ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 11, 2018) – Veteran Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., took the advantage in turn one Sunday and held off all challenges to capture his second consecutive Pirelli World Challenge GTS 50-minute sprint race of the weekend – Rounds 1 and 2 – in the streets of St. Petersburg, part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The three-time and defending GTS series champion drove his No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R from the pole position Sunday and held off Gabriele Piana of Italy and 2017 PWC GTA Sprint/GT SprintX Pro-Am champion James Sofronas of Villa Park, Calif., in a sensational duel in the 30-lap GTS feature at the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit near the St. Petersburg harbor.
“The Camaro has always been good in this kind of race as we showed that last year,” said Aschenbach. “The middle caution definitely helped us and then the red flag at the end too. I was definitely struggling for traction at the end and we still had a car that was capable of winning. But Piana was going to give me a good fight, and I can’t be happier than two first-places to start the season off right.
“I knew right away coming into the season that Porsche with their updates and Audi’s new car – it’s good for the series, the class and for GT4 globally. I think you’re going to see a ton of different winners this year. Fortunately for us, as long as we get to the lead here, this is a good track for us. All in all, this is what racing is all about – variety and a car that people can have a relationship with. That’s why this class has an advantage right now because we can really drive home the point of win on Sunday, buy on Monday.”
Several times in the middle of the GTS event, Aschenbach, Piana in the No. 21 Muelhner Motorsports America Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR sports car and Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 were less than one second apart as they battle wheel-to-wheel around the tight and trick course. The victory was Aschenbach’s 26th in PWC competition, listing him fourth in the series’ all-time wins.
Unfortunately, the GTS Round 2 race finished under a red flag when Vinnie Allegretta in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 and Steve Burns in the No. 43 VP Fuels/Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 collided on the back straightaway on lap 29. Both drivers were not injured.
Due to the large clean-up from the incident, PWC stewards called the event with five minutes remaining in the 50-minute event.
At the checkered flag, it was Aschenbach, Piana, Sofronas, Ian James in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT, Jake Buford in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 and teenager Harry Gottsacker in the No. 69 Racer’s Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4. The top six finishers were six different car makes.
“Yesterday I felt like I lost second place, but today I felt like I won second place,” said Piana. “So, while the result looks the same on paper, the way the race developed is completely different. I had one chance at the start and I took it. The race was going exactly as I wanted it, apart from the fact that I was in second place. We managed to pull ahead. I felt like I could challenge a little bit more this time but after the first yellow the balance of the race changed a little bit. (Lawson) got a little bit of a break on the tires and that allowed him to pull away for three or four laps. At the same time, the Audi was really close too.”
“With these big fields, you have to anticipate some cautions,” said Sofronas. “But the start went as I thought – the three of us going nose-to-tail. If you’re watching the race, you could tell by the springs of each car and how they came into play. Lawson (Aschenbach) obviously has a lot of experience, Piana has a lot of experience in Europe. Right now with the Audi R8 LMS GT4 being the first time in World Challenge, we love that car. The fans want to see a good race up front. We didn’t have any position changes but I was looking at it a few times. The GT4 class will be the dominant GT class in a couple of years because there are so many manufacturers involved, so many good cars, so much interest from everyone. I think this championship is going to come down to the wire with multiple players and multiple winners.”
Taking his second GTSA class win of the weekend was Drew Staveley of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 followed by GTSA newcomer Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., in the No. 26 Fast Track Racing/Classic BMW BMW M4 GT4, veteran Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 team car to Aschenbach’s Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro.
Rounding out the top-five in the GTSA division was veteran Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 and Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4.
The next Pirelli World Challenge events will be held at the state-of-the-art Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on March 23-25 with the season opening races for the GT SprintX, GTS SprintX and Touring Car classes including the all-new TCR division.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Round 2 results Sunday for the Pirelli World Challenge GTS 50-minute sprint race at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Results are provisional until posted Final.
