In 2013, the World Challenge Championship kicked off its twenty-fourth consecutive season at St. Petersburg, Florida in March as a support event for the IndyCar series. The season ended the first weekend in October at the Grand Prix of Houston. In between these two events, there were races at Long Beach, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Lime Rock, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma Raceway.

The series launched the ‘Touring Car B-Spec’ in 2012 and it was proving popular as entries were showing strong growth. There were four classes:

  • Grand Touring (GT) – This group includes the series quickest cars: Porsche 911 GT3, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Cadillac CTS-V.R, Nissan GTR, Audi R8 LMS and Volvo S60. The preparation rules remain unchanged from the previous year. These vehicles produce more than 450-horsepower.
  • Grand Touring Sport (GTS) – The cars in this class are not permitted the same level of preparation as the GT category. The class is a mix of cars that could be best described as sports cars or sports sedans. Vehicles eligible to compete in GTS include SCCA Club Racing Touring 2 cars and some FIA GT4 cars. Makes competing in this category include the Ford Mustang, Porsche Cayman S, Chevrolet Camaro, Kia Optima and Acura TSX.
  • Touring Car (TC) – The preparation of the Touring Cars is closely aligned with Grand Am Cup and the Sports Car Club of America’s Improved Touring classes. The wide range of vehicles homologated for this category mean that power output ranges from 180 to 260-horsepower. Also, there is significant variation in drivetrain configurations – front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. Makes competing in the category include the Honda Civic Si, MAZDASPEED3, Volkswagen Jetta and Golf.
  • Touring Car B (TCB) – World Challenge’s newest class was implemented to allow competitors to compete at the professional level in cost efficient cars. To keep expenses down, modifications are limited to performance spring and shock packages offered by the manufacturers. Makes competing in TCB are the Kia Rio, Honda Fit, Mazda 2, Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper.

Round three of the Pirelli World Challenge championship was held during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. Competitors would race around the eleven-turn 1.968-mile street course for fifty-minutes. There was a total of twenty-four entries competing in the Grand Touring or Grand Touring Sport categories.

The Long Beach Pirelli World Challenge qualifying was held Sunday morning and the race was the final event of the weekend. Starting on the pole was James Sofronas in the GMG Audi R8 LMS. Sofronas captured the top spot on the grid with a new lap record on the final lap of the session. Starting on the outside of the front row was Alex Figge – just 0.209-seconds slower than Sofronas. Figge drove the No. 9 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60.
2009 Long Beach winner, James Sofronas grabbed the pole position on the last lap of qualifying and in the process set a new lap record. At the start, Sofronas was passed by the Volvo of Alex Figge before turn one and then by Johnny O’Connell in a Cadillac a couple of laps later. He remained in contention and was in third place when Figge had an accident in corner one. Then Sofronas moved from second to first when the engine failed in O’Connell’s Cadillac.
Lawson Aschenbach had a busy weekend splitting his time between the World Challenge race and a Grand Am event at Road Atlanta. Aschenbach topped the GTS class timesheets in the first practice session driving the No. 10 Camaro. He missed the second practice but arrived in time for qualifying and set the fourth fastest time. He battled with Peter Cunningham for the lead when Andy Lee retired. Aschenbach was in first place when the race ended under a full course caution.
The overall and GT class podium at the Long Beach Grand Prix. To the right is the runner-up from Cadillac Racing - Andy Pilgrim. And, on the left is the driver of the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette – Mike Skeen who finished third. In the center, taking his second consecutive win the season is James Sofronas.
Defending Long Beach World Challenge GT category winner, Andy Pilgrim set a lap time that was only good enough for seventh on the starting grid. Pilgrim ran a steady race and with less than six laps left, he was in fourth place. The Alex Figge’s incident at corner one and Johnny O’Connell’s engine failure promoted him to the runner-up position at the checkered flag.
As the qualifying came to an end, it appeared that Alex Figge driving the K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 had locked up the pole. However, James Sofronas in the GMG Audi R8 LMS recorded a quicker time on the final lap of the session. Starting on the front row, Figge jumped into the lead before the first corner and remained out front until the twenty-sixth circuit when a catastrophic brake failure ended his race in turn one. He was classified with a tenth place finish.
Johnny O’Connell started fifth, however, it did not take long for him to move into second place. O’Connell chased race leader, Alex Figge for much of the event and inherited the lead when Figge retired. Debris from the Figge incident punctured O’Connell’s radiator and also brought out a full course caution. O’Connell’s car lost too much coolant under the caution period and with half of a lap remaining the engine expired leaving him stranded on the course.
In GTS qualifying, Peter Cunningham set the third fastest time driving the RealTime Racing Acura TSX. With the retirement of the GTS class leader, Andy Lee, Cunningham and Lawson Aschenbach took turns in first place. Cunningham was second in class when the Figge accident brought out a full course yellow. This caution period eliminated any opportunity for him to challenge Aschenbach for the GTS victory – he finished second in class.
Mike Skeen drove the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette and was the quickest in the first practice session. During qualifying, Skeen’s competitors improved their times and at the end of the session, he was eighth fastest. In the race, Skeen ran a steady pace and was one of the drivers benefitting from the demise of Figge and O’Connell. At the checkered flag, he was third overall and in class.
The No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman was driven by veteran racer Jack Baldwin. Baldwin opened the season at Saint Petersburg with two Grand Touring Sport victories. In qualifying, at Long Beach, he recorded the fifth fastest time in his class. Baldwin had a solid race and captured the final spot on the podium. He left Long Beach with the GTS points lead still intact.
Kevin Gleason made his World Challenge debut at the 2012 Mid-Ohio event and grabbed a victory driving the No. 16 Porsche Cayman S. In the opening rounds at Saint Petersburg, Gleason finished fourth twice. At Long Beach, he was second in the GTS qualifying session. Unfortunately, Gleason encountered a starting line issue with the clutch and dropped to the rear of the field. With the problem corrected, he charged through the field and finished ninth in class.
The GTS podium and in the center is Brandon Davis who earned The Racers Group their first victory with the new Aston Martin Vantage GT4. To his right is Andy Lee who finished a well-earned second after a race-long battle with Davis. The last spot on the podium belongs to Lawson Aschenbach.

