James Sofronas Secures Third Straight IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Victory in Season-Opening Race at Sebring

James Sofronas made a triumphant return to Sebring International Raceway while his close friend and GMG Racing teammate Kyle Washington made a grand career debut on the legendary 3.74-mile airport circuit in Thursday’s season-opening IMSA Porsche Carrera Cup North America race.

Picking up where he left off after a sweep of 2023’s year-end Carrera Cup doubleheader at Circuit of The Americas, Sofronas secured his third-straight Pro-Am class victory in his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in his first race at Sebring in six years.

Washington has been competing regularly in a variety of single-make Porsche and GT racing series for the last four years but remarkably had never made a race start at Sebring until today. He steadily improved in his No. 32 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup throughout the fast 40-minute race to charge from ninth at the start to a top-five Masters Class finish.

Sofronas took the green flag from third on the grid but immediately challenged the two competitors in front. He raced side-by-side for a time on the opening lap with the Pro-Am class polesitter and prevailed to take the lead by the end of lap one.

Sofronas ultimately led all 17 race laps run but had to overcome a restart and pressure from second place finisher Marco Cirone throughout the race. He crossed the finish line a scant 0.179 of a second ahead of Cirone.

“We missed the testing here the last week or two, so I had to play catch-up,” Sofronas said. “I was behind the eight ball most of the week, and then in qualifying I just got a solid lap in and then just used a lot of my experience. There may have been some faster guys but I think a lot of my decisions were right on. Marco and I had a battle to the end and that was a lot of fun. He raced me clean, I’ve watched him race before, and it was great to battle with a strong competitor.”

Washington’s race was spent fighting among the Pro-Am back markers and in the thick of the Masters Class field while also having to learn Sebring’s notoriously tricky and bumpy circuit.

“I’m just happy this new car doesn’t have one scratch on it,” Washington said. “When you look at the carnage of what happened in front of me, how there’s no scratches on that new car is unbelievable. I went off twice just to save my car, and you can point fingers, but if you’re out of the race, that doesn’t matter. So, sometimes you have to take one for the team. There’s some aggressive corners here if people want it to be, but I have a new car that I didn’t want to scratch in the first race of the year.”

Not one to hang back, Washington takes Sebring’s “Respect the Bumps” tagline even further. He is more like “Love the Bumps.”

“I actually like the bumps, being a desert rat and loving off road stuff,” Washington said. “The bumps probably favor me. The high speed, no horizon turns are challenging for me but I think we’re getting better at them. There’s a lot of timing corners here. Turn 1, there’s really no markers for turn in, and when you add other people next to you it’s a real butt pucker. We’ve got another kick at the can tomorrow.”

A West Coast team in operation year round, GMG did indeed skip the pre-season Carrera Cup test earlier this month at Sebring, but Sofronas, Washington and the entire team really had no off season. All were in action throughout the winter in races and test days at The Thermal Club near Palm Springs. Sofronas and GMG are completing a new headquarters operation there that will have a grand opening this summer.

“I did yet another race at Thermal a couple of weeks ago for some fine tuning and it is such a great place for us to practice and really get some off season testing in,” Sofronas said. “It helps that we’re building a shop there and I’m there all the time, so I may as well get some seat time. It helped me prepare for today’s race that was different from the COTA races. We had so many yellows at COTA, but this race was one caution and then we settled in. I was playing it conservative, not making any mistakes, easy in and fast out as I coach my clients.”

Washington is one of GMG’s top driver clients and Sofronas was proud of his Sebring debut.

“Kyle’s been great, he finished top five,” Sofronas said. “I threw down an EBOOST before the race and it gave me all the energy I needed. Coming out on top was very rewarding, so we’ll celebrate and do it again tomorrow.”

Sofronas has been racing in partnership with Mobil 1 for 30 years and was proud to get the leading brand – which is the longtime sponsor of this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – to Victory Lane on the company’s 50th Anniversary. The winning No. 14 GMG Porsche features a special Mobil 1 Golden Anniversary livery.

“Even before GMG was founded, I was honored to have the incredible support from Mobil 1 for several decades,” Sofronas said. “The opportunity to work with them here at a race where several of us are running special gold liveries and logos to celebrate the milestone anniversary is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. We look forward to continuing with them for many years to come and can’t thank Mobil 1 enough for the ongoing partnership.”

Friday’s final 40-minute Carrera Cup race of the Sebring opener is a sprint into the night that starts at 7:15 p.m. and ends at 7:55 p.m. EDT.