Continuing a heritage with the Audi R8 that has included the first-ever Pirelli World Challenge victory in 2013 as well as more Audi victories than any other team in the U.S., Global Motorsports Group (GMG) added yet another milestone during yesterday’s Grand Prix of Texas, taking the first-ever North American victory for the new Audi R8 LMS GT4. Following an impressive drive by co-drivers Alex Welch and James Sofronas, the team’s No. 14 would show continued pace all weekend, nearly taking a podium in Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge GTS Race One followed by an overall victory in Race Two.
“This is an incredible boost not only for GMG, but all of our partners at Audi Sport customer racing as well,” stated GMG team owner James Sofronas. “It’s a huge honor to add to Audi’s heritage this weekend. Going back to a year ago when we saw the first plans for the new Audi R8 LMS GT4, we knew the car would be strong, and since taking delivery over the winter we’ve been extremely pleased. This weekend couldn’t have been possible without a tremendous effort by everyone on the team for hustling during the off season as well as during the race weekend itself, and of course by an amazing run by co-driver Alex Welch. In his first race back with us we were able to deliver a win, I’d say that’s not a bad weekend. Overall it’s a huge testament to the guys, we had some challenges this weekend in several directions, and everyone put in the hours to make sure we didn’t miss a moment on track, and it’s a shared victory for the whole team.”
Driving the No. 14 The Thermal Club / 5.11 Tactical / CrowdStrike Audi R8 LMS GT4 in the GTS category, the pairing of Sofronas and Welch would prove instantly strong. Qualifying on the third row, a clean first race would be highlighted by a procedural move through the field, with Welch opening the race cleanly before handing it over to Sofronas, who would come within a second of taking the podium in the closing laps.
For Sunday’s Race Two, Sofronas would translate his starting duties to another impressive effort through the field, moving up to third by time he came in to the pits for a driver change. With Welch in position to strike, the Colorado resident would quickly make work of the field in front of him, taking the opportunities as he could to take the lead in the closing minutes, with a late-race yellow ensuring the win. The victory would not only serve as the first for the new Audi, but also the first overall win for Welch in Pirelli World Challenge competition.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better return,” stated Welch. “James and I have enjoyed a friendship that goes well beyond the track, and to celebrate this together is a moment that will be hard to forget. The car was flawless all weekend, and of course all the guys here were fantastic in keeping everything running, especially with some of the challenges the team as a whole faced. I really enjoyed it, and excited to return to action.”
In the team’s second Audi, the No. 04 CrowdStrike Audi R8 LMS GT4, the venerable duo of George Kurtz and Colin Braun would show a lot of promise all weekend. With a combination of last year’s GTSA champion in Kurtz, and a multi-time IMSA champion in Braun, the duo came in to the weekend as a clear contender.
In Saturday’s Race One, the potential was evident as the car repeatedly turned times competitive with the leaders, with Braun closing the race in an impressive drive from 23rd to 10th. Sunday’s Race two would prove challenging, with the car dropping back due to a series of difficulties and contact, eventually being classified in 21st.
“This wasn’t quite the weekend we were hoping for,” stated Kurtz. “Overall the cars came in well prepared, and we had strong ambitions to show well in front of our Texas crowd, but that’s just the way racing in this kind of series can go. I appreciate what everyone on the team did to keep us all on track, and of course I couldn’t ask for a better teammate in Colin.”
For the team’s third GTS category entry of Elias Sabo and Andy Lee, driving the No. 8 McLaren 570S GT4, a challenging Race One would be well overcome with a great showing in Race Two. During Race One, a strong qualifying effort by Sabo would be maligned on only the third lap, when a spinning car in the blind Turn One left Sabo nowhere to go, making heavy front-end contact and with a car that would be tough to repair.
Thanks to the team’s strong roster of mechanics and technicians spread over multiple entries, the team would rally all night to make repairs to the machine, getting the front end re-built in time to go back out on Sunday, where the duo would reward the team with a clean drive to 14th.
“I really have to thank guys for putting in a late night,” stated Sabo. “The accident was tough, as there was no easy way to see the car, and next thing I know he was in right in front of me and nowhere to go. The fact that the team was able to get everything turned around overnight and we had a car that was capable of being competitive is a huge testament to the organization, I’m extremely appreciative.”
Finally, in the premier GT category, the No. 41 Loci / HKG Porsche 911 GT3 R of Alec Udell and Mathieu Jaminet would endure a challenging weekend, highlighted by a top-10. During Saturday’s Race One, Udell would turn his ninth-place qualifying effort in to a healthy run throughout the first half of the race, however the course of the weekend would alter after pit stops. Handing over to Jaminet, the treacherous Turn One would prove difficult once again, this time with Jaminet making heavy right front contact with a competitor, sending the car spinning and ultimately ending the race for the duo.
Adding to the late night repairs of the team, the Porsche would once again be re-assembled in time for Sunday Race Two, where the team would quietly advance to 10th.
“From my view, the weekend results don’t show the great success we achieved this week,” stated Udell. “Getting the car on track was a feat in itself, for that, again I have to thank the crews from Loci, M Performance, GMG, HKG, and Mystery Wrapz. The car went from being in pieces to being a functioning race car in less than five days which is crazy. Our pace in the number 41 Loci Porsche GT3R was very fast, but some bad luck that followed us through the whole week kept us from meeting the expectations set for the weekend. I’m happy with the overall performance of Mathieu and myself, we’ve got a strong car in the Loci Porsche, so I’m looking forward to taking on Long Beach!”
With only three weeks until the next event, the team will jump in to action to get everything turned around for their next event, taking place just minutes from their Santa Ana headquarters at the prestigious Grand Prix of Long Beach, where the series has recently announced the opportunity for a select number of GTS entries to participate. Practice will begin on Friday, April 13, with race action on Sunday, April 15.