In 2013, the Pirelli 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 category in 2012 and it was proving popular as entries were showing strong growth. There were four classes this season:

  • 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 category 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 the Grand-Am Cup and the Sports Car Club of America’s Improved Touring classes. The wide range of vehicles homologated for this category means 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 fourteen, the final race, of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season for the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Sport categories was held in Houston, Texas, at the Reliant/NRG Park complex. Drivers would compete on the ten-turn 1.683-mile temporary street circuit.

Issues with the layout restricted track time and forced World Challenge series officials to cancel the qualifying session. The starting grid was set according to driver points.

In an exciting climax to the season, titles in both classes were decided during this final weekend.

The Grand Touring grid lines up in the wet pit lane for the final contest of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge Championship at Houston’s Reliant/NRG Park complex. Starting on the pole as the result of leading the class points after round thirteen is James Sofronas, driving the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Audi R8 LMS. Also on the front row is the title contender, Johnny O’Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V.R.
The turning-point of the race for the Grand Touring title. The class points leader, James Sofronas, sprinted into an early but fell to third place by lap-17. Cadillac driver, Andy Pilgrim, caught Sofronas in corner four on the twenty-fifth circuit and the two made contact. The incident resulted in a flat left rear tire for Sofronas. He pitted for a replacement and the veteran’s championship aspirations were over.
The reigning Pirelli World Challenge Grand Touring champion, Johnny O’Connell, entered the final event second in the title chase. With the grid being determined by points, O’Connell started on the outside of the front row. He fell to as low as fourth place during the contest but moved forward and by lap-26, O’Connell was in the lead. He would win by a margin of 1.390-seconds and retain the crown.
Like Johnny O’Connell, Lawson Aschenbach entered the finale second in the standings trailing the leader, Jack Baldwin, by thirty-one points. Aschenbach was gridded eighth overall and second in Grand Touring Sport. Unlike O’Connell, he led the contest flag-to-flag. However, the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop driver did not secure the title until the second place Baldwin fell to fourth place with three laps remaining.
On the merit of his points earned before the finale in Houston, Randy Pobst started in the fourth position. During the race, Pobst was able to use the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 all-wheel-drive feature to his advantage on the damp track. After a skirmish with his teammate, Alex Figge and Rene Rast, he moved past James Sofronas for the lead. On lap-25, Pobst lost the top spot to Johnny O’Connell and finished second.
The final Grand Touring podium for the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season. In the center is the race winner and the new champion, Johnny O’Connell. O’Connell entered the weekend second in the title chase and trailed the leader, James Sofronas by twenty-one markers. When the final standings were tallied, he secured the crown by thirty-seven points. The rostrum also includes Randy Pobst and Andy Pilgrim.
2013 wasn’t the type of season that earned Peter Cunningham ten SCCA Pro Racing championships. Cunningham began the year with three podiums, but two twenty-second place finishes and a failure to start the Toronto event dashed any hopes for a title in 2013. However, Cunningham ended on a high note. The No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura TSX was gridded twelfth overall and sixth in class but advanced to a runner-up finish.
The No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V.R was driven by the 2005 Pirelli World Challenge Grand Touring champion, Andy Pilgrim. Pilgrim captured his first victory of the year in the penultimate round at Sonoma. He started the finale in third place but dropped to fifth early in the contest. With less than ten laps in the race, Pilgrim started to advance. On lap-25, he had an incident with James Sofronas, which gave him the final spot on the podium.
Mark Wilkins entered the finale at Houston’s Reliant/NRG Park third in the Grand Touring Sport standings. During the season, Wilkins was victorious at Detroit and Mid-Ohio. A consistent record also saw the driver of the No. 38 Kia Optima never finish outside the top ten. He delivered another solid performance in round fourteen and after losing positions during the contest, Wilkins rebounded for a third-place finish.
Entering the penultimate event at Sonoma, Jack Baldwin led the Grand Touring Sport division. Baldwin qualified on the class pole. Unfortunately, he was involved in a start line incident, which led to his first retirement of the season. At the race in Houston, Baldwin was in second-place and in control of the championship until passes late in the contest dropped him to a fourth-place finish and second in the final standings.
The Global Motorsports Group enlisted the services of Rene Rast to aid James Sofronas in his quest for his first Pirelli World Challenge championship. The German’s racing resume included a victory in the 2012 24 Hours of Spa driving a factory-supported Audi R8 LMS. This year, he was driving a WRT Audi in the FIA GT Series. Rast started sixth at Houston and ran as high as third before finishing in the fourth spot.
The final Grand Touring Sport podium for the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season. In the center is the race winner and the new champion, Lawson Aschenbach. This was Aschenbach’s third series title in as many classes – (2006 – Grand Touring and 2011 – Touring Car). Finishing in the runner-up position and standing on the left side of the rostrum is Peter Cunningham. The final place is occupied by Mark Wilkins.

12GTJohnny O'ConnellCadillac CTS-V.R29
24GTRandy PobstVolvo S6029
33GTAndy PilgrimCadillac CTS-V.R29
46GTRene RastAudi R8 LMS29
51GTJames SofronasAudi R8 LMS28
65GTAlex FiggeVolvo S603
12GTSLawson AschenbachChevrolet Camaro28
26GTSPeter CunninghamAcura TSX28
33GTSMark WilkinsKia Optima28
41GTSJack BaldwinPorsche Cayman S28
54GTSAndy LeeChevrolet Camaro28
65GTSAlec UdellFord Mustang Boss 302R28
712GTSJim TaggartLotus Exige27
89GTSBrad AdamsFord Mustang Boss 302S27
98GTSNick EsayianAcura TSX27
107GTSTony GaplesChevrolet Camaro27
1117GTSBrian KleemanNissan 370Z27
1210GTSNic JonssonKia Optima27
1313GTSRoger RodasFord Mustang Boss 302S27
1419GTSDon IstookAudi TT RS26
1516GTSMitch LandryFord Mustang Boss 30226
1614GTSBuz McCallPorsche Cayman S26
1711GTSArdee ToppeFord Mustang Boss 30218
1815GTSRic BusheyNissan 370Z1
1918GTSRobert StoutScion FR-S0

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