1,1, Pro,Lawson ASCHENBACH,Palm Beach Gardens, FL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,30,Not Running,45:08.913,
2,2, Pro,Gabriele PIANA,Lugano, IT, Porsche Cayman GT4 CS-MR,30,Not Running,45:16.714,7.801
3,3, Pro,James SOFRONAS,Villa Park, CA,Audi R8 LMS GT4,30,Not Running,45:19.848,10.935
4,4, Pro,Ian JAMES,Paradise Valley, AZ,Panoz Avezzano GT4,30,Not Running,45:27.009,18.096
5,5, Pro,Jade BUFORD,Nashville, TN,Ford Mustang GT4,30,Not Running,45:29.654,20.741
6,6, Pro,Harry GOTTSACKER,New Braunfels, TX,SIN R1,30,Not Running,45:31.014,22.101
7,7, Pro,Nate STACY,Owasso, OK,Ford Mustang GT4,30,Not Running,45:32.729,23.816
8,1, Am,Drew STAVELEY,Salt Lake City, UT,Ginetta G55,30,Not Running,45:36.727,27.814
9,2, Am,Toby GRAHOVEC,Celina, TX,BMW M4 GT4,30,Not Running,45:39.157,30.244
10,8, Pro,Shane LEWIS,Jupiter, FL,Mercedes-AMG GT4,30,Not Running,45:49.263,40.350
11,3, Am,Tony GAPLES,Libertyville, IL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,30,Not Running,45:50.966,42.053
12,4, Am,Mike HEDLUND,Redwood City, CA,Audi R8 LMS GT4,30,Not Running,45:54.675,45.762
13,9, Pro,Gar ROBINSON,San Antonio, TX,Mercedes-AMG GT4,30,Not Running,45:57.127,48.214
14,10, Pro,Jason BELL,Tampa, FL,Audi R8 LMS GT4,30,Not Running,46:01.715,52.802
15,11, Pro,Orey FIDANI,Etobicoke, ON, CAN, Porsche Cayman GT4 CS-MR,30,Not Running,46:04.174,55.261
16,5, Am,Jeff COURTNEY,Milwaukee, WI,Maserati Grand Turismo MC GT4,30,Not Running,46:07.914,59.001
17,6, Am,James PESEK,Harrisonville, MO,Ford Mustang GT4,30,Not Running,46:10.476,1:01.563
18,7, Am,Preston CALVERT,Potomac, MD,Panoz Avezzano GT4,30,Not Running,46:13.745,1:04.832
19,8, Am,Justin RAPHAEL,Franklin Lakes, NJ,BMW M4 GT4,30,Not Running,46:15.746,1:06.833
20,9, Am,Chris OHMACHT,Franklin Lakes, NJ,BMW M4 GT4,30,Not Running,46:18.088,1:09.175
21,10, Am,Fred ROBERTS,Toronto, ON,Maserati Grand Turismo MC GT4,29,Not Running,45:24.000,1 LAP
22,11, Am,Frank GANNETT,Steamboat Springs, CO,Ginetta G55,29,Not Running,45:46.231,1 LAP
23,12, Am,Adam MERZON,Greenwich, CT,Audi R8 LMS GT4,28,Not Running,45:43.396,2 LAPS
24,12, Pro,Vinnie ALLEGRETTA,Hamptons, NY,Ford Mustang GT4,27,Not Running,38:56.707,3 LAPS
25,13, Am,Steve BURNS,Park City, UT,Ginetta G55,26,Not Running,38:52.855,4 LAPS
26,14, Am,Mark KLENIN,Lone Tree, CO,McLaren 570S GT4,20,Not Running,29:41.859,10 LAPS
27,15, Am,Marko RADISIC,Belgrade,SER, BMW M4 GT4,6,Not Running,8:23.610,24 LAPS
28,16, Am,George KURTZ,Paradise Valley, CA,Audi R8 LMS GT4,2,Not Running,4:20.969,28 LAPS