Lawson Aschenbach held off Gabriele Piana for victory in Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge GTS Sprint season-opener in St. Pete for Blackdog Speed Shop.
The defending class champion took his No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R to a 0.547-second win over PWC debutant Piana, who started his Muehlner Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR from pole.
Aschenbach got around Piana for the lead on Lap 2 and held the Italian driver at bay, despite heavy pressure at times throughout the 50-minute race, which saw sprinkles of rain.
It marked Aschenbach’s 25th career PWC victory.
Drew Staveley claimed GTA class honors with a third place overall finish in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 GT4, with Jason Bell finishing fourth in the No. 2 M1 GT Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4.
Both Staveley and Bell benefitted from misfortunes from James Sofronas, Jade Buford and George Kurtz, which all fought within the top-three at points.
Buford and Sofronas made contact while battling for third early on, which turned around the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi and resulting in suspension damage to the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4.
Buford was handed a penalty for avoidable contact with Sofronas, but retired due to the damage.
Kurtz, who moved into fourth, was forced to retire his GMG Audi with two laps to go with tire damage, presumably from contact.
Sofronas, meanwhile, rebounded from the Lap 5 accident with Buford to finish fifth overall, ahead of Shane Lewis in the No. 72 Robinson Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 in sixth.
An accident for the No. 24 Ian Lacy Ginetta of Frank Gannett at the 11-minute mark put the race under the only full-course caution period, which restarted some ten minutes later.
The second GTS Sprint race of the weekend is set for Sunday at 9:30 a.m. ET.
RESULTS: Race 1