The latest round of the event, World Series 3, saw the drivers who’d qualified through the mid-season Showdown playoffs take to the track again in a one-off race at California’s Willow Springs, and it was a newcomer who set the early pace.
Belgium’s Quinten Jehoul, who’d sneaked through in 13th place in the Showdown, put his Audi R8 LMS on pole ahead of championship points leader Gallo, in a field separated by barely half a second.
The initial phase of the race saw the lead five cars, which had started on the softer of the two mandatory tyres, pull away, with the pack including Jose Serrano from Spain and the Japanese defending world champion Takuma Miyazono. It wasn’t until the closing stages that the race sprang into life. After 20 laps of pressure from Olympic champion Gallo, Jehoul seemed to crack, dropping a wheel into the infield gravel into the first turn and allowing the Italian past. Desperate to claw the place back, Jehoul made a second error, this time at the last turn. Running wide into the gravel off the last corner allowed Serrano to take second spot, and it almost happened again on the last lap of the race. This time Jehoul was just able to fend off Miyazono to the finish line.
The result gives Gallo three more World Series points, moving him onto 15, while Serrano gains two to jump into a share of second place with Ryota Kokubun – who had a disastrous race to finish last – on 10. Jehoul picked up the final point to open his account this season.
In the Manufacturer Series it was Serrano and Jehoul again fighting for the podium, this time representing their brands, Porsche and Peugeot respectively.
Serrano took pole position in the 911 RSR, but by only eight-thousandths from 2018 Nations Cup and 2019 Manufacturer Series champion Igor Fraga in the Toyota Supra, again in a compact field covered by just 0.8s.
It was newcomer Yuki Araki who was the man on the move, as the Japanese driver sent his Dodge Viper past Fraga early on – though the front five cars were covered by just a second for much of the opening part of the race. The mid-race mandatory pit stop saw this pack shake up a little, as Fraga, along with Jehoul and the defending champion Subaru of Takuma Miyazono all chose to pit early aiming to undercut on the slow-warming hard tyre. Serrano dived in a lap later, leaving Araki running on his own at the front for a further lap and it looked like the Dodge driver had played his hand the best as he emerged from the pits in the lead. The slower run up the hill from the pitlane and the cold hard tyres proved to be the difference. Serrano was able to sneak past Araki in turn three, while Fraga – who had taken the on-track lead at turn one – ended up blocked behind the Viper, allowing Jehoul past in the RCZ. Fraga’s day would get worse with a track limits penalty that dropped him behind Miyazono too, and into the clutches of the pack behind, to eventually finish in seventh. Araki harried Serrano through the remainder of the race, but in doing so fell victim to a sucker punch, last-lap overtake from Jehoul after a slow apex in turn three. That left Serrano to take the win and the three points, with Jehoul second to take two points, and Araki picking up the final point for Dodge.
That’s enough to lift Peugeot into joint second in the table above Subaru, and with neither of the top two teams in the table scoring the top three are now covered by a single point, with Mazda on 11 and Toyota and Peugeot on 10. Porsche, despite two wins in the World Series this season, sits seventh on six points.
There’ll be one more chance for drivers and brands to pick up points this season, in World Series 4 in November, before the World Final in December.