Wright Motorsports kicked off the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season with a quartet of podiums on the Streets of St. Petersburg. Patrick Long claimed his first victory of the season, along with a third place finish in GT. Michael Schein had a phenomenal run with back-to-back second place finishes in the GTA.
At the end of Friday’s qualifying session, which was halted early with a red flag, Patrick Long sealed a third row starting position in fifth place. An action packed Race 1 saw a slew of battles, with Johnny O’Connell and ultimately James Davison later on in the event. It wasn’t until the last lap that Long slid into the top three and earned himself a third place podium finish. The Porsche factory driver’s fastest race lap earned him the third place starting spot on the grid for Race 2.
The start of Race 2 was what kept people talking. At the drop of the green flag, Long dove around the polesitter, Alex Riberas, and Johnny O’Connell into turn 1. From there, he bridged a 2-second gap in the lead and never looked back. This launch at the start earned the California native high honors with Pirelli World Challenge’s Cadillac Move of the Race. The only caution period of the race came during the final 6-minutes, which prompted PWC’s decision to go green for the last lap. Despite a charging O’Connell, Long maintained his composure throughout the restart and carried the No. 58 Wright Motorsports-backed Porsche 911 GT3 R to its first victory of the 2017 season.
Patrick Long and Wright Motorsports will carry the GT class championship lead heading into Round 3 at Long Beach.
Michael Schein also presented a strong run in his No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R, starting from the second place position in the GTA category. Despite the very limited track time that was provided, the St. Petersburg novice had no problems adjusting to the narrow 14-turn street course. At the start of Race 1, Schein got a speedy launch in a field of mixed classes. Traffic played a key role in preventing him from catching up with the leader, but he was able to build up a big enough gap to comfortably drive to a solid second place podium finish.
Race two presented a similar story for Michael Schein, whose quick, clean and consistent laps landed him another second place finish in the GTA category. With two podiums on the season, the New Yorker is starting things out strong and handling second in the GTA championship.
The next stop on the Pirelli World Challenge schedule is April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. First, Wright Motorsports will be heading to Sebring International Raceway for this weekend’s IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge USA season opener.
Patrick Long // No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R
This whole weekend I knew that we had a really strong car. Sunday we controlled the start, and kept it on the line so from there it was just clean air. I knew we had a great car, so I’m glad I was able to reach the potential of what it had and capitalize on it heading into the championship. Johnny [O’Connell] had the capability of reeling me in when he had the pressure from [Alex] Riberas in the Ferrari so I was pushing as hard as I could. The head of Porsche Motorsport North America asked me what I wanted to do and I said I want to win this championship. I wanted to come in rested and hungry like the rest of these guys that I’m up against. We have more competition than ever this year. I think we have started the year off very well.
Michael Schein // No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R
I enjoyed my first weekend racing at St Pete. The track is enjoyable and it’s quite the thrill racing between the concrete barriers. Happy to walk away with a clean racecar and two second place finishes. Wright Motorsports gave me a great car to race with so thanks to them. Both races were pretty quite for me. After two frantic starts I was able to get into a good rhythm and run some decent laps. I got a bit unlucky with lapped traffic and lost touch with the group in front of me. I felt good in the car all weekend and found some speed as the weekend progressed. Congrats to Pat Long on his win. I’m looking forward to Long Beach and the rest of the season.
Source. Carlin Sanderson/Photo. Porsche