In 2012, the Pirelli World Challenge Championship kicked off its twenty-third consecutive season at St. Petersburg, Florida, as a support event for the IndyCar series. The season ended in late-August at Sonoma Raceway. In between these two weekends, there were races held at Long Beach, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Miller Motorsports Park, Detroit, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The series biggest news was the introduction of a fourth category called ‘Touring Car B-Spec.’ This was not a renaming or realignment of an existing class but a new group with new cars. The four 2012 Pirelli World Challenge series divisions are:

  • Grand Touring (GT) – This group includes the series quickest cars: Porsche 911 GT3, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Cadillac CTS-V.R, Nissan GT-R 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 division are not permitted the same level of preparation as the GT category. The class is a mix of vehicles that could be best described as sports cars or sports sedans. Vehicles eligible to compete in GTS include the SCCA Club Racing Touring 2 cars and some FIA GT4 models. Makes competing in this group include the Ford Mustang, Porsche Cayman, Nissan 370Z, Chevrolet Camaro, Kia Optima and Acura TSX.
  • Touring Car (TC) – The preparation of the Touring Cars is closely aligned with the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner category and the Sports Car Club of America’s Improved Touring classes. The wide range of vehicles homologated for this class means that power output ranges from 180 to 260-horsepower. There is also a significant variation in drivetrain configurations – front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive. Makes competing in the category include the Volvo C30, Mazda RX-8, Honda Civic Si, Mazda Speed 3, 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.

GT and GTS classes are combined to race in 50-minute timed events. The TCB cars run two 25-minute races with a 15-minute break in between to allow crews to make minor adjustments. The following day there is a longer 40-minute race.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend included round three of the 2012 Pirelli World Championship. Thirty-five starters would compete for fifty-minutes of racing around the 1.968–mile eleven turn Long Beach street course.

Pole-sitter, Randy Pobst driving the No. 6 Volvo S60 entered by K-Pax Racing sits on the grid waiting for the start of round three of the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge championship. Next to Pobst, is his former teammate, Andy Pilgrim racing a Cadillac CTS-V. Behind the front row qualifiers is the remainder of the thirty-five car starting field.
At the conclusion of GTS qualifying, road racing veteran Jack Baldwin was the second fastest – just 0.293-seconds slower than the pole-sitter Peter Cunningham. Baldwin made a great start and out dragged Cunningham to the first corner on the first lap. From there it was ‘clear sailing’ and he led every lap to score his first World Challenge victory in only his third start.
Starting on the front row, next to the pole-sitter, Randy Pobst was Andy Pilgrim. Pilgrim drove the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V. At the start, he slotted in behind Pobst and chased him until he lap nine when he was able to out brake Pobst going into the first corner. Pilgrim led the remaining twenty-two circuits ‘en route’ to a 6.337-second margin of victory. This was his first win since 2009 at Road America – coincidently in a K-Pax Volvo.
In the center of the Grand Touring podium is Andy Pilgrim, taking his first victory since 2009. The pass that won Pilgrim the race earned him the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award. To Pilgrims left is second place finisher – Randy Pobst. Completing the podium and finishing third is Pilgrim’s teammate and GT points’ leader – Johnny O’Connell.
Justin Bell opened the season with a pair of GTS victories at the Streets of Saint Petersburg. At Long Beach, Bell qualified the No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S fifth on the class grid. During the race, he kept in touch with the leaders and on lap twelve passed Peter Cunningham for second place. Bell maintained the position and finished 2.232-seconds behind the GTS winner, Jack Baldwin.
For the thirty-sixth time in his World Challenge career Randy Pobst was the fastest qualifier – an effort which tied him for second with Pierre Kleinubing on the list of the most pole positions. At the start, Pobst made good use of the Volvo’s all-wheel-drive and jumped into the lead. He led the first eight laps before Andy Pilgrim out braked him in turn one. At the checkered flag, Pobst was second.
First and second place finishes in the season opener at Saint Petersburg gave Johnny O’Connell the Grand Touring points lead. In the qualifying session, O’Connell turned the third fastest time driving a Cadillac CTS-V. He remained in third place during the contest and captured the final spot on the podium. O’Connell left Long Beach with the GT points lead intact – thirteen points ahead of his teammate Andy Pilgrim.
At 1.981-miles in length, competitors are likely to make contact during a race at the Long Beach circuit. Tomy Drissi driving the No. 47 The Three Stooges The Movie Porsche 911 GT3 rear-ends the Chevrolet Camaro of GTS competitor Harry Curtin in corner eleven. Drissi was second quickest in the opening practice session and qualified tenth – at the checkered flag he was sixth. Rookie, Curtin started eleventh in the GTS class and finished tenth.
Kia made its World Challenge series debut at Saint Petersburg. Two GTS prepared Kia Optimas were entered for Colin Braun and former champion, Michael Galati. Their best result at the opening event was a seventh - compliments of Galati. The team’s performance improved a Long Beach. Braun started and finished third in the Kia Motors America Kia Optima.
The World Challenge GTS podium at Long Beach. In the center is Jack Baldwin - scoring his first World Challenge victory in only three starts. For his efforts during the contest, Baldwin was awarded the Kia turning point of the race. To his left is second place finisher and GTS point’s leader – Justin Bell. Bell also was recognized for his performance – he received the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award. And, third is Colin Braun who earned auto manufacturer Kia their first podium finish.
Peter Cunningham topped the GTS timesheets in both practice sessions and qualified on the pole. Cunningham developed brake problems during the race and spun out of contention. It was left up to Nick Esayian to uphold the RealTime team’s honour. Esayian qualified eighth in the No. 34 Acura TSX but improved on his starting position and finished fourth in class.
Surprising the World Challenge participants in qualifying was David Welch. Welch was driving the a Ferrari F430 GT. He did not start the first practice session but in the second was tenth quickest. In qualifying, Welch was faster than most of the series regulars and laid down a lap that was good enough for fourth on the starting grid. During the contest, he was passed by a number of cars and finished tenth.

