Parente guides K-PAX McLaren to victory, as Cadillac is penalized
Johnny O'Connell crossed the Long Beach finish line first in his Cadillac ATS V-R, but had 10 seconds added to his race time following tech inspection, handing the win to the polesitter, Alvaro Parente.
At the drop of the green flag, pole sitter Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650 GT3 drag raced door-to-door down the Shoreline Drive front straight with second-on-the-grid O'Connell. The two drivers went side by side through turn 1, with O'Connell's machine grazing the tire wall on the outside of the turn.
That allowed fourth-on-the-grid, EFFORT Racing's Patrick Long to move his Porsche 911 into second, and Colin Thompson in the second K-PAX snatched third. But the third K-PAX machine, that of Austin Cindric, was less fortunate, as James Sofronas in the GMG Racing Porsche 911 made contact with the McLaren and ended its race on the back straight.
Following a full-course caution, the Lap 9 restart saw Parente hold off Long's challenge into Turn 1, and while Long was held on the outside line, O'Connell took full advantage to dive down the inside and muscle his Cadillac back into second place.
While Parente looked in control, another McLaren fell out of contention as Thompson pitted with what appeared to be a cut tire. So behind the leading McLaren, Cadillac and Porsche, it was now Andrew Palmer in the Bentley Continental.
On lap 11, Bryan Heitkotter in the Nissan Nismo GT-R made contact with the tire wall in turn 1. A full-course caution was issued to remove the damaged 05 machine.
With 21 minutes remaining, the race restarted and O'Connell rocketed into the lead around Parente in front of Long in third and that's the order they remained in to the checkered flag. O'Connell crossed the line ahead of Parente by 1.1secs, with Long in third, 8secs further back.
The battle everyone was watching in the closing stages was that between the second Cadillac of Michael Cooper, who came into the weekend as points leader, and Palmer's Bentley.
Cooper had put in a stirring drive from the back of the field, after an engine problem in qualifying had consigned him to starting last. By the time the caution had flown for Heitkotter's mishap, Cooper was 11th overall and by lap 18, he lay sixth and started battling JD Davison, in the other Nissan GTR.
Through turn 10, he passed Davison to grab fifth and the turned his sights on Palmer. On lap 21, the Cadillac and Bentley went door-to-door down Shoreline Drive, but Palmer held firm through Turn 1. Yet Cooper kept the pressure on, carried enough momentum through Turn 8 to draw alongside the Bentley down the back straight and that gave him the inside line to grab fourth place into Turn 9.
However, Cooper's hard work and hard driving came to nought, as a lap later he slid on oil dropped at Turn 9 and hit the tire wall, before pitting for repair.
Palmer also missed out as a result of Cooper's crash, handing fourth place back to Davison, with Kyle Marcelli's Audi R8 and the second EFFORT Racing Porsche of Michael Lewis claiming sixth.
Winner Parente said: "I have mixed emotions about winning the race this way. I would have liked to have won the race on the track. It's too bad that Johnny was penalized because we had a great race today.
"But I am happy to win at a famed track like Long Beach in my first appearance. I'm happy for the K-PAX team and McLaren."
Frankie Montecalvo, who started second in class in his Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 moved into the lead ahead of polesitter Martin Fuentes in Scuderia Corsa's Ferrari 458 Italia, but Fuentes retook the lead over Montecalvo on the first restart.
From then on, Fuentes worked on putting some of the slower GT cars between himself and Montecalvo, and would eventually finish eighth overall and claim his fifth consecutive race win.
Trying to follow Fuentes' charge, Montecalvo punted Peter Cunningham's Acural TLX GT, and was assessed a drive-through penalty on lap 23. That handed runner-up position to Tim Pappas, in the Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R with Brent Holden's GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS claiming third in class and 13th overall.
1. 1 GT, Alvaro Parente, Porto, Portugal, McLaren 650S GT3, 30
2. 2, GT, Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch GA, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 30
3. 3, GT, Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 30
4. 4, GT, JD Davison, Denver CO, Nissan GTR GT3, 30
5. 5, GT, Kyle Marcelli, Barrie Canada, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 30
6. 6, GT, Michael Lewis, Laguna Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 30
7. 7, GT, Ryan Eversley, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 30
8. 1, GTA, Martin Fuentes, Mexico City Mexico, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, 30
9. 8, GT, Adderly Fong, Hong Kong, Bentley Continental GT3, 30
10. 9, GT, Andrew Palmer, Los Angeles CA, Bentley Continental GT3, 30
11. 2, GTA, Tim Pappas, Santa Monica CA, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 30
12. 10, GT, Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee WI, Acura TLX-GT, 30
13. 3, GTA, Brent Holden, Newport CA, Audi R8 GTS LMS GT3, 30
14. 4, GTA, Jorge De La Torre, Mexico City Mexico, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 29
15. 11, GT, Michael Cooper, Syosset NY, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 27
16. 5, GTA, Frankie Montecalvo, Highlands NJ, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 26
17. 12, GT, Colin Thompson, Doylestown PA, McLaren 650S GT3, 20
18. 13, GT, Andrew Davis, Athens GA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 15
19. 14, GT, Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno CA, Nissan GTR GT3, 10
20. 6, GTA, Bill Sweedler, Westport CT, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, 9
21. 15, GT, James Sofronas, Villa Park CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 3
22. 16, GT, Austin Cindric, Charlotte NC, McLaren 650S GT3, 0
Parente takes pole for KPAX McLaren
GT rookie Michael Cooper paces World Challenge action Friday at Barber Motorsports Park