Ian James got the jump into Turn 1 from pole and led from start to finish to give the Panoz Avezzano GT its first Pirelli World Challenge GTS win the car’s ninth race in Race 1 of the weekend at Road America.
It was the first time that a Panoz had been to victory lane in major sports car racing since Sebring in 2006 in the GT2 class.
The dominant win was set up by a strong performance in qualifying, which saw James edge Ernie Francis Jr. in the PF Racing Ford Mustang by less than a tenth of a second.
The top challenger to the Panoz was removed, however, when PF Racing elected to have its second driver James Pesek contest Race 1, but because of the change in drivers the No. 40 Mustang started at the back of the GTS grid.
Without the Mustang to challenge him, James’ closest competitor became Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
Aschenbach managed to stay within striking distance, but ultimately crossed the line 1.523 seconds behind James in the Panoz after withstanding a strong challenge from Jeff Courtney’s Maserati GT4 in the final 15 minutes.
It marks the fourth second-place finish of the season for Aschenbach, who leads the GTS points standings despite not having made it to victory lane this year.
Courtney and Wisconsin-based JCR Motorsports settled for third, while Austin Versteeg for ANSA Motorsports and Rodrigo Baptista for Flying Lizard Motorsports completed the top-five.
The first few laps saw fifth-place qualifier Martin Barkey spin from fourth position, pushing him deep into the field. Second place in the championship entering the Road America weekend, Barkey fought his way back to 11th to salvage some points in Race 1.
Versteeg will start on pole for Race 2 on Sunday after setting the fastest lap of the race at 2:19.568.
Drew Staveley provisionally won in the GTS-Am subclass for Ian Lacy Racing, slipping past GMG Racing driver George Kurtz on the last lap.
In the 11-car invitation TC field, Cody Ellsworth and RacerInk Motorsports took class honors after Nicholas Barbato slowed in the final minute while leading.
RESULTS: Race 1