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Blancpain GT America

Sonoma Weekend Notebook

Ryan Myrehn’s SRO America weekend notebook from Sonoma Raceway…

Photo: Brian Cleary/SRO America

***SRO America is celebrating the 30th consecutive season of racing, under various series names, this season, and this weekend’s trip to Sonoma Raceway is a special milestone. It was at the Northern California circuit, then known as Sears Point, that the series made its debut in 1990.

***The track layout being used this weekend, which the series is referring to the as the “Classic Course”, is different than what was used the last time the series was at the track along with IndyCar in 2017. It’s understood that while several teams have tested at Sonoma this year, none have utilized the exact layout that is being used this weekend.

***RealTime Racing will have a third different lineup this year as Mike Hedlund has been drafted in to replace Bret Curtis for the weekend. Curtis stepped out of the team’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo for Race 2 due to back pain at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where he was replaced by Trent Hindman.

***Curtis and the team had known for awhile that he was not going to be able to participate in Race 2 this weekend due existing commitments and decided to step out for the whole weekend, allowing local driver Hedlund to make his Acura debut.

***RealTime was sidelined during Practice 2 on Friday due to a clutch issue but that problem was solved ahead of qualifying for the pair of races this weekend.

***Mike Skeen has stepped up to fill in for Ryan Dalziel this weekend in the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 alongside season-long driver David Askew. Dalziel is attending a close friend’s wedding, providing the opening for Skeen to make his first start of the season.

***Blancpain GT World Challenge America Am class contenders Martin Fuentes and Caesar Bacarella are back this weekend after missing the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round as Fuentes recovered from shoulder surgery. The pair, along with their Squadra Corse Garage Italia team, recently announced plans to make their Total 24 Hours of Spa debut next month.

***Following a string of strong results, Jarett Andretti has been reclassified to the Pro and Pro-Am classes of Pirelli GT4 America Sprint and SprintX, respectively. Andretti began the season as an Am and competed alongside Karl Thomson in the Am-Am SprintX category through the last round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

***Andretti is joined for SprintX this weekend by Colin Mullan in the Andretti Autosport-entered No. 36 McLaren 570S GT4. Mullan is a former Team USA Scholarship winner and contested the bulk of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season last year for the MINI JCW Team where he earned a class win at Watkins Glen.

***TR3 Racing is fielding a second car for Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo this weekend, marking just the second time the squad has had multiple entries. TR3 fielded a one-off entry for Wei Lu and Jeff Segal at Circuit of The Americas. According to team owner Gregory Romanelli, most of the same crew that was used for the Lu/Segal car at COTA are working on the car again this weekend, but Romanelli admitted the team is a bit short staffed as the deal for Byrne and Cosmo came together only in the last week.

***Five drivers will be making the trip directly from Sonoma Raceway to Le Mans after the Blancpain GT World Challenge America race on Sunday: Patrick Long, Matt Campbell, Toni Vilander, Miguel Molina, and Rodrigo Baptista.

***It’s understood that Long, Campbell, Vilander, and Molina will be taking a helicopter from the Sonoma area to the San Francisco airport in order to make their flight to Paris. All five hope to be on site by Monday afternoon for scrutineering at Le Mans.

***Several drivers and teams consider Sonoma Raceway home. TRG, K-PAX Racing, Murillo Racing, and Flying Lizard Motorsports all call the Sonoma area home, while drivers Mike Hedlund, Dane Cameron, and others hail from the region.

***It is also a home race for series sponsor Crowdstrike, which anticipates having a heavy presence at the track this weekend to cheer on Crowdstrike CEO George Kurtz and the DXDT Racing team.

***Spencer Pumpelly will be starting his first race at Sonoma since 2006 and will be busy with both Sprint and SprintX duties this weekend. Pumpelly will continue in his season-long role for TRG in his Pro class Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport and will drive alongside team owner Kevin Buckler in an older-generation Cayman in SprintX.

***In all, TRG is fielding four cars with six drivers across two classes this weekend.

***Also driving an older-generation of Cayman is Matt Brabham who returns with CRP Racing for the first time since the race at Long Beach. Brabham and CRP impressed on Friday setting the second fastest time of the day in the combined Sprint and SprintX practice sessions.

***This weekend marks the return for the Rearden Racing pairing of Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler. The longtime driving duo debuted in Pirelli GT4 America West at Circuit of The Americas but were forced to miss the round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca due to a death in Cattaneo’s family.

***Kenny Murillo is making his season debut as a driver for Murillo Racing along with Christian Szymczak in a Mercedes-AMG GT4. The Murillo team is based just 30 minutes from the track and decided to bring its GT4 car in addition to its planned TC America entry because of the convenience, although it’s understood that a strong result could see Murillo and Szymczak contest more SprintX races in the future.

***Renowned sports car engineer Brad Kettler is working with the No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of James Sofronas and Dirk Werner this weekend.

***Longtime Flying Lizard Motorsports driver and former team principal Seth Neiman tested a third Bentley Continental GT3 with K-PAX Racing on Thursday and could do additional test days later in the season.

***A first-of-its-kind series sponsor roundtable was held on Friday, which saw representatives from several series and team sponsors as well as series personnel exchanging ideas of how to leverage paddock relationships to make sponsorship in SRO America more effective and to raise the profile of the series.

***It’s understood that the roundtable was popular and future events of this kind could be in the works at other events this year.

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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