The Pirelli World Challenge’s Grand Prix of Utah provided driver Drew Staveley with quite the home-field advantage.
After all, the Salt Lake City-based driver certainly knows his way around Utah Motorsports Campus’ road course better than most, and his team, Ian Lacy Racing, is based at the track. That, combined with the number of friends, family and well-wishers cheering him on from the grandstands, made it all the more special when he clinched the GTS SprintX amateur season championship Sunday afternoon.
“It’s super special,” Staveley said. “Honestly, it hasn’t set in quite yet with the effort from so many different people that are all based out of this area, to be able to compete with such awesome teams — some of the best in the world are in this paddock — and we’re just a little team here out of the racetrack in Tooele. To be able to beat them on a regular basis and be competitive with them every weekend is a huge accomplishment for us, and we’re really excited.”
Staveley is in his first full season competing in the Pirelli World Challenge, and has made quite an impression, He has three GTS SprintX amateur class victories this season and one GTS SprintX overall victory behind the wheel of his No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55.
“We sat down about this time last year and said, ‘do we want to do this? Do we really want to go for the championship?’” Staveley said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park by any means. There’s about 30 cars at every race and about 15 of them can win, so it’s like, ‘OK, this is a big deal.’”
After finishing seventh overall and second in the amateur class on Saturday, Staveley had to survive a hectic final race on Sunday to preserve his championship victory. A crash just after the green flag took out two cars, and another late accident involving three cars took out his primary championship competitor, Aurora Straus. But Staveley managed to bring his car home 12th overall and fourth in the amateur class, clinching the title and keeping him alive for the overall GTS amateur title and GTS Sprint amateur titles heading into the final event of the season Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Watkins Glen International in New York.
Another Utah-based driver, Salt Lake City’s Vesko Kozarov, strengthened his grip the Touring Car championship by winning on both Saturday and Sunday at his home track behind the wheel of his No. 3 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec. He won Saturday’s race by just under six-tenths of a second over Karl Wittmer in a BMW M235iR Cup, and repeated the feat by 1.821 seconds the next day. Kozarov now has six wins this season.
“The car was fire, just fast,” Kozarov said. “I was lucky, too, since the guys behind me — Karl, Johan (Schwartz) and Matt (Travis) — were fighting amongst themselves. That allowed me to get away a bit. It was very nice to get a double win for Rearden Racing at their home track.”
Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina drove their No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 to the GT SprintX pro title, winning on both Saturday and Sunday. They beat the team of Michael Christensen and Spencer Pumpelly in their Porsche 911 GT3 R by 3.871 seconds on Saturday, and followed that with a 2.945-second win over Mike Sheen and Scott Heckert in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 on Sunday.
“It’s been great to be a part of this championship with R. Ferri,” said Vilander, of Finland. “We’ve grown together to capture these championships.”
It was the first year for the team of Vilander and Molina, and included six victories in 10 SprintX races.
“I’m really happy,” said Molina, of Spain. “It’s my first championship in America and we achieved the goal we set out to do.”
Wei Lu and Jeff Segal won both GT SprintX pro/am races over the weekend, though the season title went to Parker Chase and Ryan Dalziel.
Harry Gottsacker won Sunday’s GTS SprintX pro/am race, with his SIN R1 finishing 1.308 seconds ahead of Matt Keegan and Ian James in a Panoz Avezzano GT4 in a reversal of Saturday’s result. Alex Welch and James Sofronas clinched the season title, finishing sixth overall on Saturday and 10th on Sunday. Preston Calvert won Saturday’s amateur GTS SprintX race, with Toby Grahovec and Chris Omacht winning the race on Sunday.
Bryan Herta Autosport teammates Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins finished 1-2 in both TCR races in their Hyundai i30 N TCRs, with Lewis winning by 2.613 seconds on Saturday and 1.065 seconds on Sunday. Lewis, from Long Beach, California, has four TCR wins this season and puts him within seven points of series leader Ryan Eversley going into Watkins Glen.
Tom O’Gorman was the top TCA finisher on both days in his Honda Civic Si, putting him within a single point of clinching the season title at Watkins Glen.