Continuing their development of the all-new Audi R8 LMS GT4 throughout the Pirelli World Challenge GTS championship, Global Motorsports Group (GMG) would make further progress with a three-car entry during this past weekend’s Grand Prix of Lime Rock, an annual Memorial Day tradition at the historic circuit. Highlighting the team’s results, James Sofronas and Alex Welch would take seventh, while George Kurtz and Colin Braun would contend for a podium throughout Race Two, and team newcomer Jason Bell would settle in nicely with the team as he sets his sight on the rest of the season.
“Lime Rock always provides a lot of excitement,” stated GMG team owner and co-driver James Sofronas. “Growing up in the Connecticut area, this race is always particularly special, as it’s sort of a homecoming in many ways. The roots of our team stem from Lime Rock, and we always want to show well. The race is always one of the most unique on the circuit, between the speed, the short laps, etc., we’re always on our toes. George and Colin were on course to have one of their best weekends yet, and with a little different fortune they would have had their first podium. Jason Bell came on as a very late addition, and we walked away with a good understanding of what his car needs, and moving forward we should be in great stead. Alex and I enjoyed our event, but of course after such a strong opening to the year we’re always searching for more, and had we not had to avoid some incidents in front of us it might have been a different outcome.”
Taking the best result for the team, the No. 14 Mobil 1 / The Thermal Club / 5.11 Tactical of James Sofronas and Alex Welch would enjoy a strong weekend, continuing to develop the new-for-2018 machine, once again finishing as the top Audi during both races. As a same-day double-header, Alex Welch would start from the eighth row for the morning’s first race, making his way up the field throughout the first half and incurring zero errors as he handed the machine off to Sofronas to take it home, where James would cross the finish line in 10th. Starting Race two in the same position, an extended caution period would mute James’ ability to make work of the field in front of him, handing the car off to Welch in the closing minutes, where Alex once again made an incredible drive through the field. Unfortunately, contact between two cars in front of him would force Alex to take evasive action through the grass, thwarting any efforts for a podium position, but nonetheless the team would take solace in having the strongest run for Audi.
For Alex Welch, the ultimate race pace of the car remained a weekend highlight.
“We definitely had a fast car for the race,” stated Welch. “I really enjoyed the second race where we hit our stride. We were making our way up the grid, but unfortunately with an incident in front of me I had to take evasive action and that compromised our ability to really maximize the day, but we should still be satisfied with our event.”
For the No. 04 CrowdStrike Audi R8 LMS, the duo of George Kurtz and Colin Braun would come tantalizingly close to their first podium of the season. During the morning’s Race One, a quiet race would net them a 15th place, however a great lap by Colin in the closing laps would place the Audi on the third row for the afternoon’s second race. Following an extended yellow, Braun would make an incredible start for what was effectively a shortened race, knowing he had little time to make work of the field in front of him. Advancing to third, Colin would engage in a tight battle among the top-three, trading fast laps and doing his best to get around the cars in front, ultimately exercising restraint knowing he still had to hand the car to his teammate. With Kurtz in the car for the closing laps, hopes for a podium were thwarted when contact would send him spinning through the grass, albeit with the car still in tact to finish ninth in class.
“Lime Rock is known for very intense racing, but this weekend we were right in the mix,” said Kurtz. “I dealt with some damage to the car in both races but was able to stay competitive with multiple car classes nonetheless. Colin did his best to get the lead for the CrowdStrike car, and the GMG Racing team did a great job on this Audi!”
Finally, for the No. 2 Audi R8 LMS GT4 of Jason Bell, the late addition to GMG meant that both driver and team would do their best to get a handle on their machine, setting the stage for a great season to come. While Bell would finish the weekend with a seventh in class, the underscored potential moving forward is the key storyline.
“It’s always tough to jump in to a situation last minute, but I felt right at home with the GMG crew,” stated Bell. “I’ve always been impressed with the professionalism and attention to detail within GMG, and after this weekend I’m confident that we’ll have some great runs together in the future. We started dead last due to some issues outside of the team’s control, and the fact we were able to jump to 17th overall is a huge testament. The last few days were really about just developing a program and communication, and from that perspective it was all a success. I thank everyone for the opportunity and am very excited about our future together.”
With a few weeks until the next round, GMG and the entire Pirelli World Challenge will return to action in four weeks’ time, joining forces with the Verizon IndyCar Series at the famed Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Practice will begin on Friday, June 22, followed two races on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, combining both the GT and GTS classes.