After some atrocious luck across two series this season, Winward Racing seems to have turned its fortunes around, and Road America in particular has been very good to the team.
Russell Ward and Philip Ellis took their first Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Pro class win of the season in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago, albeit without taking the overall victory after being slowed by a late-race mechanical issue. But at Road America, the pair cruised to double victories. Those wins came on the heels of an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD victory at the Wisconsin circuit two weeks ago.
“It feels great, we’ve been chasing it all year. Sonoma, Watkins and now this,” said Ward after the second race. “We’ve known the pace is there. The pit stops were perfect, Philip’s stint was perfect, and I just had to bring it home. It was a perfect weekend.”
Added Ellis: “We’ve always been there, and it feels so good to have it in the pocket as well. We should have had it last year at this same track, and last race as well at Watkins Glen. But thankfully now we’ve had it here within two weeks at the same track, Road America. It feels good. This is probably the track that suits the Mercedes-AMG GT3 most on the whole calendar. It has a lot of high-speed corners, hard braking. It suits us very well. We knew that last year. We knew what we had to do on the Pirelli. We had the experience from two weeks ago in IMSA as well. How to set up the car. It doesn’t come up as a surprise, but it’s so nice we grabbed it.”
Sunday’s race was the fourth in a row not won by K-PAX, which looked early in the year like it might sweep the season.
The big crash on the first lap of Fanatec GT World Challenge America Race 1 shook up the Pro-Am championship, changing the leader and creating almost a dead heat for the top three teams.
Steven Aghakhani spun exiting Turn 3 on the first lap, collecting Michael Dinan’s No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, George Kurtz in the No. 04 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG and Erin Vogel in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX. Aside from Aghakhani, Kurtz got the worst of it, retiring from the race. Kurtz and Colin Braun had been leading the Pro-Am championship coming into Road America; to make matters worse, after switching to a backup car for Sunday’s race, the hood flopped up on the first lap and the team had a long pit stop to remove it. That left the pair with only two points for the weekend.
As a result, fans were treated to some good battles between Ashton Harrison and Mario Farnbacher in the No. 93 Racers Edge Acura NSX, Charlie Luck and Jan Heylen in the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R and Chandler Hull and Bill Auberlen in the No. 94 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT3. Harrison and Farnbacher won the Pro-Am class both days, adding to a victory at NOLA. But Luck and Heylen left Road America with the championship lead,151 points to 149 for Harrison/Farnbacher and 147 for Kurtz/Braun.
New winner in GT4 Silver
Smooge Racing captured its first win in GT4 America Silver Cup with John Geesbreght and Kevin Conway taking the No. 68 Toyota GR Supra in race 2 at Road America. The overall win in that race went to the BSport pair of Bryan Putt and Kenton Koch in the No. 15 Aston Martin Vantage, ending a string of unfortunate results for the team.
Smooge was helped by the the RS1 duo of Eric Filgueiras and Stevan McAleer having some misfortune with a suspension failure in the No. 18 Porsche Cayman. Filgueiras and McAleer, though, continue to have a stranglehold on the Silver standings. It’s all-Porsche at the top of Pro-Am, with Adam Adelson and Elliott Skeer hold the lead for Premier Racing, but NOLASPORT’s Scott Noble and Jason Hart are hot on their heels, 144 points to 136 with four rounds left. James Clay and Charlie Postins hold a commanding lead in GT4 America Am for BimmerWorld.