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 fourth round of the 2012 World Challenge Championship was held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This weekend did not include a race for Touring Car B class. As a result, GT, GTS and TC competed together. A total of forty cars (16-GT entries, 17-GTS entries and 8-TC entries) would race for 50-minutes around the 2.358-mile eleven-turn road course.

The first lap and forty-two cars exit Mazda Raceway’s turn two. Leading the way and already out of the shot is the pole-sitter Randy Pobst driving a Volvo S60 entered by K-Pax Racing. Behind Pobst and the first car in the frame is his teammate Alex Figge in the second Volvo and the Cadillac CTS-V.R of Andy Pilgrim. Following these two are the Porsches of Steve Ott, Dino Crescentini and James Sofronas.
Former World Challenge Champion, Randy Pobst driving the K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 had a great weekend. It began when Pobst qualified on the overall and GT class pole. Taking advantage of the car’s all-wheel-drive, he jumped into the lead and built a comfortable margin over his teammate Alex Figge. Pobst led flag-to-flag and in the process set a new lap record. This was his first victory of the 2012 season.
After winning the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship Michael Cooper earned the Mazda Motorsports Ladder System award. This prize allowed him to move up to World Challenge series competing in a Mazda 3 entered by Mazdaspeed Motorsports. At Mazda Raceway, the rookie, Cooper qualified fifth but contact on the first lap forced him to pit for a new tire. Now in last place, Cooper worked his way up to a fifth place finish in Touring Car.
Rookie Todd Lamb dominated the Touring class in much the same manner as Pobst ruled the GT category. Driving the Compass 360 Honda Civic Si, Lamb jumped past the class pole-sitter, Tristan Herbert at the start and led flag-to-flag. Unlike Pobst, Lamb was forced to hold off a hard charging Jeff Altenburg in the closing laps. This was his second win of the season.
The No. 43 SG Racing Volkswagen GLI was driven by 2007 Speed World Challenge Touring Car Champion Jeff Altenburg. Altenburg had to be the favourite to win, in addition to his title, he had two previous Touring Car victories at Mazda Raceway. He qualified third in class and challenged eventual winner Todd Lamb but finished 0.659-seconds out of the lead.
Peter Cunningham scored his fourth GTS pole position of the 2012 season at Mazda Raceway. The driver of the No. 42 Acura TSX dropped to second on the first lap but was back out front on the next circuit – this move earned him the ‘Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race’ award. Cunningham would lead the remainder of the race and set a new lap record. He left Laguna Seca with first place in the GTS Driver standings.
Ryan Winchester drove the second Compass 360 entry and qualified fourth in the Touring Car category. At the start, Winchester and his teammate Todd Lamb vaulted past pole-sitter, Tristan Herbert. Winchester followed his teammate but was eventually passed by a hard-charging Jeff Altenburg. At the checkered flag, he was third. However, his car failed the post-race technical inspection and he was disqualified.
Benefiting from Winchester’s misfortune was Patrick Seguin. Seguin started fortieth overall and seventh in Touring Car. The driver of the No. 80 Volkswagen GTI ran a steady race and was fourth at the checkered flag. Winchester’s disqualification promoted him the final position on the podium. Seguin’s efforts during the event earned him the ‘Sunoco Hard Charger’ award for the most positions improved during the race.
Veteran Jack Baldwin made a return to racing full time in 2012. Baldwin teamed up with his old sponsor Hot Wheels to compete in a Porsche Cayman S. In the opening rounds, he proved that he was still quick. At Mazda Raceway, Baldwin qualified second in GTS and led the opening lap but was passed by the Acura TSX of eventual winner Peter Cunningham. Baldwin would finish fifteenth overall and second in GTS.
Alex Figge started third in the GT category and overall driving the No. 9 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60. At the start, Figge took advantage of the Volvo’s all-wheel-drive and passed second fastest qualifier Andy Pilgrim before turn one. He was challenged by Pilgrim on the re-starts but maintained second place to the checkered flag.
The second fastest qualifier was Andy Pilgrim in a Cadillac CTS-V. Pilgrim was passed at the start by the Volvo of Alex Figge. Throughout the contest, he tried to repass Figge but his biggest challenge came in the late stages of the race when he had to hold off a hard-charging Lawson Aschenbach. Aschenbach started at the back of the grid but worked his way up to fourth. Pilgrim maintained his position and earned the final spot on the podium.
Justin Bell was the GTS points leader. Driving the No. 50 Ford Mustang Boss 302S, Bell started from the sixth position on the grid. On lap-20, while exiting corner eleven, the car made a hard left and heavy contact with the concrete pit wall. The incident collected Tristan Herbert and ended the race for both drivers. Bell left Laguna Seca trailing Peter Cunningham and Jack Baldwin in the standings.

1GTRandy PobstVolvo S6028-
2GTAlex FiggeVolvo S6028-
3GTAndy PilgrimCadillac CTS-V.R28-
4GTLawson AschenbachPorsche 911 GT328-
5GTSteve OttPorsche 911 GT328-
6GTMike SkeenChevrolet Corvette28-
7GTJohnny O'ConnellCadillac CTS-V.R28-
8GTJustin MarksPorsche 911 GT328-
9GTTomy DrissiPorsche 911 GT328-
10GTBret CurtisPorsche 997 Cup28-
11GTTony GaplesChevrolet Corvette28-
12GTJeff CourtneyPorsche GT3 Cup28-
13GTAnders HainerAudi R828-
14GTSPeter CunninghamAcura TSX28-
15GTSJack BaldwinPorsche Cayman S28-
16GTSAaron PovoledoFord Mustang Boss 302S28-
17GTSNick EsayianAcura TSX28-
18GTSAndy LeeChevrolet Camaro28-
19GTSMichael GalatiKia Optima28-
20GTSAlec UdellFord Mustang Boss 302R28-
21GTSMark WilkinsKia Optima28-
22GTSHarry CurtinChevrolet Camaro28-
23GTSMark KleninBMW E92 M328-
24TCTodd LambHonda Civic Si27-
25TCJeff AltenburgVolkswagen GLI27-
26GTSDon IstookAudi TT RS27-
27TCPatrick SeguinVolkswagen GTI27-
28TCShea HolbrookHonda Civic Si27-
29TCMichael CooperMazda 327-
30GTSRic BusheyNissan 370Z25Off Course
31GTJason DaskalosNissan GTR23-
32TCGustavo MichelsenHonda Civic Si23-
33GTSJustin BellFord Mustang Boss 302S19Accident
34GTSBrad AdamsFord Mustang FR500 C19Mechanical
35TCTristan HerbertVolkswagen GLI18Accident
36GTSGreg ShafferNissan 370Z16Mechanical
37GTJames SofronasPorsche 911 GT313Mechanical
38GTSDane MoxlowFord Mustang Boss 302S11Mechanical
39GTDino CrescentiniPorsche 911 GT38Suspension
40TCFred EmichVolkswagen GLI8Mechanical
41GTSBill ZieglerMitsubishi EVO0Mechanical
DQTCRyan WinchesterHonda Civic Si27-
42TCRobb HollandVolkswagen GLI0Did Not Start

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