Final SRO Winter Invitational Round Takes Place at The Thermal Club
SRO America’s inaugural Winter Invitational series drew to a close on Sunday with the final races at The Thermal Club after three weekends of racing at the Californian circuit.
David Askew and Steven Aghakhani each took a race win in the GT3 class, winning the 40-minute GT Sports Club / GT4 America rounds outright.
Askew drove a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for DXDT Racing, while Aghakhani drove a similar Mercedes for US RaceTronics.
Bret Curtis scored a double podium finish, going second in Race 1 and third in Race 2 with his Ferrari 488 GT3, losing second to Garrison Masters’ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR in the second race.
Both GT2 manufacturers were represented on the top step of that class’ podium during the course of the weekend, meanwhile.
Hutton McKenna took his Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport to class honors on Saturday, finishing third overall behind Askew and Curtis, while Dimitri Novikov claimed the GT2 win on Sunday with his Audi R8 LMS GT2 in fifth overall.
Alex Welch, meanwhile, picked up both GT4 race wins with his Audi R8 LMS GT4.
Tom Capizzi and Lara Tallman led the way in the TC America races, held separately to the GT rounds but with smaller seven-car grids.
Capizzi won Race 1 with his BMW M240i Racing, while Tallman took the checkered flag on Sunday with her Nissan 370Z TC. Both drivers each finished second in the race they didn’t win.
The GT races had sizeable grids, with as many as 29 cars finishing Race 1.
News & Notes
***Steven Aghakhani competed at The Thermal Club in a special gold and purple color scheme (pictured above) as a tribute to Kobe Bryant, to honor the basketball star after his fatal helicopter crash last month. Aghakhani describes Kobe as his hero and grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan.
***Jonathan Aberdein completes BMW’s DTM lineup for the coming season, joining the manufacturer after competing in one of WRT’s customer Audis last year. The South African joins returnees Marco Wittmann, Philipp Eng, Timo Glock, Sheldon van der Linde and newcomer Lucas Auer.
***Prodrive and the Kingdom of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund have entered into a joint venture to design a car for next year’s Dakar Rally. The new company, Prodrive International, will build two cars for Saudi rally event next year, and produce additional cars for customers.
***Absolute Racing has formed a partnership with B-Quik Racing for a Thailand Super Series program. B-Quik Absolute Racing will enter three Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the TSS race at the Formula 1 Vietnam Grand Prix, and will continue throughout the season with races at Buriram and street circuits in Chonburi and Pattaya.
***Reigning Lamborghini Super Trofeo world champion Frederik Schandorff will return to GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS, again driving a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo entered by Vincenzo Sospiri Racing. He’ll have a new co-drive in two-time Super Trofeo Asia champion Afiq Yazid, after driving with Alex Au last year.
***Daniel Serra is set to replace Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo for the Asian Le Mans Series finale at Buriram later this month. Pier Guidi cannot race in Thailand because of his commitments for Ferrari in the WEC round at Austin. The replacement for Davide Rigon in the HubAuto Corsa 488 GT3 Evo has yet to be finalized, meanwhile.
***United Autosports has confirmed its two European Le Mans Series LMP3 lineups, with Rob Wheldon and Tom Gamble set to join Wayne Boyd in one Ligier JS P320, and Duncan Tappy joining Jim McGuire and Andrew Bentley in the other.
***Wheldon joins United from Radicals and one season with LMP3 machinery in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, while Gamble drove for WRT in GT World Challenge Europe last year. Tappy, meanwhile, replaces the previously announced Matt Bell in the No. 3 car.
***Mathias Beche and Kuba Smiechowski return to Inter Europol Competition for the upcoming ELMS season, and will drive the team’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson with a currently undecided third driver. Smiechowski competed full-season last year with a string of teammates, which included Beche at the final round.
***FCP Euro’s Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent will again compete in SRO America’s TC America championship this year with a pair of Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs.
***International GT Open front-runner Teo Martin Motorsport will return to the series with a pair of McLaren 720S GT3s after narrowly missing out on the championship to Emil Frey Racing last year. One car will be entered in the Pro class, with another in Pro-Am, but drivers are yet to be revealed.
***Imperiale Racing will also return to GT Open, with Giovanni Venturini among its drive roster. The 28-year-old Italian will share a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo with Leonardo Pulcini, while drivers in the second car will be announced at a later date.
***Almost all spaces on the ADAC GT Masters grid have been filled, with 30 of 34 cars selected. ADAC will decide how to allocate the remaining four spaces in the coming weeks, with brand diversity an important factor. Six manufacturers are already represented.
***15-year-old Levi O’Dey has joined Timo Bernhard’s KÜS Team75 squad in ADAC GT4 Germany, however he needs to wait until round three at the Nürburgring before joining the grid because the series only caters for drivers aged 16 and above.
***Ford v Ferrari won two Academy Awards on Sunday night, for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing. It lost out on Best Picture to South Korean movie Parasite.
***Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber’s #BAMTHOR x Lowndes t-shirts sold at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour raised over $7000 AUD ($4671 USD) for Australian bushfire relief efforts.
***The SRO Motorsports Group has donated last season’s fines to a number of charities: women’s rights group The Womanity Foundation, brain and spinal cord injury researcher ICM, autism awareness group Amouti Autisme, car-themed children’s charity Enfants Copilotes, and Legado Maria de Villota, a movement continuing the legacy of the late Spanish driver. As previously announced, the SRO has also donated towards the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral.
***ACO president Pierre Fillon and WEC CEO Gerard Neveu were on-hand to formally open the new 24 Hours of Le Mans exhibition at the Ferrari museum in Maranello on Saturday (pictured below). The exhibit includes last year’s Le Mans GTE-Pro class-winning 488 GTE, plus a sim racing challenge to qualify for a grand final at Maranello on Mar. 20-22.
***Ferrari also held its 2019 season awards which included a presentation of the 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Pro trophy to James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report