1GTAndy PilgrimCadillac CTS-V Coupe31-
2GTRandy PobstVolvo S6031-
3GTJohnny O'ConnellCadillac CTS-V Coupe31-
4GTJames SofronasPorsche 911 GT331-
5GTLawson AschenbachPorsche 911 GT331-
6GTTomy DrissiPorsche 911 GT331-
7GTDino CrescentiniPorsche 911 GT331-
8GTJustin MarksPorsche 911 GT331-
9GTSteve OttPorsche GT3 Cup31-
10GTDavid WelchFerrari F430 GT30-
11GTAnders HainerAudi R8 LMS30-
12GTBrent HoldenPorsche 911 GT330-
13GTAlex FiggeVolvo S6029-
14GTSJack BaldwinPorsche Cayman S29-
15GTSJustin BellFord Mustang Boss 302S28-
16GTMike SkeenNissan GTR28-
17GTSColin BraunKia Optima28-
18GTSNick EsayianAcura TSX28-
19GTSRoger MillerFord Mustang Boss 302S28-
20GTSBrad AdamsFord Mustang Boss 302S28-
21GTSPeter CunninghamAcura TSX28-
22GTSLou GigliottiChevrolet Camaro28-
23GTSAndy LeeChevrolet Camaro27Mechanical
24GTJeff CourtneyPorsche 911 GT327-
25GTSHarry CurtinChevrolet Camaro26-
26GTTony GaplesChevrolet Corvette26Mechanical
27GTSMichael GalatiKia Optima24-
28GTSAlfonso PerriFord Mustang Boss 302S22-
29GTSRic BusheyNissan 370Z18Mechanical
30GTSGreg ShafferNissan 370Z13Accident
31GTSBrian KleemanNissan 370Z10Mechanical
32GTJason DaskalosNissan GTR8Overheating
33GTSDon IstookAudi TT RX6Mechanical
34GTBrian KubinskiChevrolet Corvette Z065Mechanical
35GTSBill ZieglerMitsubishi EVO1Mechanical

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