The Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R team of Scott Hargrove and Patrick Long (photo above) were victorious in Sunday’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America Round 8 race at Sonoma Raceway, while Southern California Team GMG Racing’s James Sofronas and Dirk Werner took Pro/Am-class honors
Pole-sitter and Pro/Am category competitor Matt Campbell (No. 91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R) led the pack through Turn 1 at the start of the 90-minute, 48-lap contest. Second qualifier and Saturday’s Round 7 co-winner Toni Vilander slotted into second in his No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, with California native and former GT drivers champion Long third in his No. 58 machine and Werner (No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R) fourth.
Another former GT champion, Alvaro Parente, in the Sonoma based K-PAX Racing No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, moved up two positions on the start, into fifth.
That was the order — Campbell, Vilander, Long, Werner, and Parente — through lap 22 when the pit window for refueling and driver/tire changes opened with Campbell leading by over four seconds.
Long pitted first, Vilander pitted near the mid-point of the window, and Campbell near the end, handing over to Imperato without losing the lead.
Hargrove moved into second, with Molina, who took over for Vilander, in third, Soucek (Parente) fourth and Pro/Am Saturday race winner Mike Hedlund fifth in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX.
Sofronas settled into third in class, seventh overall.
On Lap 30, Hargrove moved into the overall race lead, overtaking Imperato through Turn 7. On lap 37, contact between two machines in Turn 4 brought out a full-course yellow. On the restart, Hargrove led Molina, Soucek and Imperato to the line.
By Lap 41, with 14 minutes remaining in race, Hargrove held a .676 lead over Molina, while in Pro/Am, Imperato led Sofronas who had moved past Hedlund.
Another full-course yellow was issued when David Askew in the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 went off at the exit of Turn 6.
The lap 45 restart with four-minutes left in the race initiated a green-white-checkered shootout. Hargrove once again led Molina and Soucek to the line, while behind them Imperato worked to hold off Sofronas.
On the white flag lap, Sofronas pulled off a pass through Turn 3/3A to take over the lead in Pro/Am.
At the checkered, it was Hargrove over Molina by 1.3 seconds with Soucek in third overall. Sofronas finished sixth overall and first in Pro/Am over Hedlund (seventh overall) and Imperato (eighth overall).
Unofficially, Vilander and Molina now share the lead in the Pro category point standings with 148 points. Parente and Soucek sit second with 134, and Hargrove and Long third with 101.
Pro/Am championship leaders coming into the weekend, Kyle Marcelli and Martin Barkey, finished fourth in Pro/Am and ninth overall in the race, but leave Sonoma still in the championship lead with 128 points.
“It’s been a hard-luck year [but the bad luck] is finally over,” said Hargrove. Pat [Long] had an awesome qualifying and held it in third and the Wright Motorsports guys did a great job in the pit stop and were on it and we managed to jump the Ferrari.
“Our Porsche was absolutely on rails and I’m just so happy to be back in victory lane,” he added. “The Wright Motorsports guys have, I think, been the fastest in the pit lane all year, and they got the job done today.”
Sofronas who wasn’t originally scheduled to drive in the race commented, “Well, it was on the schedule for Brent Holden, who is a great friend and a partner on the car; but he couldn’t make it. I love World Challenge and Porsche has been so good to me and the GMG boys really put together an awesome car. At the end we could run with the top Pros, and it gave me a lot of confidence. We just needed some good luck and the yellows to close the gap. Once we closed the gap and we had position, I was going to take it.”
Watkins Glen is the next destination for the Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams for the Aug. 30-Sept. 1 Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2019 Championship. Races will be streamed live on gt-world-challenge-america.com, as well as live on CBS Sports Network.