A double win at Sebring International Raceway, the first return for the Series for over a decade, provisionally secured the Driver, Team and Manufacturer championships for K-PAX Racing, Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper and Lamborghini.
The #3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan driven by Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper held a master class in racing and led the GT World Challenge America field from flag-to-flag.
The #20 Wright Motorsports Porsche, driven by Fred Poordad and Jan Heylen, got in the mix fought it’s way through a tough Pro-led field, capturing two positions from the class pole position and finishing third overall.
Newcomers Triarsi Competizione, with principal Onofrio Triarsi and Charlie Scardina behind the wheel of the #23 Ferrari 488 GT3, captured their first win from the Am class P1 qualifying position in Saturday’s contest.
With one of the Pro threats removed due to the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW withdrawing due to mechanical issues, the pole-sitting #3 K-PAX Racing took off cleanly and without incident was able to never look back. A quick early move by Jason Harward (#88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3) afforded him a pass on the #77 Compass Racing Acura NSX GT3 driven by Rodrigo Sales. This soon after turned into contact between the two, sending Harward in a recoverable spin and earning Sales the Drive-Through Penalty for causing the contact. Erin Vogel’s (#19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG) pass for overall position mirrored the same moves made by Taylor Hagler in the #93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3.
The field further thinned when the #33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG made an unscheduled pit stop after some in-the-field slowing, ultimately retiring due to a mechanical issue. With less traffic on the course, Hagler closed the gap to the class leader, Fred Poordad in the #20 Wright Motorsports Porsche, while Giacomo Altoe (#9 TR3 Racing Lamborghini) was able to split the K-PAX sisters and slot into the second overall spot, working to close the gap for the second driver stint after the pit window. Sales’ fight to recover positions from the DTP got him as close as 11th overall, while Harward converted his bump and the slightly-cleared field into an assault on the front of the Pro-Am field, looking to pass Rearden Racing’s Jeff Burton (#191) in the process. Shortly before the pit window opened, Harward was successful and was able to hand off the car to co-driver Madison Snow as the first car in for the mandatory pit, sitting third in class at the pit window opening.
As the pit window remained open, strategies unfolded and saw co-drivers take to the circuit to close out the races. The #3 K-PAX car had a comfortable lead and almost flawless pit execution that kept the car in place, while the #6 sister car strategy paid off and slotted the car in second overall position. Following up third would be a trio of drivers that battled intensely for almost the entire second half of the race looking to take the overall third place position; #9 TR3 Lamborghini driven by Dennis Lind, the #20 Wright Porsche with ace Jan Heylen, and the #93 Racers Edge Acura with GT3 Academy alum Dakota Dickerson behind the wheel. Just a hair behind that trio was the #88 Zelus Motorsport entry piloted by Madison Snow, followed by the #6 K-PAX Racing car with Lewis behind the wheel, #19 DXDT Mercedes-AMG entry now driven by Michael Cooper, the Am-class leading #23 Ferrari with Triarsi behind the wheel, Saada in the champion-elect #61 AF Corse entry, and McMurry in the #77 Compass car continuing the charge to the front from the penalty-induced positioning at the back of the field.
The various battles for positioning continued while the #3 K-PAX car managed tires and worked on growing the lead. The three-way battle for second overall included some first-in-class positioning; that raged for essentially the entire second half of the race until Dickerson’s overzealous side-by-side action sent him off-course and out of contention in that battle in the final minutes of the race.
In the end Lind held on to the 2nd overall position and earned the team a win in its first all-Pro outing in the series. Heylen kept the third overall spot and took home the Pro-Am win for the team in front of Dickerson’s second-place Pro-Am finish and the #6 K-PAX car taking the third Pro spot, with Snow in the #88 Zelus Lamborghini coming in behind him for the third-in-class Pro-Am finish. Triarsi took his team namesake Ferrari to the top of the Am podium on the team’s first excursion in the series.
Provisional Pro Drivers champions Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper punctuated yesterday’s series-clinching performance with another win in a weekend super sweep at Sebring International Racweway. Racers Edge anchor Taylor Hagler brought the #93 Acura NSX GT3 home after completing a stellar recovery drive started by co-driver Dakota Dickerson from a lap 1 incident that saw them off course and essentially sent to the back of the grid.
