The Pirelli GT4 America concluded Saturday’s on-track activities with race one at Watkins Glen International.
Stevan McAleer not only claimed the overall and Silver class win with teammate Eric Filgueiras, he also claimed the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap award by laying down an impressive 1m55.868s.
The No. 18 RS1 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport built up a slim lead over its main rivals at the start of the race. During the mandatory 76s driver change pit stop, Stevan McAleer took over from Eric Filgueiras and looked to extend their lead. A full course yellow caused RS1 to lose that 8s lead, though. In the end, the RS1 drivers were able to control their competitors, winning by 2.682s over the No. 34 Conquest Racing/MF Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT4 driven by Canadian Gavin Sanders and American Michai Stephens.
“We were very careful with the tires, being 95 degrees here,” claimed Stevan McAleer in a post-race interview. “Eric did a massive job again. He got away from the pack, and we had a really good pit stop that helped us add more time on the other cars. RS1 gave us a great Porsche. I knew on the restart that I probably would’ve had to fight a couple of cars going into the bus stop but once we were through there, I was pretty confident we could get away and we did.”
Eric Filgueiras echoed his teammate’s thoughts, “It was not an easy win, and in fact, the weekend started off pretty problematic. We had a red flag in practice one, wet weather conditions in practice two, and we had a transmission failure. The team worked all night to replace the transmission and get us up and running. Starting the race, my objective was to get away and to give Steven a car that he could fight with and race with so that’s what was important to me. We are really happy.”
In the early stages of the race, the No. 34 machine had to defend against a Pro-Am class car before settling into second place and maintaining its overall and class position.
The No. 68 Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 (Kevin Conway/John Geesbrecht) finished third, 3.644s behind the winners. The No. 112 Dexter Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 (Dominic Starkweather/Ryan Dexter) followed in fourth, while the No. 51 Auto Technic Racing BMW M4 GT4 (Zac Anderson/Austen Smith) completed the top five.
The Pro-Am class stole the show for a good portion of this hour-long race. The No. 52 Auto Technic Racing BMW M4 GT4 (Tom Capizzi/John Capestro-Dubets) led in the early stages of the race, building up a gap of almost 7s after the first 15 minutes.
In an intense battle for the lead, Capizzi and Billy Johnson (No. 124 ARG/Rotex Racing Ford Mustang GT4) made contact, forcing both drivers to pit.
The No. 24 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT4 (Ian James/Gray Newell) managed to hold off the threat of the No. 120 Premier Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport (Elliott Skeer/Adam Adelson), which gained no less than 10 positions from the start of the race.
The top three crossed the finish line separated by just 0.8s, with third place going to the No. 8 Flying Lizard Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 (Elias Sabo/Andy Lee).
“My race was made by Gray’s great start. He put me in a good position to bring this one home,” said Ian James on pit road. “They were catching me at the end there and I knew where it was quicker to defend them while also trying to look after the tires. In the last couple laps I got some breathing space, but what a great feeling to come here and win at Watkins Glen.”
“I was lucky enough to have this track be my first win last year; that was so special,” added his teammate Gray Newell. “Coming back and being able to do it again, it’s just amazing. It is a real validation of the hard work we’ve been doing. I just tried to keep it tight and clean during the race and pass it off to this guy — there’s nobody I trust more than him to get it done.”
BimmerWorld came out victorious in the Am class, again. The No. 36 BMW M4 GT4 driven by James Clay and Charlie Postins won by 7s. Postins dominated the early part of the race, even competing with some Silver class drivers at the front of the field. James Clay completed the team’s work by crossing the finish line as the winner ahead of the No. 72 KRUGSPEED Toyota GR Supra GT4 (Anthony Geraci/Jaden Lander). They narrowly edged out the No. 53 Auto Technic Racing BMW M4 GT4 (Rob Walker/Alex Filsinger) who secured the final podium position.
“I think we certainly did well in a BMW today,” said James Clay while actively searching for his teammate who appeared to be missing from the podium area. “I think this course suits the BMW more than other tracks we’ve been too. The BimmerWorld guys gave us a great car and Charlie did an awesome opening stint. He’s not here so I have to give a ‘hip hip cheerio’ from my buddy!”
Race two starts at 11:10 AM ET on Sunday July 24.