Pirelli World Challenge

Third Win of Season for Johnny O’Connell

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Johnny O’Connell took the overall victory at the first GT race of the Miller Motorsports Park event weekend. Frank Montecalvo and Alec Udell led in GTA and GT Cup respectively.


Whilst James Davison tried to pass Johnny O’Connell at turn one, the Nissan driver was unsuccessful, having to instead turn his attention to an attack from team-mate Bryan Heitkotter.

Guy Smith had qualified on pole in his return to the series, but was forced to start from the back of the grid following a post-qualifying technical infraction. He had, however, moved up to 16th position on the opening lap.

A full course caution was called on the opening lap when Bill Ziegler‘s BMW Z4 was beached at turn one following a multi-car collision. The race restarted on lap 4, and O’Connell got another clean getaway.

Throughout the remainder of the 26 lap race, the Cadillac Racing driver extended his lead over the two Always Evolving cars of James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter.

Meanwhile, Guy Smith had moved even further up the field and was now engaged in a battle for fifth place, headed by Ryan Dalziel. In front of the EFFORT Racing contender was Nicky Catsburg, a lonely fourth.

The top four positions remained the same to the chequered flag, and the fifth place battle was eventually won by Ryan Dalziel, ahead of Michael Lewis, Andy Pilgrim, Peter Cunningham and Guy Smith.

“I got a good start.  It’s always better to be on the pole for those rolling starts,” said O’Connell. “James (Davison) and I were neck and neck heading down into turn one.  I took a little bit of a defence line going down in there. The Nissan of JD did a great job of getting me to go in deep into the corner.  Then he got into the marbles on the outside and I was able to pull out a bit.

“I really like the circuit here.  It suits me and it has a nice rhythm for me.”

Alec Udell 2015 PWC Miller

Udell beat Thompson to the GT Cup win (Credit: PWC)


Frank Montecalvo took a strong class lead for the first part of the race, and sat eighth overall in the first lap. He was followed by Martin Fuentes and Eric Lux.

The restart following the full course caution didn’t alter the leading two positions, but points leader Henrique Cisneros slipped into third ahead of Lux.

These positions only changed late in the race when Cisneros ran off course, ultimately forcing his Ferrari to finish fourth, and allowing Eric Lux to retake third.

Frank Montecalvo’s lead over Fuentes was around 13 seconds, who in turn came home clear of Lux and Cisneros. Fifth position was taken by Henry Hassid.

“It was a great race for me with the GT guys,” said Montecalvo. “But I was in a solid position in GTA so I didn’t really want to mix it up with them.  We had a good gap behind us and I wanted to play it safe.  There were guys bumping and sliding.  It was very good racing. It was fun to watch from my standpoint.”

GT Cup

The series’ smallest class didn’t fail to provide an exciting lead battle, with Alec Udell coming out on top.

From the start, Colin Thompson led the field, and was ahead of Udell and Utah-native Sloan Urry. It took until lap seven for Udell to pass Thompson, and this move was undone two laps later.

Giving in to pressure from Udell, Thompson ran wide a few laps later, and although the points leader made his way back up to run side-by-side with Udell, he was unable to make the pass. At turn one on lap 22, Thompson spun out, thus awarding the victory to Udell.

At the end, Udell’s advantage was 12.6 seconds over Thompson, and behind him were Urry, Mitch Landry and Phil Fogg, Jr.

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Jake covers sportscars for The Checkered Flag, mainly Tudor United SportsCar Championship and World Endurance Championship, along with a variety of other series including World Rally Championship.
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