Additionally, the fourth place finish by pole-sitters Wright Motorsports (#20 Porsche) provisionally secured the Pro-Am category Drivers Championship for Fred Poordad and Jan Heylen. Finally, The AF Corse team (#61 Ferrari 488 GT3), already Am-class champions elect, closed out the Sebring weekend on top of the Am podium.
With the highly-competitive Pro-Am Drivers championship still up for grabs and the Pro-Am points leaders #20 Wright Motorsports starting from P1, the race was sure to be contentious and delivered no less than the maximum amount of drama in the early leg of the opening lap.
Ryan Dalziel, driving the #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG, made contact with Matt McMurry in the #77 Compass Racing Acura, who in turn connected with Dakota Dickerson’s #93 Racers Edge Acura and sent him off course. During the course of the melee, more middle-of-the-pack contact occurred with Robby Foley (#96 Turner Motorsports BMW) connecting with Conrad Grunewald’s #61 AF Corse Ferrari; both continued on beyond the contact. In the final turn of the opening lap, Michael Cooper (#19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG) connected with Madison Snow in the #88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini, sending Snow off course; here, too, both cars were able to continue without performance-reducing damage.
By the end of the opening lap commotion, and the DTP served by Dalziel in Lap 4 for creating the incident, Dickerson had lost ten positions overall, McMurry was down four, and the remainder of the field had settled into a holding pattern that essentially saw Heylen building a commanding lead at the front; Grenier (#33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG) and Pepper (#3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini) in two and three, with Dennis Lind (#9 TR3 Racing Lamborghini) behind them in fourth; Corey Lewis (#6 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini) holding on to the fifth position from a hard-charging Dickerson; Cooper, Drew Staveley (#12 Ian Lacy Racing Aston Marton), Foley and McMurry rounding out the top ten; and Snow, Grunewald, Onofrio Triarsi (#23 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari) and Dalziel shuttering up the field as the pit window opened.
Lind was the first to enter the pit, followed immediately by Lewis. One by one, the requisite pit stop strategies unfolded, with Heylen once again staying out until the last minute of the pit window, ostensibly to maximize the lead he would be able to hand off to co-driver Fred Poordad and secure the Top Five finish needed to clinch the championship. However, seconds after the close of the pit window, Charlie Scardinia lost control of the #23 Ferrari and spun off-course and into a set of tire barriers, initiating a Full Course Yellow condition. During the extraction and clean-up, the #96 BMW was noted as running slow, eventually hobbling into the pits and ultimately retiring due to a mechanical issue.
After approximately ten minutes of Safety Car conditions, the return to green brought the compression of the pack together and the erasure of any gaps built-up during the first stint. Still, Caldarelli was able to defend against any challengers and remain in the lead for the duration of the race. Running in second place was Russell Ward in the #33 Winward Mercedes-AMG followed by Altoe (#9), Venturini (#6) and Hagler (93) who had moved into the fifth spot overall while capturing the top Pro-Am class spot from Poordad (#20) who ultimately fell to eighth overall (fourth in Pro-Am) with Sales (#77) on the attack in between them. Just behind Poordad was Harward (#88), Askew (#63), Gannett (#12) and Saada (#61.)
Venturini and Altoe exchanged positions constantly for the remainder of the green-lit race, with Venturini eventually able to get the checkered flag first and put the K-PAX sister car on the podium behind Ward. In Pro-Am, Hagler deftly held off any and all charges for positioning, including from Erin Vogel (#19) who would finish second in class and Sales (#77) who had helped the team come back from the early incident to a podium finish.
Near the end of the race, the Pro-Am Drivers championship suddenly came into question when Harward (#88) got into a defending Poordad (#20) in Turn 7, causing both to spin. Both cars were able to recover without losing positions, but Harward was issued a Drive-Through Penalty for the contact that ultimately sent him to the back of the pack. The fourth-place-in-class finish, however, was enough to provisionally award the Pro-Am Drivers championship title to the #20 Wright Motorsports co-drivers, Jan Heylen and Fred Poordad.