Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli gathered for its first day of competitive action at Sonoma Raceway, the fifth stop for the North American tour of the longest-running single-make series. Run under perfect California skies and temperatures, the packed grid of Ferrari 488 Challenge Evos made the most of the weekend.
Trofeo Pirelli. Manny Franco (Ferrari of Lake Forest) made a triumphant return to the Ferrari Challenge championship, taking a clean sweep in Saturday’s race with pole position, fastest lap and also the race win, finishing fourteen seconds ahead of second place Matt Kurzejewski (Ferrari of Beverly Hills). And while Franco was the class of the field, the battle for second was certainly the one with greater stakes as it featured two of the top three in the championship standings. Ultimately it was Kurzejewski who prevailed and held onto second place despite a close look from McCarthy into the final corner. In the AM category, Justin Rothberg (Ferrari of Palm Beach) continued his dominant run this season, securing the win with a very healthy margin of 17 seconds between him and John Horejsi (Ferrari of Vancouver) who finished second. It was the fourth win of the season for Rothberg, who has now won at every circuit of the 2023 season, with the lone exception of Homestead at the start of the season. Horejsi also found a turn of pace and returned to the podium after his lone previous visit in 2023 took place at Road Atlanta. The leading duo were followed on the road by Brad Fauvre (Ferrari of San Francisco) and Dave Musial (Ferrari of Lake Forest), but the duo were penalized post-race and thus were demoted to a finishing spot well off the podium. In their place, Omar Balkissoon (Ferrari of Ft. Lauderdale) was promoted forward and made his first visit to the podium in the 2023 season.
Coppa Shell. Grey Fauvre (Ferrari of San Francisco) secured the win, his third of the season to date, leading Sureel Choksi (Ferrari of Denver) by six seconds at the checkered flag. In a race that was interrupted by a lengthy safety car period in the early going after a first-corner incident, Grey proved the master of Sonoma’s technical, demanding layout and also the strong tire wear that it encourages. Sureel’s result, however, may prove the most consequential, however, as it allowed him to notably close the gap to current championship leader Cameron Root (Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo) who endured an uncharacteristic outing in Saturday’s race. Rey Acosta (The Collection) secured the third step on the podium with a margin of three seconds over fourth. In the Coppa Shell AM category, the leading contenders endured the same period under safety-car, but got right into the fight once the green flag flew once more. Bruce Cleveland (Ferrari of Silicon Valley) secured the win, but by the smallest of margins, just three tenths over Lance Cawley (Ferrari of Atlanta), who had both earned a notable gap over the rest of the category. This marked Cleveland’s first win of the season after he stood on the podium three times and was clearly building momentum after back to back podium finishes in Montreal. Third place, however, was a bit of a scrap as Roger Monteforte (Ferrari of Central New Jersey) finished third on the road, but was ultimately penalized for incident responsibility, promoting Paul Lin (Ferrari of Newport Beach) into the position.