Parente holds off Long for Long Beach win
Reigning PWC GT champion Alvaro Parente converted Long Beach pole position into Long Beach victory ahead of St. Petersburg winner Pat Long and Parente's K-PAX McLaren teammate Bryan Sellers.
At the start, Parente’s McLaren 650S held off Long’s Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 into Turn 1, and was followed by Sellers, Daniel Mancinelli in the TR3 Racing Ferrari 488, Alex Riberas in the R.Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488, Ryan Dalziel’s CRP Racing Mercedes AMG GT3, Alec Udell’s GMG Racing Porsche and Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac.
However, within three corners, the four-time PWC champion was trailing debris after running into Udell’s rear. No one got completely spun around in the chain-reaction concertinaed traffic and therefore a yellow wasn’t thrown, but the Cadillac looked severely aerodynamically compromised thereafter, with a missing front fender, dented hood and an inner wheel arch wrapped around his rear spoiler for the first few laps.
The other Cadillac, that of Michael Cooper, had suffered badly in terms of track position, as had Peter Kox’s Acura NSX, and the pair of them tumbled down the order.
Parente had eased out a second over Long by Lap 8, when the yellow (and eventually red) flag was thrown for water on the track. A streetcar driver had hit a fire hydrant on Ocean Boulevard and sent water tumbling down to Seaside Way, the back straight on the Long Beach course.
On the restart, with 28mins left to go, Parente simply disappeared into the distance, regaining his pre-stoppage advantage in half a straight. However, over subsequent laps, Long pulled away from Sellers and closed in on the lead K-PAX McLaren.
But at the end of the 17th lap, GTA driver Mike Hedlund spun his #98 McLaren into the pit-entry wall, bringing out the full-course caution.
The restart with 13min remaining saw Parente make a strong slingshot out of the final hairpin, but this time Long wasn’t caught napping and started filling his mirrors.
However, Parente seemed able to respond whenever Long got too close in the closing minutes of the race, and Long crossed the line 2.1sec in arrears, and 1.6sec ahead of Sellers who did just enough to hold off the Ferraris of Mancinelli and Riberas, with Dalziel and Udell in sixth and seventh.
The closing stages were enlivened by the battle between O’Connell’s shredded Cadillac and the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche 911 of Jon Fogarty and the Magnus Racing Audi R8 of Pierre Kaffer.
Fogarty got past O’Connell at the start of the back straight on the penultimate lap, but didn’t defend well through Turns 9 and 10, and lost the inside line to the hairpin, allowing Kaffer to follow O’Connell through.
Yet O’Connell’s joy at regaining eighth place lasted only as long as the front straight, when, under braking, he skated straight on into the tire wall. Kaffer thus went on to finish eighth, Fogarty ninth, and O’Connell 20th, with yet more debris wrapped around the front of his car.
James Sofronas was top GTA driver in the second GMG Racing Porsche 911, with Michael Schein second in the second Wright Motorsports Porsche and Magnus Racing owner/driver John Potter third in the Audi R8.
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