***A number of firsts in global GT racing competition was achieved on Saturday, with the new-generation Bentley Continental GT3 scoring both its first win and pole, in the hands of K-PAX Racing. Nolasport, meanwhile, gave the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport its first-ever win in Race 1 for Pirelli GT4 America SprintX.
***It came despite a 15kg post-qualifying weight addition to all Porsche GT4s, in a Balance of Performance announcement communicated to teams less than three hours prior to the start of the race.
***The No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been ruled out of Sunday’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America Race 2, following a heavy accident for David Askew in the opening stages of the race. It resulted in a red flag period for barrier repairs, which saw the clock stopped.
***Alegra Motorsports had a race to forget, with both of its Porsche 911 GT3 Rs running into trouble after contending for a podium position early. The No. 24 car of Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer retired after a spin and contact with the sister car, which served two drive-through penalty for track limits violations.
***Toni Vilander said the two K-PAX Bentleys were “completely in another world” during today’s season-opener. Vilander, who shares the R.Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 with fellow factory driver Miguel Molina, reckons tomorrow’s race will run a similar course after the Bentleys finished almost 40 seconds ahead of the other Pro cars.
***The Finn also said that Ferrari and the other GT3 manufacturers struggled with tire wear. “The degradation was really high today,” he told Sportscar365. “I could see the Porsche was struggling, I was struggling. The degradation was so high that it actually reduces the gap between a Pro and Am driver.”
***Krugspeed is repairing its brand-new Ginetta G55 GT4 after it sustained right-front damage in the first-corner crash at the start of today’s Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race. Driver Anthony Geraci was spun around and into the path of another car.
***Team manager Alex Krugman told Sportscar365 that the team is limited for additional parts to repair its car after its spares package was held up in customs during transit from the UK. Krugspeed, which is new to the Ginetta GT4 and the SprintX format, aims to be back out for tomorrow’s second race with the help of other teams.
***SRO Motorsport America’s new GT Paddock Club debuts this weekend (pictured above). The high-end hospitality unit for invited guests and series partners, featuring support from Pirelli, Purple Monkey Garage, Crowdstrike and AWS, will also be on-site at St. Pete, Sonoma, Road America and Las Vegas this year.
***All but one of the Porsche 911 GT3 Rs competing this weekend are 2019-spec models, with the No. 991 Autometrics entry a previous-gen car that was formerly raced by GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing.
***Stephen Cameron Racing’s BMW M6 GT3 is an ex-ROWE Racing chassis that the team recently took delivery of for the Blancpain GT America season, which is driven by Gregory Liefooghe and Henry Schmitt this weekend.
***Sportscar365 understands a second BMW GT3 car could appear in series action later this year, fielded by a different team.
***P1 Motorsports has gone through a significant management shakeup since January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with team manager Gary Cummings and strategist Kevin Doran, among others, no longer with the JC Perez-owned operation. Additional support has been brought in from Germany this weekend in longtime Mercedes-AMG engineer Alex Zoechling.
***Alec Udell, who makes his SRO America return for the first time since Long Beach last year, told Sportscar365 that he’ll likely contest additional races this year. This weekend, Udell is sharing driving duties of the No. 2 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 with Jason Bell, who is set for a full Sprint campaign.
***Risi Competizione has become the North American distributor and technical support network for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR, taking over from Tim Munday’s BAM! group, which introduced the car into the U.S. market last year.
***Sportscar365 understands that Risi could field additional Alfa TCRs later this season in TC America, along with the likelihood of at least one RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R rejoining the series following Ryan Eversley’s TCR championship in 2018.
***A total of ten TCR entries are expected for next weekend’s round at St. Pete, which will include invitational entries from TC and TCA. Both the No. 12 TFB Hyundai Veloster N TCR and No. 14 LAP Motorsports Honda TCR are not slated to compete due to the cars taking part in IMSA competition at Sebring the week after.
***K-PAX Racing will not take part in the California 8 Hours for the first time, according to program manager Darren Law, who has cited various tests around the time period for the Bentley squad. It will result in only two Bentley Continental GT3s for the Intercontinental GT Challenge round, fielded by the factory M-Sport squad.
***Law told Sportscar365 that Flying Lizard Motorsports is planning an expanded effort in Pirelli Trophy West USA competition, which could see up to six Porsches in action between 911 GT3 Cup cars and first and second-generation GT4 models.
***Compass Racing is expecting to take delivery of its new McLaren 720S GT3 in mid-March, according to team principal Karl Thomson. Paul Holton and newly named McLaren factory driver Kuno Wittmer, meanwhile, have been confirmed for the remainder of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season in a McLaren 570S GT4 following their victory at Daytona.
***Watch Race 2 for GT4 America SprintX/East/West on Sunday at 11:10 a.m. ET, with the final 90-minute Blancpain GT America race of the weekend set for 3:15 p.m. ET, available both on World-Challenge.com and the GT World YouTube page.
***Same-day highlights for Blancpain GT America action will air Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, while the GT4 America races are set for 7 p.m. ET on March 20, also on CBSSN.
***Blancpain GT America will benefit from extensive international TV coverage for the first time, with FOX Sports airing highlights via FOX Latin America, FOX Asia and FOX Africa, along with FOX Sports Europe in Turkey, Israel, Malta, Greece and Cyprus. Eurosport will carry coverage in more than 60 territories, including Germany, Spain and France, while The Netherlands will receive similar coverage from RTL 7.
***Click Here for the full TV listings for this weekend.
Ryan Myrehn and Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report