FINISHSTARTCLASSDRIVERCARLAPS
11GTJames SofronasAudi R8 LMS31
27GTAndy PilgrimCadillac CTS-V.R31
38GTMike SkeenChevrolet Corvette31
44GTDuncan EndeAudi R831
510GTBret CurtisAudi R831
69GTTim PappasAMG SLS GT331
712GTBrent HoldenPorsche 997 Cup31
811GTJohnny O'ConnellCadillac CTS-V.RMechanical
913GTCraig StantonPorsche 911 GT329
102GTAlex FiggeVolvo S60Accident
116GTTim BellNissan GTR26
123GTAlex WelchAudi R8 LMSMechanical
1338GTRandy PobstVolvo S60Mechanical
1439GTTomy DrissiChevrolet CorvetteDid Not Start
1540GTKyle KelleyDodge ViperDid Not Start
1617GTJeff CourtneyAudi R8 LMSDid Not Start
116GTSLawson AschenbachChevrolet Camaro30
218GTSPeter CunninghamAcura TSX30
321GTSJack BaldwinPorsche Cayman S30
419GTSBrandon DavisAston Martin Vantage GT430
530GTSMark WilkinsKia Optima30
637GTSDamien FaulknerAston Martin Vantage GT430
720GTSNic JonssonKia Optima30
815GTSNick EsayianAcura TSX30
925GTSKevin GleasonPorsche Cayman S30
1024GTSBrad AdamsFord Mustang Boss 302S30
1128GTSTony GaplesChevrolet Camaro30
1226GTSHarry CurtinChevrolet Camaro30
1331GTSDane MoxlowFord Mustang Boss 302S30
1422GTSBill ZieglerPontiac Solstice30
1535GTSJim TaggartLotus Exige29
1633GTSRoger RodasFord Mustang Boss 302S29
1733GTSErik DavisFord Mustang Boss 302S29
1834GTSBuz McCallPorsche Cayman S29
1936GTSRobert StoutScion FR-S28
2023GTSLou GigliottiChevrolet CamaroAccident
2114GTSAndy LeeChevrolet CamaroMechanical
2227GTSMark KleninBMW M3Accident
2329GTSRic BusheyNissan 370ZAccident
2432GTSArdee ToppeFord Mustang BossAccident

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