James wins GTS finale at Watkins Glen

Image by Richard Dole/LAT

James wins GTS finale at Watkins Glen

Pirelli World Challenge

James wins GTS finale at Watkins Glen

After taking a close second place Saturday, veteran Ian James captured his third Pirelli World Challenge GTS Sprint win Sunday in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4 sports car in the PWC Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance at the famed Watkins Glen International.

Starting from the pole position for the second consecutive event, James jumped to the front of the 21-car field Sunday at the historic 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course and held off Saturday GTS winner Jade Buford by 0.660 seconds at the checkered flag after 25 laps.

The victory for James in GTS Round 8 Sunday also gave Panoz the GTS Manufacturers’ point championship after both Panoz and Ford tied at 106 points. Panoz will take the title with five overall victories in 2018.

“I tried to breakaway at the start, but I just couldn’t,” said James. “So, the first four cars were covered by a couple of seconds for most of the race. Funny enough, the car was carrying a bit more penalty weight (from Portland) and it actually helped the car come in a little bit faster in the re-starts. I was a little worried about that because normally that’s a weakness for us.

“It’s been an amazing year. These last few races have been great. no big incidents. This is how GTS racing should be. It was so close here this weekend. World Challenge is on to something here. They just need to keep going on in the right direction.”

Defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach drove to third Sunday in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R followed by Harry Gottsacker in the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 and Patrick Gallagher of Thornville, Ohio, in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang.

Veteran James Sofronas finished sixth in Sunday’s GTS event in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 and clinched the GTS Overall as well as the GTS Sprint point championships. Last month, Sofronas teamed with Alex Welch to capture the GTS SprintX Pro-Am title in a sensational trifecta for the GTS series.

Mike Hedlund

In the GTSA division, Mike Hedlund collected his first GTSA race win Sunday by driving the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 to an impressive 3.7-second margin over Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4. Third in GTSA went to Jason Bell in the No. 2 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4.

“We had a little bit of bad luck yesterday with a puncture,” said Hedlund. “It was fun racing James today. I’ve been a little bit behind him throughout most of the season, so it was nice to be racing up there with him. He’s a good clean racer and I had a blast this weekend.

“Flying Lizard is a local team near me, but this is the first time I’ve done a whole season with them. Apart from the results, it was a perfect season for me as a driver, who comes to the racing weekends and has a regular day job. They provide a perfect car for me. They’ve worked a lot of late nights because of bad luck, but they never didn’t have a smile on their faces. Even when I came in yesterday with a puncture, they were looking forward to what would happen today.”

Courtney, a PWC veteran, recorded the GTSA Sprint point title with his second-place finish Sunday after a GTSA class win on Saturday.

Aschenbach’s third-place finish came after a tough Utah race weekend three weeks ago when his Chevrolet Camaro was crashed pretty dramatically.

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