Reinging Pirelli World Challenge champion Alvaro Parente got his 2016 campaign off to a perfect start in the opening race of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, scoring a dominant win for K-PAX Racing.
Driving his #9 McLaren 650S GT3, Parente managed to snatch the lead off pole-sitter Daniel Mancinelli – who was bumped up to the GT class after yesterday’s shock Qualifying result – at Turn 4 on the second lap round the outside, after a small error by second-place Pierre Kaffer at Turn 1 allowed Parente through to make a run at the leader.
From there, Parente led the rest of the way, creating a 10.1-second lead margin by the end of the race; which was interrupted by a lengthy safety car period.
The long caution which lasted for almost half the 50-minute race was due to Marko Radisic’s Ferrari Challenge GT Cup car stopping on track in a fiery blaze on the pit straight in the opening minutes. Radisic was however fine, and able to climb out of the car to safety shortly after smoke filled his car.
“My race was a lot easier than these two guys (James Davison and Patrick Long) for sure!” Said Parente. “You always want to get clean air and manage tyres, manage the race. I was lucky and able to do that today.
“I had a calm race and that’s the kind you really want to have. What a great start to the year. Every session we have been up there. It looks very competitive, it’s going to be an extremely hard year.”
Finishing second in the end was James Davison in TRG’s Aston Martin, ahead of Patrick Long’s Wright Motorsports Porsche which recovered well after a Turn 1 incident at the start. The Californian Porsche driver managed to make a few key moves in the second half of the race after a collision with Alex Riberas that caused him to slip to sixth.
Johnny O’Connell ended up fourth despite a scramble at the final turn with 12 minutes left which caused him to fall to sixth after he got a poor run into Turn 1 in his Cadillac, allowing Long through.
His good finishing position though, came after the pack was shaken up late on. Initially the race hit a lull after the safety car went in with 26 minutes remaining, but in the final 10 minutes there was plenty of action at the head of the field.
Pierre Kaffer – who held second for Magnus Racing in its PWC debut – lost out on any sort of result due to contact at Turn 1 with Long which gave him a puncture in the final minutes.
Mancinelli also fell victim to late-race drama, and lost second spot after an off while battling with Johnny O’Connell on the final lap.
Because of this, Bryan Sellers picked up a solid fifth place, ahead of the recovering R. Ferri 488 of Riberas and Michael Cooper who ended up being promoted to seventh. In what was a promising result for its PWC debut, the RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Peter Kox crossed the line eighth.
Ninth on the road was Alec Udell, who took the GTA class win in his GMG Porsche following a solid drive in his GT3 debut in the series.
The GT Cup win was taken by Preston Calvert, who was the only one of the two runners in the depleted class to finish the race.
Race 2 tomorrow at St. Petersburg is set to begin at 15:15 local time in Florida.
Featured image courtesy of Pirelli World Challenge