Round 10 of the 2019 Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season kicked off at Watkins Glen International with Jarrett Andretti and the No. 18 Andretti Autosport McLaren 570S leading the field to the green flag.
Going into the Bus Stop on Lap 1, Gar Robinson was able to power past Ian James and the No. 50 Panoz to claim second place in the No. 74 Robinson Racing Chevrolet Camaro as Michael Cooper and the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren slipped past Spencer Pumpelly’s No. 66 TRG Porsche for fifth. Shane Lewis and the No. 72 Robinson Racing Camaro got past the Panoz for third on the next lap with the Pro class championship leaders, James, Cooper, and Pumpelly, running fourth, fifth, and sixth with 40 minutes remaining in the race.
With 35 minutes remaining, Robinson pulled next to Andretti coming out of Turn 7, completing the pass for the lead on the inside of Turn 8 and charged away from the field. Six minutes later Shane Lewis was able to pull the same move on Andretti at Turn 8, with Ian James following the Camaro through for third, as the No. 18 McLaren fell to fourth. Half a lap later, Andretti had a flat tire, requiring a pit stop and ending his chances of a competitive finish.
With 23 minutes remaining, Jeff Burton and the No. 91 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 also had a flat tire while running in the second position in the Am class, giving the position back to Jeff Courtney and the No. 99 JCR Maserati. A safety car was called due to debris on the track, bunching the field up with just under 21 minutes remaining.
The race went back to green with 14 minutes left on the clock with Robinson leading Lewis and James.
With four minutes left, James dived to the inside of Lewis’ Camaro at Turn 8 for second position and went on to stalk Robinson. On the very next lap, James mirrored the same move in Turn 8 for the lead with only 2 minutes remaining in the race. The two fought neck and neck over the final two laps with James ultimately staying ahead to claim the victory.
“I decided I had to look after and converse my tires as much as possible. I had Gar and Shane in front of me and it actually allowed me to do that. I had better traction than Gar at the end, so I was able to get by him. Thrilling race and thanks to everybody that makes this program happen,” said James.
Behind the Panoz of James were Robinson, Lewis, Cooper and Pumpelly. Robinson claimed the fastest lap of the race at 1m55.762s, giving him pole for Sunday’s Race 2.
Drew Staveley would control the Am field to take the win with his No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang, just ahead of Jeff Courtney’s Maserati. Alan Brynjolfsson brought the No. 7 Park Place Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR third while Aristotle Balogh and the No. 190 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4 and Tony Gaples in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S GT4 rounded out the top five.
The final Pirelli GT4 America Sprint race from Watkins Glen goes green on Sunday at 9:40 a.m. ET, streaming live on https://live.sro-america.com/gt4-america.
Leifooghe/Quinlan Take Action-Packed GT4 America SprintX Race 1 Win at WGI
Vesko Kozarov and his No. 91 Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 (Am) led the GT4 America SprintX field to the green flag in the early-evening sun.
Only eight minutes into the race, the first safety car was called as the No. 27 Krugspeed McLaren 570S GT4 (East Pro-Am) of Anthony Geraci spun at Turn 9. The race went back to green with 38 minutes remaining with Kozarov leading the No. 04 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 (Am) of James Sofronas and No. 36 Andretti Autosport McLaren of Colin Mullan.
After the pit window closed for driver changes with 25 minutes to go, the field ran with the No. 91 Rearden Audi (Am) of Jeff Burton leading, the No. 36 Andretti Autosport McLaren (Pro-Am) of Jarrett Andretti second, and No. 34 Murillo Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 (East Am) of Christian Szymczak third.
With 21 minutes remaining, the No. 37 RS1 Porsche (Pro-Am) of Jan Heylen powered past Szymczak for third with the No. 19 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4 (Pro-Am) of Gregory Leifooghe getting past the No. 77 Park Place Porsche Cayman 718 CS MR (East Pro-Am) of Trent Hindman for fifth. Leifooghe was not done yet as he would also sneak past Szymczak to grab fourth. While this was going on, Jeff Burton was able to build a 7.7-second lead over the rest of the field.
The battles continued to rage on through the field and with 15 minutes left on the clock, Heylen and Andretti would make contact at the entry of Turn 9, allowing Leifooghe to slip past both cars and into second position overall with Andretti falling to fifth. From there Leifooghe put down fast lap after fast lap in an attempt to chase down the leading No. 91.
Contact between the No. 36 and No. 37 cars appeared to have cut a tire on the No 37 RS1 entry, prompting Heylen to retire the car with nine minutes to go.
With eight minutes on the clock, Jarrett Andretti and Tom Dyer in the No. 190 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4 (Pro-Am) made contact going into Turn 1, seeing Andretti plummet to the twenty-first position and Dyer sixth.
On the white flag lap Leifooghe caught and passed Burton for the lead going into Turn 6 to grab the fourth victory of the season for the No. 19. Co-driver Sean Quinlan said, “I did not expect this today, but we had a great pit stop and when Greg got in, it was just special!”
Leifooghe said, “It’s surreal. The car was so great on the brakes today, the Cameron Racing guys gave us an awesome car and it would not have happened without them.”