Pirelli World Challenge Giveth, Pirelli World Challenge Taketh Away

Controversy at series’ GT season finale

bySteve Cole Smith| PUBLISHED Oct 10, 2016 7:26 AM
Pirelli World Challenge Giveth, Pirelli World Challenge Taketh Away

The season finale of the Pirelli World Challenge GT race on Sunday was apparently won by veteran Cadillac ATS-V.R. driver Johnny O’Connell, who started on the pole in the 28-driver GT field Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

According to the series: “O’Connell fought off a last lap challenge from 2011 GT champion Patrick Long” in his Porsche 911 GT3 R. “But the victory didn't come easy after a green and white flag restart on lap 27 saw O’Connell slide wide in turn four. Long, running second at the time, made an outside attempted pass on O’Connell in turn five. However, the two veteran racers made contact and Long’s Porsche went wide into the outside gravel.”

At the checkered flag, O'Connell took the Round 20 GT victory over Alvaro Parente, Michael Cooper, Bryan Heitkotter and Long. McLaren driver Parente won the season championship. In the amateur class, Cooper MacNeil won, and in the GT Cup class, Corey Fergus took the victory.

But after the victory lane spraying of champagne, race stewards, O’Connell was given a 2.1-second penalty due to “avoidable contact” with Porsche driver Long. The penalty issued to O’Connell moved the four-time PWC GT champion to fifth in the final GT results and awarded Alvaro Parente the race victory.