The final Touring Car round of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge took place on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Whilst Ernie Francis Jr. won the race, Corey Fergus took the drivers’ championship.
At the start, Corey Fergus led the field from pole position, ahead of Ernie Francis Jr. Adam Poland ran in third position for the first part of the opening lap but he was overtaken by Vesko Kozarov before too long.
Lap six came around and Francis Jr. made his way past Fergus and held onto this position to take his 14th Pirelli World Challenge victory in his Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5. Meanwhile, Fergus was beginning to fall down the field, first being passed by Vesko Kozarov.
On lap 16, Adam Poland and Vesko Kozarov made contact when the former made an attempt to take second position. Kozarov came off the worst, at first able to rejoin in sixth position but soon having to retire with damage. Poland’s pace was dropping as a result of his damage, but for the time being, he still held on to third, after being passed by Fergus.
By the chequered flag after 24 laps of running, Francis Jr. had a lead of almost four seconds over Fergus, who secured his championship. If he had finished further down the field, it would have been Francis crowned champion.
Taking a surprise third position was Austin Snader, who benefited a great deal from the incident on lap 16. He was followed by Alex Welch and Kevin Krauss. Poland continued to finish sixth, whilst Kozarov came 11th.
“It was good to win today but I just needed a little bit more to get the championship,” said Francis Jr. “We needed for Corey to finish back in the field more for the title. But today was great to win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a Mazda.
“My championship run was all about consistency,” said Fergus. “We didn’t have too many wins this year, just three out of 18 races. We finished in the top five when we could this year. It proves that consistency wins championships. I have to hand it to our team guys this weekend. They worked 16 hours straight after Friday’s turn two incident (in Round 16). We had about two hours of sleep. And that’s what got us the win on Saturday (Round 17). It’s a special win for the championship. My dad, John, has won so many championships as a driver but this is his first one as a team owner. And with me as his driver is very special. It’s a double championship for us and it’s my mom’s birthday today too. It’s just an amazing weekend for our family.”
Touring Car A
Paul Holton led early in the TCA class, but the win eventually went the way of Jason Wolfe, allowing the Kinetic Motorsports Kia driver to end his 2015 campaign as class champion.
On the second lap, Holton was faced with the task of holding off a charging Tony Rivera, and in doing so the pair made light contact, giving the leader rear bumper damage.
Due to his strong points lead heading into this round, Wolfe only had to complete half of the race distance in order to win the championship. For this reason, he ran smoothly and steadily until the 20 minute mark, and thereafter he increased his pace.
The positions up front remained static until the final few laps, when Holton was not only defending from Rivera but also Wolfe who had successfully navigated his way through the pack. Contact between the leading pair on lap 22 pushed both drivers off course. This brought out a full course caution, under which the race would end, but Wolfe made the move and drove on to win the race, too.
Joining the championship victor on the podium were Kevin Anderson and Andrew Rains. They came home ahead of Emilee Tominovich and Samantha Tan.
“We were just trying to keep our nose clean and collect the points today,” said Wolfe. “But then the two lead cars (Holton and Rivera) ended up taking each other out. It’s unfortunate for them but it worked out well for us. I hate to see it end like that but we’ll take it. It has been a good year with the Kia Forte Koup and it’s exciting to win another championship.”
Touring Car B
Joey Jordan completed his clean sweep of victories in TCB, whilst Johan Schwartz officially wins the championship after finishing 13th.
Glenn Nixon led from the start ahead of Tom O’Gorman. Looking for his fourth straight series victory, Joey Jordan ran third in the opening few laps. In the first few laps, Nixon dropped two places down to third, and by lap seven, Jordan was starting to tackle O’Gorman for the lead.
He made the move stick through the Corkscrew, and led for the remainder of the race.
By the end, Jordan’s lead was 0.871 seconds over O’Gorman. Third place was taken off Glenn Nixon by Nic Duynstee towards the end of the race, and behind Nixon was Andrei Kisel.
“It’s great to sweep the weekend for Mazda at Mazda Raceway,” said Jordan. “It was more difficult today. They (officials) keep adding weight to my car but I was still able to pull off the win. I couldn’t ask for a better weekend for my team. The Mazda ran fantastic all weekend.”
“We had a great year with nine wins and the championship,” said Schwartz. “John Heinricy and the Chevrolet folks have put together a great car and it’s been tremendous to work with them. This is the first TCB championship for an American manufacturer. We never gave up despite some of the weight adjustments throughout the season. It was about consistency through the year.
“It was very successful promoting ZERO Cancer this year and prostate cancer awareness,” he continued. “Having come here as a youngster to go to college, pro racing was just a thought. It took some years but we finally got here. And winning a championship is pretty amazing.”