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GT World Challenge America

Season Review: Sofronas Takes GTS Title Sweep

A look back at the GTS and GTSA champions in Pirelli World Challenge…

Photo: GMG Racing

The Pirelli World Challenge GTS class proved to be as competitive as has been seen in the past decade, with a total of 12 overall different winners in the 18 events of SprintX and Sprint action.

And the various auto models visiting victory lane this year included the Audi R8 LMS GT4, Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, Ford Mustang GT4, Ginetta G55 GT4, KTM X-Bow GT4, Panoz Avezzano GT4, SIN R1 GT4, as well as Amateur class wins from BMW M4 GT4, Maserati Grand Turismo MC GT4 and McLaren 570 GT4.

Consistency and finishing races was therefore key to James Sofronas’ title sweep in 2018.

After capturing the GTA and GT SprintX Pro-Am championships last year, the veteran Californian drove to three separate GTS championships with the GTS Overall, GTS SprintX Pro-Am and GTS Sprint driver titles.

Sofronas, who recently turned 50 and is second in all-time PWC race starts, teamed with Alex Welch in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi to win two SprintX events.

His consistency was valuable in the GTS Sprint division with two runner-ups and six top-five finishes. 

Sofronas finished with 328 points to Harry Gottsacker with 299 in the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1, followed by five-time GTS race winner Ian James at 296 in the No. 50 Panoz, two-time GTS race winner Jade Buford at 286 in the No. 55 PF Racing Mustang and Lawson Aschenbach at 279 in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro.

In the GTS Sprint action, Sofronas didn’t win in the eight events but defeated Aschenbach, a four-time GTS Sprint race winner, by eight points, showing the consistency.

“We had to be smart in the final weekend with the point lead and I didn’t want to throw it away at the end,” said Sofronas. “But we did have drama the final weekend when I blew a tire in qualifying. Then I had some near misses. I just had to settle down and be smart.

“I liked the early races like at St. Petersburg and Road America where I could charge. It is more fun that way.

“This year was different as it was a late decision for me to go racing. Racing with Alex (Welch in GTS SprintX), having Crowdstrike and George (Kurtz) with us and Jason Bell coming on late in the year I would have liked to have been helping the clients with the team. I get more gratification when the clients do well with our GMG team.

“But I was able to drive again. And then race against of the best drivers in North America like Ian, Lawson and Jade.

“I have said that GTS or GT4 is the place to be right now in sports car racing. It has great value, great racing and different cars. I want to play in this class for a long time. My business will be in this class for a long time.”

Courtney Claims First-Ever Championship in GTSA

Jeff Courtney scored his first PWC title by driving his No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Gran Turismo MC GT4 to top honors in the GTS Sprint Amateur category.

Courtney scored two race wins and two second places in the older model Maserati, with impressive weekends at Road America and Watkins Glen.

Second to Courtney in GTS Sprint Am points was GTS Overall Am champion Drew Staveley in the Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 followed by Tony Gaples in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro.

“I had a little more drama in the final race at Watkins Glen than I would have liked with some gearbox issues twice, but we didn’t lose a position,” said Courtney.

“We knew coming into the final weekend that the Glen was a good track for our Maserati. I had a lot of fun in the last weekend and battled a little more than I should for the points and the championship.

“I didn’t play any points game. I told my guys I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to come out aggressive in the next to last race and then we would be in position to fight for the points if needed.

“It’s a great way to finish out the season with the older car. I’m not sure if we’ll retire the car but it is nice to win the championship with the Maserati.”

Panoz Wins Tiebreaker for Manufacturers Title

In the GTS Manufacturers’ championship, Panoz and Ford tied with 106 points, but the Georgia-based automaker takes the titles with five overall race wins over three for Ford.

It marks the first GTS title for Panoz in PWC competition. Third went to Audi with 104 followed by Chevrolet with 103, Ginetta with 46 and BMW with 39.

In the GTS Sprint Teams’ Championship, Blackdog Speed Shop captured the title with 157 by one point over PF Racing with 156 followed Team Panoz Racing at 153, GMG Racing at 151 and Racers Edge Motorsports at 126.

Series champions will be honored on Dec. 5 at the Indiana Roof in Indianapolis.

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