Lawson Aschenbach scored a first round victory at Circuit of The Americas to open up the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GTS season, part of the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas.
The rolling start saw Scott Dollahite, in the #46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora, lead from pole fending off challenges from 16-year-old Nate Stacy, driving the #14 Roush Performance Road Racing Ford Boss 302, and Aschenbach, in the #10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, who passed Stacy quickly thereafter and then took the lead from Dollahite in his first lap charge and never looked back.
A full-course caution was issued by Race Control on the opening lap to retrieve the #54 Racers Edge Motorsport SIN R1 GT4, driven by Bob Michaelian which went off course.
The green flag flew to restart the race at the 13-minute mark of the 50-minute race, and soon after, Stacy was able to pass Dollahite for second as Kevin Marshall, in the #44 VSA Motorsports Lotus GT4, followed in fourth with 15-year-old Parker Chase, driving the #19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4, in fifth.
In addition, both Derek DeBoer and Max Riddle, driving TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4s moved into sixth and seventh, respectively, passing Anthony Mantella, driving the #8 Mantella Autosport Inc. Gulf KTM XBow GT4.
The halfway point of the race saw Aschenbach working lap nine ahead of Stacy by roughly three seconds, with Dollahite, Chase and DeBoer following. Riddle was in sixth ahead of Marshall in seventh, with Brett Sandberg, in the #13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4, in eighth and Tony Gaples, in the #11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, in ninth and Jeff Courtney, in the #99 JCR Motorsports RecStuff.com/Kenda Maserati GranTurismo, in 10th. Of note, Gaples was making his 150th Pirelli World Challenge start.
Gaples, however, would soon suffer tire damage that dropped him through the order forcing his Camaro to pitroad, while Sandberg would spin, and in the process relinquished a number of positions.
On lap 11, Marshall got around Riddle for sixth place, while Courtney also closed on Riddle, passing him on lap 13. Courtney then closed in on Marshall for sixth as the Maserati and Lotus drivers dueled for the position, which allowed Sandberg to catch them in his KTM X-Bow. That created a three-car train for sixth, seventh and eighth with Sandberg eventually passing both the Maserati and Lotus.
Further up the track, another battle was developing for the final podium spot as Chase tracked down Dollahite’s Evora for the final podium position with 11 minutes left on the clock.
Sandberg’s sixth place didn’t last long, as Marshall got around him with Courtney involved as the three-car battle continued to evolve until Sandberg’s car slowed temporarily on the front straight, costing him valuable distance. It wouldn’t be over, though, as Sandberg caught the group again, bringing teammate Dore Chaponick Jr., in the #12 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 along. The battling continued, with Courtney going through to sixth and Marshall exiting the track with a damaged Lotus.
Up front, Aschenbach managed the pace to take the victory ahead of Stacy by 2.031 seconds, while Chase was able to pass Dollahite for third with two laps to go, to finish on the podium in his Pirelli World Challenge debut.
Dollahite was fourth ahead of DeBoer, who won the Optima Batteries Best Start Award with a first lap charge of seven positions, with Sandberg getting by Courtney on the last lap for sixth. Courtney would finish seventh, with Chaponick, Jr., Riddle and Mantella completing the top 10. DeBoer also won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger, improving eight positions during the race.
Courtney’s battling heroics would earn him the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race Award for his pass on Riddle in turn seven.
“Race was pretty good for us today,” said Aschenbach. “I knew coming into the weekend that the GT4 cars would be very tough to pass. They seem to be quite a bit faster than our Z/28 on the straights. I was going to have pounce quickly on cold tires to gain some advantages.
“It was fun to be out there and it’s great to be back in the PWC series.”