While the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship has seen manufacturers, teams and drivers from the ALMS and GRAND-AM unite under a single series, the merger in North American sports car racing has also resulted in a handful of new programs sprouting up.
It includes GB Autosport, a name not known to many when the initial entry list was released in December, but through its depth of talent both behind the wheel and turning the wrenches, has all of the ingredients needed for success.
Founded by former Dempsey Racing partner Michael Avenatti late last year, the Los Angeles-based attorney teamed up with veteran team manager and strategist Cole Scrogham to assemble the upstart GT Daytona class effort.
“Cole had approached me on the potential of us getting a program together,” team principal Avenatti told Sportscar365. “I was very intrigued by that, largely due to his past experiences and involvement in racing.
“I consider him to be one of the most knowledgable and liked individuals in the paddock. He has been instrumental in building this program and the people we’ve been able to bring aboard.”
Scrogham, who previously worked with the Green Hornet and Dempsey squads, had come off a successful run with BAR1 Motorsports, helping take the PC team to class wins in the final three races of 2013.
Building an entirely new operation, though, proved to be one of the biggest initial challenges, especially considering the time scale they were up against.
The green light for the GB team — named after the initials of Avanetti’s Global Baristas, the parent company of Tully’s Coffee — was not given until late in the year once its entry request for the championship was finally confirmed.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Scrogham recalled. “We had the car delivered and there was actually a period of time that we didn’t even touch the car because we didn’t know if we were going to have to sell it back to Porsche if we didn’t get an entry, or to another team.”
However, once the list was released in early December, the pieces started to quickly fall into place for the Tully’s-backed effort.
Porsche ace Damien Faulkner, who worked with Scrogham both at Green Hornet and Synergy Racing, was signed as a full-season driver alongside Avenatti in the No. 81 Porsche 911 GT America, while adding veterans Patrick Huisman and Bob Faieta for the endurance races.
Longtime engineer Mario Prezel, who recently worked on the 991-based Porsche Cup car in Supercup competition, was brought on board as lead engineer for the season.
The team’s debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona was a challenging one, plagued by contact, but they soldiered through to the finish, while racking up a respectable 10th place result at Sebring.
Avenatti realizes results will not come overnight, especially for a team that wasn’t in existence six months ago.
“We’ve really assembled a good group of people But with that said, it’s going to take some time to build this into an A+ organization,” he said.
“If you want to compete with the Lizard’s and Alex Job’s of the world, that takes time. You’re not going to start up the program and be instantly competing with them week in and week out.”
Looking towards the future, Avenatti has his sights set on an expansion to the FIA World Endurance Championship, potentially by as early as 2016. A link-up with an existing team is also an option for a limited-season program next year.
“We certainly have an interest in Europe and definitely have an interest in going to Le Mans,” he said. “But our goal is two-fold. It’s to win a championship in the TUDOR Championship and to win a championship in the WEC.”
Avenatti said a potential FIA WEC program would go hand-in-hand with Tully’s global expansion plans, with the Seattle-based coffee chain, which recently became an official partner of IMSA, targeting an increased presence in Asia.
“International expansion, especially expansion into Asia, is a strategic initiative on the business side,” he added. “I have a passion for racing in Europe and some of those iconic races. So there’s a lot of synergies between those two.”
But for now, the immediate focus remains in the TUDOR Championship and continuing to make headway in the GTD ranks.
“We didn’t come here to drive around in the middle of the pack,” Scrogham said. “We came here to be competitive and up at the very front. Sure it’s a competitive group but that’s what drives me.”