Following a near two-decade career in the Pirelli World Challenge, Global Motorsports Group team owner and driver James Sofronas would finally achieve a lifelong dream of earning a series championship, achieved on the back of three consecutive victories during this weekend’s triple-header at Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Entering the final weekend of the series’ SprintX championship with a seven-point deficit, the Californian and teammate Mathieu Jaminet would maximize each opportunity as it came, with the victory sweep providing more than enough points to take the title. Not to be outdone, George Kurtz would also enjoy yet another weekend sweep of the GTSA category, furthering bolstering his championship lead heading in to the series’ final weekend. In addition, series newcomer Carter Yeung would enjoy his first ever podium, Brett Meredith would take a top-10 in his debut, meanwhile Preston Calvert and Alec Udell would continue to impress with their Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“This is just an incredible team effort, many have contributed to the result,” stated team owner and driver James Sofronas. “To have such a continued level of success, with no mistakes, reliable and fast cars, it’s a complete and total testament to the approach and attitude of everyone on this team. It’s something we have been working in since the end of last season. I’m really happy to see George continue his charge, he’s been absolutely on fire all season, and headed to Sonoma we’re all hoping to see him wrap up an incredible championship effort. Seeing Carter take his first podium was absolutely awesome, and such a complete sign of how far he’s progressed as a driver, he’s shown incredible commitment. Brett did a great job mixing it up with a strong field, and Preston and Alec continued to show good pace all weekend. Of course personally, the SprintX championship is something I couldn’t be happier about. It’s absolutely incredible. I’ve been blessed to have great teammates this season, Laurens Vanthoor helped put us in a great position in to the halfway point of the season, and Mathieu has just been amazing. This isn’t just my championship, but really one for all the guys who’ve been part of this team for a long, long time, I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Beginning with the series’ three entries in the GTSA category, George Kurtz would once again drive remarkably in the No. 04 CrowdStrike McLaren 570S GT4. Continuing an incredible run that began with victory in Canada, George has followed his success up with an additional six consecutive victories leading in to this weekend. Proving relentless in his championship aspirations, Kurtz’ run of success continued, lapping relatively unchallenged within his own category, winning both Race One and Race Two by nearly 30 seconds. This now puts his tally to nine victories in 16 races.
“It’s been incredible so far,” stated Kurtz. “As always, everyone at GMG gave me a great car and a great baseline to work with, and it became a matter of managing our race once things settled in. If you’d have told me we’d have nine victories this year I wouldn’t have believed you, and headed to Sonoma we’ve got a great lead in the championship, but we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Driving the No. 7 HKG Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, Carter Yeung would also enjoy a banner weekend, achieving his first ever podium in a national series, as well as earning the series’ “Best Start” award for a tremendous opening lap. A product of GMG’s driver development system, Yeung made only his second Pirelli World Challenge start this weekend, yet proved an instant contender in Race One, firmly positioned in third throughout much of the race, and finishing within two seconds of second-place. Sunday’s Race Two would prove much of the same, with the Southern California native balancing patience with speed to hold on to third once again, just two seconds off of second at the finish.
“This has been a great opportunity to step up on every level,” stated Yeung. “GMG has done an excellent job working with me through every stage of the progression, and the results really showed it this weekend. The car was very well prepared, and at a track as big as Circuit of the Americas, it’s really helpful to have a team with this sort of foundation to really help us work through it all. I’m extremely happy to walk away with two podiums, and look forward to Sonoma.”
Another product of the team’s development system, Brett Meredith would also show well in his series debut. Proving instantly fast, Brett would actually pull the second fastest race lap of any Porsche in class, demonstrating his potential, with a late-race incident ending his day early.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to run the whole weekend, but we did show great pace,” stated Meredith. “Saturday’s race showed a lot of potential, and I’m confident in the future we’ll be a real contender. I appreciate what everyone at GMG has done to make this happen, and look forward to the next one.”
In the event’s flagship SprintX events, GMG’s two-car Porsche effort would once again prove best in class, ultimately netting a championship.
In the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 R, Preston Calvert and Alec Udell would enjoy an up and down final weekend of SprintX competition, demonstrating strong pace throughout the entirety. During Friday’s Race One, serving as a make-up race to the rained out Race Two in Canada three months earlier, Alec Udell would set a fastest lap just 0.5 seconds shy of the eventual race winner, with the duo taking sixth in class. Saturday’s Race Two, unfortunately, would be maligned before the race really set in, with Calvert being caught in an incident before the end of Lap One. Sunday’s Race Two, however, would fair much better for the duo, with Udell moving from the back of the field to sixth overall by time the pit window opened, and second by time he actually stopped. From there, Preston Calvert would enjoy a relatively quiet race to take their first top-five of the weekend.
