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World Challenge - Long, Brown and Holland Lead Opening Pirelli World Challenge Practice at Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, April 15, 2011: With limited track time during the Pirelli World Challenge at Long Beach presented by StopTech weekend, the Pirelli World Challenge drivers hit the ground running during a 25-minute practice session on Friday afternoon. Patrick Long, of Bellair, Fla., Paul Brown, of Covina, Calif., and Robb Holland, of Denver, Colo., led the GT, GTS and Touring Car classes, respectively.

Long, the GT Drivers’ Championship leader after sweeping the doubleheader weekend in the opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., topped the session with a fast time of 1:23.513 (84.834 mph) in the No. 45 Truspeed/Privacy Star Porsche 911 GT3 around the 1.968-mile street circuit at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

It’s just a part of a busy weekend for Long, who moved from the World Challenge session immediately into qualifying for the American Le Mans Series. Long is trying to become the first World Challenge GT driver to win three consecutive races since Randy Pobst in 2002.

A pair of Southern Californians were second and third in the practice session at their home race. Brandon Davis, from Huntington Beach, followed Long on the time sheets in his first World Challenge appearance since a runner-up finish a year ago at the same race. The 2009 GT Drivers’ Champion posted a 1:23.843 (84.500 mph) for his best time in his No. 10 ACS Express/Sun Micro Ford Mustang Cobra.

James Sofronas, from Newport Beach, was third in the GT class with a best time of 1:23.851 (84.492 mph) in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3. The top 11 drivers in the GT class were unofficially under the Long Beach qualifying record of 1:24.971 during the practice session. This is the first season that Pirelli World Challenge has raced on Pirelli slicks, rather than the treaded DOT-approved tires.

Brown, who has led the most laps in the GTS class this season but has just a 2nd and a 12th place finish to show for it, topped the GTS class by 1.295-seconds in his No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Brown posted a best time of 1:31.800 (77.176 mph) to top the 25-minute session in his home race.

“We’ve been gearing up for this race specifically,” Brown said. “Our entire focus was to get through St. Pete, and Long Beach was ours. It helps that I’ve been here before. The last time I was here I drove a Porsche, and I’ve gone over the video every night for the last couple of weeks just gearing up for this. This is our focus.”

Brown led 34 of 50 possible laps at St. Petersburg, but is hoping to lead the last lap this weekend.

“We’re hoping to be on the podium. Our focus coming into this after being crashed out at St. Pete is looking for the long haul. We’re trying to gain as many points as we can, we’re trying to show as good as we can because we haven’t secured funding to run the entire year. I don’t have time to wait, so we’re going to go as hard as we can.”

Eric Foss, who won the second race at St. Petersburg and leads the GTS Drivers’ Championship, was second with a best time of 1:33.095 (76.103 mph) in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S.

Defending Drivers’ Champion Peter Cunningham was third in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX after posting a best time of 1:33.428 (75.831 mph).

In Touring Car, Holland topped the practice chart with a best time of 1:37.619 (72.576 mph) in the No. 66 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30. It’s just the second Touring Car race for K-Pax Racing, who won the Drivers’, Manufacturer, and Team Championships last season in GT with Randy Pobst behind the wheel.

“It’s good,” Holland said of topping practice. “The guys at the shop work real hard, and its nice to be able to come out and reward them, even if it is just practice. The car was really good today. We’ve had trouble in the heat, and it was a bit warm out there today, but we didn’t see much overheating problems. We’ve got a strong car for the weekend and I think myself and my teammate [Aaron Povoledo] are going to be able to challenge some people for the podium this weekend.”

The team struggled at times during the St. Petersburg debut, but have improved during the two weeks between event weekends.

“You give the K-Pax guys a couple of days to play with anything and its going to come out of the shop faster,” Holland said. “They had two weeks, and we knew we had some problems, and we knew where they had to focus. They just came out and busted butt, and I’m glad I could reward them with ‘P1.’”

Following Holland during practice was Touring Car Drivers’ Championship leader Lawson Aschenbach with a best time of 1:37.764 (72.468 mph) in the No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si. Aschenbach earned a runner-up and a win in the opening weekend.

Ron Zitza, who earned a runner-up in the opener at St. Pete, was third in practice with a best time of 1:38.874 (71.654 mph) in the No. 60 Zotz Racing Volkswagen Jetta.

The Pirelli World Challenge returns to the track at 7:15 a.m. (PDT) Saturday morning for the second practice session. All three classes will qualify and race on Sunday at Long Beach.