Team Panoz Racing’s Ian James made a last-lap pass for the lead on Spencer Pumpelly to win the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season-opener on the streets of St. Pete.
James had been closing in on the No. 66 TRG Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport after a late-race red flag bunched the leaders together, and made the deciding move of the race into the turn 1 right-hander on the final tour.
The No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT crossed the line 0.696 seconds ahead of the Porsche driven by Pumpelly, who started from pole.
Pumpelly’s start position advantage didn’t last long as Jade Buford snatched the lead at the start of the 50-minute contest, with the No. 41 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 going on to build a 5.5-second gap over the TRG car.
However, the order shifted with 20 minutes to go when the safety car was deployed after Jarett Andretti was turned around into the Turn 1 tire barriers.
This bunched up the leaders but despite having control over the pack at the restart, Buford overstepped his braking into the first corner, allowing Pumpelly through.
The race was then neutralized under a red flag when Nicolai Elghanayan’s KTM X-Bow GT4 made heavy contact with the Turn 4 wall after losing a wheel, creating a 10-minute dash to the flag.
This gave James, who started fourth, the window to mount an assault on Pumpelly’s lead.
It marked the first victory for Team Panoz Racing since the passing of its team principal Don Panoz last September.
Finishing behind the top two was Gar Robinson in the No. 74 Robinson Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, ahead of Michael Cooper in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren in fourth.
Brynjolfsson Wins Thrilling Am Contest
Park Place Motorsports’ Alan Brynjolfsson made two crucial overtakes at the final restart to take victory in the GT4 Am category.
Brynjolfsson, who finished fifth overall, worked his Porsche into the class lead with a move on the Blackdog McLaren of Tony Gaples followed by a lunge down the inside of race leader Preston Calvert with eight minutes to go.
Gaples then made an ambitious dive up the inside of Calvert’s Panoz into the Turn 10 left-hander to take second, but couldn’t re-take Brynjolfsson for the win.
The Park Place Porsche finished two seconds up on the McLaren at the finish, with the Panoz a further three seconds down the road ahead of Marko Radisic’s BMW M4 GT4.
Race 2 is set for Sunday at 11:25 a.m. ET.
RESULTS: Race 1