Fit.
Mike Asselta finished fifth in his second Pirelli World Challenge start, in the No. 7 SafeRacer Mini Cooper.
Sixth place Touring Car B-Spec finisher David Alejandro earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions from start to finish in the No. 99 Claims Support Inc.com MAZDA2. Ernie Francis Sr. was presented the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award. Martinson earned the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race award.
With two of 14 races in the books, Winchester leads the Touring Car points with 295. Ruscitti, 90 markers behind, and Brett Sandberg, with 195 points, complete the top three. Francis Jr. leads the Touring Car B-Spec class into Sunday's Round Three, collecting 292 points Saturday, leading James by 67. Robbie Davis sits in third, with 175 points.
Round Three of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec Championships is scheduled to take the lights for an 8:20 a.m. (CDT) standing start on Sunday. That race can be seen live at world-challengetv.com.
More information on the series can be found at www.world-challenge.com or on Twitter @WCRacing.
AUSTIN, Texas - Results from Saturday's 13-lap, 29.9-mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship TC/TCB Round 1 race, part of the Cadillac Sports Car Challenge Weekend at Circuit of The Americas, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. TC, (1), Ryan Winchester, Mason City, Iowa, Honda Civic Si, 13.
2. TC, (2), Remo Ruscitti(R), Vancouver, Calif., Honda Civic Si, 13, -2.909.
3. TC, (5), Dan Martinson(R), Rogers, Minn., Pontiac Solstice, 13, -3.213.
4. TC, (3), Brett Sandberg, Allendale, N.J., Honda Civic Si, 13, -3.238.
5. TC, (7), Sarah Cattaneo, Scottsdale, Ariz., Honda Civic Si, 13, -10.249.
6. TC, (6), Jon Miller, Orlando, Fla., Honda Civic Si, 13, -8.848.
7. TC, (9), Fred Emich, Denver, Colo., Volkswagen Jetta, 13, -20.370.
8. TC, (10), Tristan Herbert, Reston, Va., Volkswagen GLI, 13, -20.651.
9. TC, (8), Patrick Seguin, Clarence Creek, Ontario, Honda Civic, 13, -20.677.
10. TC, (11), Michael Pettiford, Louisville, Colo., Volkswagen Jetta, 13, -23.587.
11. TC, (13), Thomas Martin, Denver, Colo., Volkswagen GTI, 13, -38.844.
12. TC, (12), Charlie Solomon, Irving, Texas, Mazda RX-8, 13, -40.391.
13. TC, (14), Dinah Weisberg(R), Webster, N.Y., Porsche Boxster, 13, -41.509.
14. TC, (15), Colin Cohen, Southlake, Texas, Volkswagen GTI, 13, -1:06.333.
15. TC, (4), Conner Ford, Allen, Texas, Volkswagen, 8, Crash.
16. TC, (16), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Mazda MX-5, 0, DNS.
1. TCB, (17), Ernie Francis_Jr(R), Davie, Fla., Mazda2, 13.
2. TCB, (19), Charlie James(R), Joplin, Mo., Mini Cooper, 13, -.626.
3. TCB, (23), Ernie Francis(R), Davis, Fla., Mazda2, 13, -6.545.
4. TCB, (21), Johan Schwartz, Denmark, Mini Cooper, 13, -8.116.
5. TCB, (18), Robbie Davis, Dallas, Texas, Mini Cooper, 13, -8.434.
6. TCB, (24), Joel Lipperini, Pittston, Pa., Honda Fit, 12, -1 lap.
7. TCB, (20), Mike Asselta(R), Overland Park, Kansas, Mini Cooper, 12, -1 lap.
8. TCB, (22), Braden Miller(R), Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Fiesta, 12, -1 lap.
9. TCB, (26), P J Groenke, Toronto, Ontario, Honda Fit, 12, -1 lap.
10. TCB, (27), Shea Holbrook, Groveland, Fla., Honda Fit, 12, -1 lap.
11. TCB, (25), Chip Howell(R), Chapel Hill, S.C., Mini Cooper, 12, -1 lap.
12. TCB, (31), Jonathan Baker(R), Hollywood, Md., Honda, 12, -1 lap.
13. TCB, (28), Scott Kuhne, Fort Wayne, Ind., BMW Mini Cooper, 12, -1 lap.
14. TCB, (29), David Alejandro(R), Pembrook Pines, Fla., Mazda2, 12, -1 lap.
15. TCB, (30), Brianne Corn(R), San Marcos, Texas, Mazda2, 12, -1 lap.
16. TCB, (32), Fernando Seferlis(R), Panama, Mazda2, 12, -1 lap.
17. TCB, (33), Steve Taake(R), Houston, Texas, Mazda 2, 12, -1 lap.
18. TCB, (34), Chris Capaldi(R), Armada, Mich., Ford Fiesta, 12, -1 lap.
19. TCB, (35), Jack Murray(R), Montgomery, Texas, Fiat 500, 10, Crash.
20. TCB, (37), Jim Cleveland(R), Queensland Australia, , Fiat 500, 1, Crash.
21. TCB, (36), Ed Magner, Portage, Mich., Mini Cooper, 0, DNS.