As his championship rivals faced late-race tire issues, Ian James (No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT4) inherited the lead and sped on to win Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Round 14 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Wow, that’s why we never give up!” James exclaimed. “The top three have battled all season long, with everyone having ups and downs; and this really sets it up for tomorrow!”
At the start. polewinner Spencer Pumpelly (No. 66 TRG Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR) led the field to the green flag, with Michael Cooper (No. 10 Blackdog Speedshop McLaren 570S GT4) right behind.
On Lap 2, Cooper made a diving pass attempt for the lead going into Turn 3, but locked up his brakes and ran wide, falling all the way back to ninth. James’ Panoz took over second as Cooper began his hunt back through the field.
By half-distance, James had closed to within a half second of leader Pumpelly, stalking the leading Porsche and mirroring the Georgia native through each turn. Cooper, meanwhile, was up to third, nine seconds behind the lead pair but closing by nearly a second a lap
In the second half, Cooper set the race fastest lap of 1m41.896s, giving himself pole position for Sunday’s Race 2, continuing to reel in the Panoz and Porsche. With 13 minutes left, the McLaren driver had closed to within two-tenths of a second to James, with Pumpelly four-tenths up the track.
Five minutes later, Cooper powered alongside James in Turn 3, the two battling side by side for the next four corners. While those two were scrapping over second place, Pumpelly pulled out a 1.7-second gap.
And then Pumpelly’s race was over as he rolled into the pits with a punctured right-rear tire. Incredibly, Cooper faced the same issue moments later.
A surprised James inherited the lead and victory.
Pumpelly would finish 11th overall with Cooper 18th. James unofficially took over the Pro championship lead with only one round remaining.
Jarett Andretti (No. 18 Andretti Autosport McLaren 570S GT4) finished second, with Jade Buford (No. 42 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4) third and Shane Lewis (No. 41 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4) fourth.
Newly crowned Am-class champion Drew Staveley (No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang GT4) took another class win — his fifth victory of the season — and finished fifth overall. Matt Travis, who started on the class pole, would finish second in the No. 46 NOLASPORT Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR, with Jeff Courtney’s No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati third.
The 2019 Pirelli GT4 America Sprint championship season finale goes green on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 9:00 a.m. PDT, streaming live at www.gt4-america.com/watch-live.
The series is closing out its 2019 season in Las Vegas, the weekend sponsored by R.U.N – The First Live Action Thriller produced by Cirque du Soleil.