Alex Welch jumped onto the Pirelli World Challenge scene this year driving alongside GMG Racing team owner James Sofronas.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Welch fills us in on winning his first championship, the experience racing alongside a close friend, and more.
What is the significance of your SprintX title that you clinched recently in Utah?
“This was my first championship and they never come easy. At the beginning of the season, James and I sat down and looked at the different series, as well as the different classes and cars within each series.
“We knew that Pirelli World Challenge GTS-X would be a huge class with a ton of competition, and having driven the Audi GT3 car in the past, we knew that with the help of Audi Sport Customer racing we would have a fighting chance at the overall GTS-X championship.
“Both James and I feel we are at the sharper end of our respective classes and with solid finishes throughout the season, a championship was a possibility.
“We never suffered any penalties or finishes outside of the top 10, that’s what it takes to win these championships. The GMG team did an outstanding job the entire season.”
How stressful was the final stint at Utah when you were trying to stay in position to clinch the championship?
“Utah proved to be very tough on the car given the heat and altitude. At one point I was all the way back in 18th position due to the car going into ‘preservation mode’, which severely cuts engine power.
“During the final yellow there was a lot of chatter on the radio, but my focus was to make sure the car wasn’t overheating and I could make a run at the checker during the final lap(s).
“I knew it was very close in the points, and all I wanted was one green lap to move up a few positions so that a Championship was a sure thing.
“I gave the final lap everything I had and was able to pick up two more positions in the first half of the lap.
“I was then informed that I did NOT need to gain another position so played it safe and tucked in behind Preston Calvert, despite his generous wave-by knowing I was on a charge.”
How much have you enjoyed the opportunity to race alongside your friend and GMG Racing team owner James Sofronas?
“James and I have raced together for almost 10 years now. During these years we have also become good friends outside of racing.
“It’s fun both during the off-season and at the race track to have this kind of friendship. It allows both of us to be fully transparent with each other and he knows when he can push me when he needs to.
“He has coached me throughout the years and gives me great feedback both on and off the track, which has made me a much better competitor.”
What race result this year meant the most to you and why?
“VIR was very special because I had my parents and 10 year old son there, plus it was also Audi’s feature race of the season.
“To get both a win and a second place at VIR was something that we hadn’t expected going into the weekend.
“We tested there and it was my first time racing at that track so it was a big surprise considering our goals were to just stay clean and finish in the top five.”
Was there a turning point in the season?
“Definitely VIR. We had both a fourth and a win at COTA but being the first weekend, we weren’t yet sure how the competition was going to shake out.
“Coming away from that weekend, we suddenly had a solid points lead in the championship and could relax a little, while focusing more on staying out of trouble and consistent finishes.”