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Pirelli World Challenge begins 25th anniversary season this weekend

Mar 25, 2014, 8:08 PM EDT

WC

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Qualifying:
 Saturday, 8 a.m. ET
Race 1 (50 minutes): Saturday, 3:25 p.m. ET
Race 2 (50 minutes): Sunday, 11:25 a.m. ET

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Live Broadcasts on World-ChallengeTV.com: Saturday, 3:10 p.m. ET and Sunday, 11:05 a.m. ET.
NBCSN Broadcast: Sunday, Apr. 6, 5:30 p.m. ET

CLASS BREAKDOWN: GT: 13 cars, GT-A: 12 cars, GTS: 28 cars.

FULL ENTRY LIST

DEFENDING ST. PETERSBURG CHAMPIONS: GT — Alex Figge/James Sofronas, GTS: Jack Baldwin.

DEFENDING SERIES CHAMPIONS: GT — Johnny O’Connell, GTS — Lawson Aschenbach.

TOURING CAR/TCA/TCB SEASON OPENER: April 25-27, Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.

KEY STORYLINES

Variety is the spice of life

The Pirelli World Challenge grid was already a diverse one, but with the inclusion of new FIA GT3-spec cars, the list of machines competing in this fast-paced sprint series has grown even further. Among the new cars on the PWC grid are the McLaren 12C, Lamborghini Gallardo FL2, BMW Z4, Ferrari 458 Italia, and Porsche GT3R.

At this point, it’s probably best to make a list of cars/manufacturers that isn’t involved in this series.

The class of extraordinary gentlemen

This year, the PWC has created a special subcategory, GT-A, which will serve to recognize the series’ gentlemen drivers in GT-spec entries. St. Pete will mark the debut for GT-A, but half of the 12 drivers listed for this weekend have past experience in the PWC. Sofronas’ GMG team will have the most GT-A representation in St. Pete with three machines.

The usual suspects

After a successful GT title defense, Johnny O’Connell is on the hunt for a three-peat in his familiar No. 3 Cadillac. But his title rival of one year ago, James Sofronas, is also back in his No. 14 GMG Racing Audi. Other notable names in GT include Anthony Lazzaro (No. 61 Remo Ferri Group Ferrari), Dane Cameron (No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW), Peter Cunningham (RealTime Racing Acura) and Alex Figge (No. 9 K-Pax McLaren).

The GTS category also sees its top three drivers from 2013 returning to action: Class champ Lawson Aschenbach (No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevy), Jack Baldwin (No. 73 GTSport Racing/Goldcrest Porsche), and Mark Wilkins (No. 38 Kia Optima). But keep an eye on 16-year-old wunderkind Ernie Francis, Jr., who won seven times last year in Touring Car B-Spec but now goes to GTS in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Chevy.

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