Six-Time Trans Am Champion Francis Wins Sebring Opener
Ernie Francis Jr. claimed victory in the opening round of the Trans Am Series Presented by Pirelli season at Sebring on Sunday, setting up his quest for a seventh consecutive title.
Francis, 22, took a lights-to-flag win with his Ford Mustang on Sunday over 26 laps of Sebring International Raceway.
He led from pole and managed to create a gap out front on two restarts, finishing ahead of Tomy Drissi, who made a charge from 11th on the grid after a transmission issues during qualifying.
They were joined on the podium by Amy Ruman, who took her Chevrolet Corvette to third behind Drissi’s Chevrolet Camaro.
The new XGT class was won by Erich Joiner in a Porsche 911 GT3 R, and also featured GT3 cars from Aston Martin and Audi.
Another impressive drive came from Chris Dyson, who was forced to start from the back row after a hard impact in practice on Saturday morning.
He passed seven cars on the opening lap and eventually made a bid for the lead with a three-wide attempt around Francis and Adam Andretti.
Dyson’s chances of a strong result were scuppered when he was forced to park his Mustang at the halfway point with a technical issue.
SRO Reverts to Mixed GT2, GT3 Grids for GT Sports Club Europe
GT2 and GT3 cars will compete in the same GT Sports Club Europe races after all on a new five-round calendar released last week.
This was the initial plan but organizer SRO Motorsports Group announced back in September that GT2 and GT3 cars would not only compete in separate races, but on separate weekends.
This plan has now been scrapped, with both categories set to share the grid at five events this year, all supporting the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS.
Both classes are solely open to Bronze drivers, using a single-driver sprint race format.
2020 GT Sports Club Europe Schedule
April 18-19 – Monza
May 29-31 – Circuit Paul Ricard
July 23-26 – Spa-Francorchamps
Sept. 4-6 – Nürburgring
Oct. 10-11 – Barcelona-Catalunya
News & Notes
***TF Sport will field four 2019 class champions across its pair of Aston Martin Vantage GT3s in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, with GTWC Europe Endurance Cup champion Ahmad Al Harthy joining British GT champion Jonny Adam in one car, and Adam’s 2019 co-driver Graham Davidson now racing alongside British GT champion Tom Canning.
***The pair of cars will be entered under the Oman Racing with TF Sport banner, with Omani native Al Harthy bringing his backing from the Gulf state. He hasn’t raced in British GT since 2015 but did partner Adam in GTWC Europe competition in 2017.
***Isa Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family who competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship rookie test in December, has formed 2 Seas Motorsport to compete in British GT. The team will field a pair of McLaren 720S GT3s; one for Al Khalifa and a TBA teammate, and another for Angus Fender and Dean Macdonald.
***Jack Mitchell will replace the previously-announced Alex Toth-Jones in Beechdean AMR’s first Aston Martin for British GT, racing alongside Valentin Hasse-Clot. The team has now also confirmed a second entry, for Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn.
***British GT’s annual media day will be held at Snetterton on Tuesday, during which the full-season entry list will be revealed.
***A number of GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS teams tested at Circuit Paul Ricard last week, including WRT, Emil Frey Racing and Orange 1 FFF Racing Team. Newly-formed team Madpanda Motorsport completed the first rollout of its Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo during the test, with team owner/driver Ezequiel Perez Companc at the wheel.
***KCMG will race a Honda NSX GT3 Evo in the Japanese endurance series Pirelli Super Taikyu, after debuting the car in the FIA Motorsport Games last year. Team founder Paul Ip will share the car with Josh Burdon, Edoardo Liberati and Hiroki Otsu.
***Super Taikyu has postponed its first round of the season, which was set to be held at Suzuka on March 21-22, due to coronavirus concerns. An alternative date in November or December is being sought.
***Super GT’s pre-season test at Okayama on March 15 will be held behind closed doors, due to the outbreak. The series’ first race of the season is scheduled for April 11-12 at the same track, and a decision about that event will be taken in due course.
***SRO Motorsports Group has announced a multi-year extension of its partnership with Total through 2022. The French oil giant will be represented by its Elf brand in Europe and Asia, while the Total brand itself will be used in North America. It will also continue as the title sponsor of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
***Novel Racing will give the Toyota GR Supra GT4 its 24-hour race debut in May when it enters a single car in the Nürburgring 24. The team previously entered Lexus RC F cars, in both GT3 trim and a unique specification, in the race.
***BWT Muecke Motorsport will field two Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the ADAC GT Masters, with a trio of junior drivers among its lineup. Mike Beckhusen and Igor Walilko, aged 20 and 22, will drive one car, while experienced racer Stefan Muecke is joined by rising star Ricardo Feller, 19, in the other Audi.
***Clemens Schmid is the latest driver to join Grasser Racing Team for its GT Masters campaign. He will share the No. 19 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo with Niels Lagrange.
***Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo customer SPS Automotive Performance has announced its two International GT Open driver lineups. Tom Onslow-Cole and Valentin Pierburg return for a third season together in one car, while Am class pairing Manuel Lauck and Christian Hook will team up in the other entry.
***Audi Sport customer racing Asia has named its five official Silver-graded drivers for the 2020 season: Martin Rump, Weiron Tan, Shaun Thong, Sandy Stuvik and Chen Weian.
***Harry Gottsacker will return to ST Racing at this weekend’s Pirelli GT4 America at Circuit of The Americas, sharing the team’s BMW M4 GT4 with Nick Wittmer. ST Racing’s other BMW GT4 will be driven by Samantha Tan and Jon Miller.
***TC America drivers Tyler Cooke and Chandler Hull will contest the GT4 European Series this year in a BMW M4 GT4 entered by defending series champion MDM Motorsport.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report