James Sofronas has been around the Pirelli World Challenge championships in one form or another for nearly a quarter century. From the mid-’90s when he and brother Brad raced under the Greek Brothers Racing banner in Touring Car Oldsmobiles until winning the GTA championship in 2017, he’s dabbled in the series often, if sporadically. In the meantime, he was building one of the premier tuning and racing shops on the West Coast.
“Even though I’ve been running in World Challenge for 23 years, I think I’ve only done eight full-season runs to go for a championship,” Sofronas says. “We were second in ’09, second in ’13, so to win it here in the Pro-Am class was gratifying, because this year I did very little testing. The business has been thriving, so all my racing has been done on the weekends here in Pirelli World Challenge.”
Sofronas won the overall GTA championship in addition to winning both the Sprint GTA title and the GT Pro-Am championship in SprintX, partnering with Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3R. He also ran the customer racing side of GMG Racing, which fielded cars for Alec Udell and Preston Calvert in GT, A McLaren 570S for GTSA champ George Kurtz and a Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR for Carter Yeung, among a few other single-race efforts. GMG Racing is part of Global Motorsports Group, one of the largest tuners in Southern California and one that creates products for not only Porsches, but Audis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens as well.
“Racing is what drew me into starting GMG. I was racing on the East Coast, and when I moved to California 20 years ago, I thought there was no real customer-based racing program in Southern California,” he explains. “I was racing and I thought, ‘Let’s build a business around my racing, and develop street products off the racing program.'”
With both sides of the business thriving, and his kids getting older, it was time for Sofronas to see if he could put together a championship run. It didn’t necessarily start that way – he had planned on a partial season, but one of his clients he was going to share the car with had other commitments. So he asked Porsche for some driving help for SprintX, and away he went.
“I think if I’m not racing, I don’t feel like I have something that’s really pushing me. I have a great company, and I have a great staff that runs the other side of the business,” he says. “But my kids are getting older, and I knew I only had a few more years before they got really busy and active and I’m going to want to be there for them in all the things they do, so I figured I better keep pushing and see how far I can go and stay competitive amongst my peers. I guess that I’m very lucky … I have an amazing wife that’s very supportive, and two kids who don’t want me to quit racing and like going to my races. They only see the glory side when we pull off a win; they don’t see the work, but the work is all worth it.”
From Round 3 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sofronas didn’t lose in GTA Sprint except for the first race at Sonoma Raceway. Paired with Jaminet, Sofronas and the No. 14 won the second SprintX race at Utah Motorsports Campus and three rounds at Circuit of The Americas (including the postponed Round 4 from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park). He was 12th in the Overall standings, tied with Pierre Kaffer, and 33 points clear of Wright Motorsports Porsche driver Michael Schein, his chief rival in GTA competition and the only other driver to win in GTA (not counting Udell, who only lasted two rounds in GTA before being deemed a pro).
“I knew Michael Schein would be my main competition, and that’s frankly why I decided to do SprintX in GT Pro-Am, because even though he’s half my age, I knew he’s a strong talent and he’d bring a good co-driver. I think he’s really a top young driver and the guy I knew I would have to compete against,” says Sofronas.
Sofronas isn’t exactly sure of his plans for 2018, but he plans to bringa lot of cars to the World Challenge paddock for each race. He expects a lot of growth in GT4, citing high interest in the class from prospective customers. But it’s a pretty good bet you can expect Sofronas to get behind the wheel for at least a weekend or two.