Entering the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge finale with three separate championships on the line, Global Motorsports Group (GMG) would emerge victorious during this weekend’s Grand Prix of Sonoma, adding one more victory to their season tally en route to clinching all three championships. In his first full season of series competition, George Kurtz would clinch the GTSA championship, while GMG team owner James Sofronas would finish the season with the GTA Championship to add with his previously earned SprintX Championship. Also enjoying strong runs, Carter Yeung would earn consecutive top-fives and a Best Start Award in GTSA, Preston Calvert would continue to set strong lap times in GTA, and Alec Udell ‘s GT effort would earn another Hard Charger award on Sunday to also take the Hard Charger of the Year accolade.
“I can’t say enough about the incredible team effort to have a year like this,” stated GMG team owner and driver James Sofronas. “This weekend we showed up with five cars, and virtually every weekend has been like this, and the weekends have gone seamless. I say it every time, but it’s an incredible crew effort. To run this number of cars at this level, it takes initiative and attention to detail, and everyone has stepped up in an amazing way. Seeing George Kurtz take a championship with a car that literally none of us had seen until the first race weekend is an amazing accomplishment, Carter Yeung with his first series podium in only his third race, Preston Calvert making an incredible amount of progress, and of course Alec Udell proving he can run with the best in the world… it’s what this team is all about. Selfishly I’m of course happy to finally wrap up the season with both championships, but storyline behind it is really the highlight. To have completed every lap of the season illustrates just how complete the team effort is, not one mechanical hiccup all year. It’s been a two-decade career coming, and I look forward to our continued growth.”
Entering the season finale with a virtually insurmountable lead in the GTSA Championship, George Kurtz and the No. 04 CrowdStrike McLaren 570s GT4 arrived for the double-header knowing his championship was essentially locked, and he could focus on continuing his win streak, which leading in to the weekend was at eight-consecutive and nine in 11 races. During Race One, George would show well and in a strong fight to continue his winning streak, however an electrical issue would sideline his effort, ultimately placing him sixth as a result of the complication, nine laps down . Thanks to another strong team effort to get the McLaren sorted in time for Sunday’s Race Two, the car would return to action and finish without a hiccup, with Kurtz taking third on the day, his 12th podium of the season.
The weekend would clinch the GTSA Championship for George, who had never done a full season of Pirelli World Challenge competition prior, and had literally not even seen his McLaren until the first day of practice at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“It was an incredible season, I don’t know what else to say,” stated Kurtz. “To think of our first race together in Florida, when were just learning the car, to wrapping out at Sonoma with nine wins and 12 podiums, it’s just incredible. I’m incredibly thankful for the efforts of everyone at GMG for making this possible, and of course the support of everyone at CrowdStrike for allowing me to pursue this. Obviously, we would have liked to have ended the weekend on a win, but when you look at the overall statistics on our season, it’s hard to really be too upset about anything!”
Also competing in the GTSA ranks in his No. 7 HK Battery Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, Carter Yeung would enjoy a steady weekend, furthering his progress as a GMG development driver. Running as the lone Porsche entrant in his category, Yeung would run a steady, error-free series of races, taking fifth on both Saturday and Sunday, and earning the notable accomplishment of “Best Start” for his impressive opening lap on Saturday.
“Overall I’d say we’re happy with the weekend,” stated Yeung. “After taking a podium previously, we’d have liked to have continued that, but we were realistic about the weekend and I’m happy to have run it without incident. Winning Saturday’s ‘Best Start’ award was extremely gratifying. The guys gave me a faultless car as always, and I’m happy with the way the season unfolded for us.”
In the series’ GT and GTA events, Alec Udell would once again headline the team’s efforts in the No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. During Saturday’s Race One, contact during the opening lap would send the Clemson University Engineering student in to a premature retirement before even seeing the third corner, setting him up for a come-from-behind drive on Sunday. While his ultimate finish would show him ninth, the result would fail to underscore another remarkable drive through the field, not only earning Alec the Hard Charger award for the race, but also the Hard Charger award for the year, having received the accolade more times than anyone else.
“It wasn’t the weekend we wanted to close out a really productive season with Euroworld Motorsports and GMG. However, it was nice to earn some recognition for the effort,” stated Udell. “Not finishing a lap on Saturday definitely hurt our chances to earn A good result, especially with a track as tough as Sonoma to pass. Earning another Hard Charger award definitely provides some consolation. It’s been a wild year with a lot of highlights. I’ve really appreciated the efforts of everyone on the team and Euroworld Motorsports. We’ve had an incredible amount of support, which has resulted in fast cars, two wins, and a podium against one of the strongest driving lineups in the world, so we have a lot to be appreciative of. We have one more race in the Porsche this year, an eight-hour, so we will turn our focus and energy to closing the year with a win.”
Finishing out his GTA sprint season, Preston Calvert and the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 R would also enjoy a respectable effort. On Saturday’s Race One, Preston continued to show progress at a circuit that is notoriously one of the most challenging in the world, eventually finishing sixth after an error free run. Unfortunately Sunday’s Race Two would prove more difficult, being sidelined after five laps due to mechanical gremlins.
“It’s not quite the way we wanted to close our year, but there were still many positives on the weekend,” stated Calvert. “Overall I was happy with my driving, and the lap-times continued to improve. The GTA field is incredibly competitive, so it was an honor to be able to keep pace with a group like that. Obviously having our race cut short was an unfortunate way to end the season, but I’m looking forward to having another chance to race in just one month, and with a pair of teammates who are a complete joy to be around.”
Finally, after nearly two decades of repeated victories in the Pirelli World Challenge but with a championship still eluding him, GMG’s very own James Sofronas would take the checkered flag this weekend with his first ever Sprint Championship, putting a stamp on his season by winning Sunday’s final round. In a season that proven dominant for the Villa Park, California resident, James came in to the weekend knowing that a healthy finish is all he would need to clinch the championship, which he promptly did on Saturday with a comfortable second-place run. Having nothing to lose on Sunday, James would take the green flag in earnest looking for his sixth victory, which he did comfortably after a relatively trouble-free race. It would put a stamp on an incredible season that has seen him not only take both the Sprint and SprintX Championships, but with a completely mistake-free season that saw him finish every lap of the 2017 season, with not one mechanical misstep or incident.
While the Pirelli World Challenge season has come to a close, the year is not over for the team nor much of the series. As previously announced, GMG will proudly take part in the inaugural American round of the Intercontinental GT Championship in just one month’s time, racing for eight hours at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from October 12-14.