The Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS jumped into its first race of the weekend as the Summer humidity settled into the rolling hills of Upstate New York. The Saturday afternoon 90-minute race was marred by contact with the walls and a few mechanical issues. Overall, the race ran very smoothly and showed how exciting sports car racing is on this legendary circuit. It was also a testament to the saying “it’s not over until it’s over,” as there were some major changes in position during the final 15 minutes.
On lap one, Jeff Burton (No. 191 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3) made contact with the wall bringing out a brief yellow flag to allow course workers to clean up carbon fiber debris. Later on, an additional incident put the Zelus’ car out of the running for the day.
Right as the field came off the yellow flag, the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Russell Ward/Philip Ellis) jumped ahead and made moves through the Glen’s Inner Loop, moving up to P1 in Pro.
In the “all streaks must come to an end” file, K-PAX Racing had their first race of the year where neither car finished on the podium. The team had won the first six races of 2022 extending a streak that began in 2021.
A one-minute pit lane penalty was given to Michele Beretta (No. 1 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) during the first stint due to an incident at the Inner Loop portion of the track that forced the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 (Michael Dinan/Robby Foley) off the track. Due to a miscommunication, he drove through instead of stopping, which killed the team’s pace and resulted in a 14th-place overall finish, one lap down. The sister No. 3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Misha Goikhberg/Jordan Pepper) suffered a rare mechanical issue near the halfway point of the race which, by the time it was remedied, left them eight laps behind.
After the driver change pit stop, the No. 6 US Racetronics Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Steven Aghakhani/Loris Spinelli) became the new leader with the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG (Russell Ward and Philip Ellis) giving chase with several Pro-Am contenders showing great pace. While battling in close quarters with Spinelli, Ellis suffered a mechanical issue and was forced to pit. The widened gap didn’t last long as the US Racetronics car also suffered an issue which extinguished their chances at victory and gave the Turner BMW the lead in Pro-Am. US RaceTronics finished second, with Winward Racing third.
“In the moment, you’re just trying to be calm and do your job for the last couple laps,” Robby Foley shared about piloting his M4 around the track. “We had some vibrations in the car that were building, and I was worried because a couple cars had issues. I just backed it down, tried to stay off the curbs, and bring it home. We didn’t have the ultimate pace today, but Michael did a great job to mix it up at the start like he always does.”
With the K-PAX Racing duo finishing off the podium, the points chase narrowed with both US Racetronics and Turner Motorsports gaining valuable ground in the championship.
This was a day when the Pro-Am teams really shined, taking a one-two overall. The No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R of Charlie Luck and Jan Heylen, as well as No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 (Ashton Harrison/Mario Farnbacher) stayed ahead of the Pro class cars.
Wright Motorsport scored the eventual overall win. The final laps saw Colin Braun in the No. 04 Crowdstrike by Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 shared by George Kurtz finishing just 0.179s behind. This was the third win of the season for Wright Motorsports and closed the points gap to CrowdStrike Racing.
“It was a fun race; it ran the way it should be,” Heylen said. “A lot of pressure from behind, and everybody did a great job. Charlie did a really good first stint, and it feels good to be back on the top step of the podium.”
Scoring their best finish of the season was the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Erin Vogel and Michael Cooper with a strong third place run.
Earlier in the race, David Askew (No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Erin Vogel battled hard for fourth place and better track position for the mandatory pit stop in Pro-Am. After a war of attrition throughout the field, Vogel’s teammate Cooper was able to continue their drive all the way up to a third-place finish in Pro-Am and fourth overall after starting 17th.
The rest of the Pro-Am field wasn’t so lucky, as both the No. 88 and No. 191 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, driven by Jason Harward/Madison Snow and Jeff Burton/Corey Lewis, respectively, were not classified at the finish.
The Pro-Am points battle tightened with Wright Motorsports gaining seven points to the championship leaders CrowdStrike with Riley Motorsports. This is likely a fight that will go all the way to the October finale in Indianapolis.
The lone Am entry of Triarsi Competizione finished 10th overall to score the Am class win and extend their championship points lead.
The CrowdStrike Fastest Lap went to the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Pro entry after Philp Ellis laid down a 1m44.472s. Mario Farnbacher claimed it in Pro-Am for Racers Edge Motorsports after setting a 1m45.195s, and the sole Am entry, the No. 23 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 (Onofrio Triarsi/Charlie Scardina), set a 1m46.421s.
Race two starts at 1:15 PM on Sunday.