Veterans James Sofronas and Alex Welch put their No. 14 GMG Racing Audi Sport R8 LMS sports car back in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS SprintX winner’s circle Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway in the Grand Prix of Virginia presented by Audi Sport.
Sofronas, the reigning GTA and GT SprintX Pro-Am champion, and Welch, a longtime PWC racer, recorded their second GTS SprintX victory of the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge series with an impressive performance against a strong 38-car field at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit.
In the GTS SprintX Am category, young Aurora Straus teamed up with Jon Miller to capture the team’s second GTS SprintX class race in the No. 36 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 sports car over veteran Mike Hedlund in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.
At the drop of the green flag in the 60-minute race, pole-sitter Colin Braun took the CrowdStrike/GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS to the lead over veteran Nick Wittmer in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 and Christian Szymczak in the No. 34 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Once the pit stops began, Jason Hart in the No. 27 Vess Energy Group BMW M4 GT4 held the top spot on lap 13 over Ryan Eversley in the No. 23 CaseIt Racing by Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS and Stevan McAleer in the No. 17 Raphael & Associates/Classic BMW BMW M4 GT4.
When all of the stops were made, Welch took the No. 14 Audi from third position at lap 17 to the lead by lap 19 in the 24-lap event that was forced to finish under a yellow flag due to a late-race incident. At the checkered flag, Sofronas and Welch took the Pro-Am class win over Saturday GTS SprintX Pro-Am winners Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfson in the No. 77 Volt Racing Ford Mustang GT4, Lawson Aschenbach and Andy Pilgrim in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R and Braun and 2017 GTSA series champion George Kurtz in the No. 04 Audi.
“A lot of this effort came when Alex (Welch) and I talked about racing in GTS SprintX,” said Sofronas. “We said – ‘let’s go for a championship in SprintX.’ He and I have known each other for 10-plus years and have raced many races together, so we know each other well and when that came together I said, ‘let’s go.’ With the support from Audi Sport Racing from the beginning and our relationship with Audi, we knew we would hit the ground running. We expected good results – maybe not as good as these – but the effort is there, the teamwork is there, and I’m really proud of my guys at GMG Racing.
“This is a team effort and a partner effort like Crowdstrike, and 5.11 Tactical, Mobil1 and Thermal Club and they have all contributed to this title in some manner to help make this effort. The icing on the cake is Alex (Welch), who can bring it home and he is a strong amateur. This is proof of that.”
“We’ve been friends since we started racing together in 2001 or so,” said Welch. “We’ve done a lot of endurance racing. We’ve raced each other and James has always been my coach since the beginning, and it’s great to have a friendship outside of racing. Both of our wives have questioned the amount of text messages that go back and forth between us. During the off-season, it can be the middle of the night or all hours of the day. This came together with the help from Audi. The car is flawless and James brought it in, told me what I had to do, and then I put my head down and ran laps.”
Straus was excited about her second win of the season, as the future Harvard student looks to Lime Rock Park on May 25-27 for her next GTS SprintX weekend.
“The BMW M4 GT4 was perfect today,” she said. “It was set up really well by our team at ST Racing. I wouldn’t change anything about the car if I could, which is a big ask for any racer here. I caught up to the front of the pack almost immediately and, from there, it was smooth sailing and just hold the pace.”
“The start is obviously the most nervous part because everyone is bunched up and nerves are high,” said Nelson. “It settled down pretty quickly. There was a little bit of contact and people going off in front of me, but thankfully the track stayed clear and I was able to make it through. My whole focus was keeping the car clean, bringing it to Aurora in a good spot and letting her get a clean finish. So, it was about survival but you want to take the opportunities when they present themselves. The ST Racing team did an awesome job in setup and prep; there’s no weak links here in the BMW M4 GT4. So much has to come together to make one of these programs happen and I’m just really glad to be a part of it.”
Placing third in the Am category at VIR Sunday was Henry Schmitt and Greg Liefooghe in the No. 88 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4, Saturday’s Am class winners Toby Grahovec and Chris Ohmacht in the No. 92 ETF Global/Classic BMW BMW M4 GT4 and veteran Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports/Kenda/RecStuff.com Maserati GT4.
The GTS SprintX Round 3 and 4 races will be featured on CBS Sports Network set for Wednesday, May 9, at 8 p.m. ET.