2016 Pirelli World Challenge: Lewis doubles up at St Petersburg
Porsche’s new 911 GT3 R continued its winning ways in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge as Effort Racing’s Michael Lewis dominated the second meeting of the year on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida.
Lewis – who’s best PWC finish prior to this weekend was fourth place at last year’s Long Beach race – waited until the 12th minute of qualifying to top the timesheets but the American’s lap of 1m13.017s was enough to secure his first World Challenge pole position by 0.070s from McLaren’s Alvaro Parente.
The first race of the weekend saw the Porsche Motorsport North America Young Driver (the US Porsche Junior equivalent) get into turn one ahead of the chasing pack and, from there on in, the no. 41 Effort Racing 911 GT3 R was never headed.
By lap five around the slippery streets, Lewis had opened out an advantage of just under a second over Parente, extending the gap to two seconds by the end of lap 13, eventually going on to take his first Pirelli World Challenge victory by ten seconds at the end of the 50-minute encounter.
Winner of round one at Circuit of the Americas, Patrick Long in the second of the Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Rs had to start at the back of the grid after the team couldn’t repair the damage sustained to the no. 31 machine at COTA’s second race in time for qualifying at St Pete.
However, the factory Porsche ace was perhaps the star of round three, charging through from the rear of the field to eventually finish seventh, with a fastest lap good enough to secure the same position on the grid for the second race of the weekend.
To go with his race victory, Lewis also grabbed the fastest lap of the race in the first encounter, ensuring that the 25-year-old would again start on pole for round four around the 1.8-mile street course (run over a mixture of asphalt and concrete).
Again, the no. 41 Effort Racing Porsche 911 led the way into turn one and was beginning to open up a gap over the second-placed driver, JD Davison when a full course caution was thrown on lap two.
With repairs to the barrier necessary after Corey Fergus’ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car hit the wall hard at turn four, the race restarted 50-minute race restarted with just 18 minutes left on the clock.
Lewis set about building another lead, extending his advantage over Davison’s Nissan GTR GT3 to 1.2 seconds by the end of lap 19, only for another safety car period to eradicate the gap once again.
The final restart took place with just two minutes to go but, once again, Lewis made the best getaway from the rolling start to secure the lead and eventually take his second victory of the weekend by 1.298 seconds.
Long put in another excellent drive in the no. 31 Effort Racing Porsche to move through the field during the chaotic second encounter, taking the chequered flag in fourth place to salvage some solid points at St Petersburg.
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