While the SprintX season is over for their combined effort, both drivers will return to action in Sonoma, with Calvert in the same No. 77 Porsche, and Udell returning to his signature blue and orange No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports machine.
“There were a lot of positives on the weekend,” stated Udell. “We had a great car, and we were able to run times that showed just where our potential lies, but with the strong competition of the series you really have to make the most of everything to get the top results. Preston set a personal best, showing great pace, and he continues to get stronger with every event, I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity and for his friendship.”
For Preston Calvert, a similar sentiment is shared.
“It was great to be part of this championship with Alec and all the guys at GMG,” stated Calvert. “We had a great car this weekend, and Alec’s performance on Sunday was spectacular, he really took advantage of everything. All of the guys did an amazing job getting the car repaired from Saturday to Sunday, and I’m happy overall with our performance, including taking two class victories in the support races with the Pirelli Cup, and I think this experience has situated us well. Moving on to Sonoma, I’m looking forward to finishing off the season, we should be strong.”
Finally, capping off the weekend with one of his best performances yet, James Sofronas and Mathieu Jaminet came in to the final weekend of the SprintX championship knowing nothing short of victory would be required to secure the championship for James and the No. 14 Mobil 1 / The Thermal Club / 5.11 Tactical Porsche 911 GT3 R.
During Friday’s Race One, Jaminet would drive an incredibly strong opening stint, carving through most of the field after starting in last place since, due to the fact he was not the team’s driver in Canada. Handing over to Sofronas, the tough task was now set for James to chase down the class leader. Shaving off time lap after lap, during the closing laps Sofronas would do a monumental job of closing the gap, taking the white flag right on the tail of leading Mercedes-AMG, faking a move in to the tricky Turn 12 and forcing the leader in to a mistake. That victory would put Sofronas within just three points of the championship lead for Saturday and Sunday’s round.
Saturday’s Race Two would prove critical for their championship. Qualifying 11th overall, ahead of five pro drivers, James would have a trouble-free stint, managing his car perfectly before handing over to Jaminet, who would do much of the same to take a relatively trouble-free victory. Mathieu would also set the fastest lap OVERALL to start on the pole for Sunday’s Race Three, giving James and Mathieu excellent momentum going into the final race for the Sprint X Championship.
For Sunday’s Race Three, Sofronas and Jaminet only needed to manage a healthy race to seal the title, but being racers, they were certainly going for the win. Starting from the pole position, Mathieu drove an outstanding opening stint, pulling away from a field of factory-fielded pro cars, as well as opening up a small gap to second in class, knowing full well the key component would be to not put the car at risk. Achieving just that, Mathieu would pit to hand the car over to James, with the team taking extra precaution during the stop to avoid penalty. Exercising caution and restraint, Sofronas would actually come out second in class when it all shook out, but pushing hard to once again pass the class-leading Mercedes-AMG. Relentless in his pursuit, James caught the leader in class within five laps but found difficulty in getting by, glued to the back of the leader during the final 15 minutes, engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle that saw James strong in some areas of the track, and his competitor stronger in others. With three laps to go, some out-braking heroics by Sofronas would actually lead to contact between the two, with the leader spinning and James in a position to take the lead, however with two decades of racing experience, he realized the smarter move would be to wait for the leader to recover so as to avoid a penalty. This would work out perfectly, with James once again able to make a passing maneuver on the next lap, which was also the last lap of the race. The lead would stick, and victory clinched the Championship with a clean sweep of the weekend.
The result would seal the SprintX title for James, who in 20 years of Pirelli World Challenge competition has never won a title. It served as unfinished business for the Californian, who has twice finished runner-up overall in the series, including a heart-breaking last race defeat in 2013.
The championship fight is not over for James, however, who will head in to the series’ “Sprint” finale in Sonoma in search of earning both the Sprint and Overall titles in class. Currently leading with a healthy margin, a steady weekend for James is all that’s needed to take home top honors, but as another double header anything can happen.
Practice for the Grand Prix of Sonoma will begin on Friday, September 15, with double header race action taking place on Saturday, September 16, and Sunday, September 17.