July 9, 2020

Ford GP of Utah Day 1 Highlights

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Words and photos by Michael Chandler

And now to the highlights from Saturday’s races.  We’ll start with GT, where Johnny O’Connell (man of the people) took his ATSV.R GT3 wire to wire, holding off both of the Nissan GTR GT3s for the win.  Coming in second was JD Davison in the #33 Always Evolving GTR, and in third was Bryan Hoikotter.  Hoikotter is a graduate of the Nissan GT Academy, you know, the thing where hot shoe Gran Turismo players have a chance to become hot shoe race car drivers.  GT Academy drivers have done reasonably well, Hoikotter himself is sitting in third in the driver’s championship at the moment.

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Back to Johnny for a minute.  He’s been on a bit of a dry spell since Canada.  He’s finished in the top ten at the last two stops (Mid-Ohio and Road America), but hasn’t been on the podium since returning from the Great White North.  Not only did he break that four race winless streak, he also set a new track record in the process!  Always good seeing a driver as skilled as Johnny wringing the most out of a new chassis.

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Last year the fans at Miller missed out on seeing the Realtime Racing Acura TLX-GTs.  This year the fans got to see World Challenge legend Peter Cunningham and the people’s champ Ryan Eversley hustle the Acuras around the warm, dusty track.  When the checkered flag flew, Peter held of the Bentley of Guy Smith for 8th and Ryan kept Olivier Beretta (currently second in GT Driver’s standings) behind him for 11th.  I was excited to see the Acuras, and to finally see Ryan drive in person.  He’s a good dude.

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Mark Wilkins, Canadian driver of the Korean sedan making this possibly the most international entry of the weekend, went wire to wire and collected a win in GTS.  The GT/GTA/GT Cup drivers were a little more cautious around the kerbing on the Attitudes, but the GTS guys were more than willing to hit them like they owed them money.  The only people who hit them harder might have been the TC/TCA/TCB guys.  Now, this is where I make a segue…

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Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake’s own, drove the Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z to a third place finish.  Doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, right?  Local guy, on his home track, in a car he’s very familiar with, finishes on the podium.  If that were it, this wouldn’t be much of a story.  More of a footnote really.  However, that third place finish is made all the more impressive because…

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He was also cleaning up in TC!  By Saturday he had already won the first of three Touring Car races of the weekend, and by the end of the day he had collected his second win in the Skullcandy Nissan Altima.  The GTS and second TC/TCA/TCB races were back to back!  That means he drove to third in GTS, took the car back to his spot in the paddock, jumped in the Altima, made it over to pre-grid, then lined up in 8th and drove like a madman to win.  That is my highlight of the weekend: Vesko finishing on the podium in back to back races in two different classes.

Tomorrow we return with more eye candy from the weekend, with more highlights coming on Thursday.  Were you at the Pirelli World Challenge Ford Grand Prix of Utah?  What was your highlight from the weekend?  Share it with us!  Drop it in the comments!  Or post a picture you creeped of me shooting photos.  Either or.

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Michael Chandler

Director of Photography, writer, man about town and owner of Big Ronda, the Mk3 Toyota Supra project

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