THERMAL California – Young driver Steven Aghakhani ended the inaugural SRO Winter Invitational series season the same way he started it last December with another victory at The Thermal Club Sunday in his No. 24 US RaceTronics SADA Systems Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Shaking off a disappointing result in Saturday’s opening race, Aghakhani closed out the weekend and the three-race Winter Invitational season with a flag-to-flag win from the pole on Sunday.
The pair of victories – Aghakhani bookended the season with wins in the first and last races – and three-straight second-place finishes gave the 16-year-old the best finishing record of any driver competing in the Winter Invitational. Aghakhani also set the fastest lap in each of the six Winter Invitational races.
Held for the first time, the SRO Winter Invitational series included three doubleheader race weekends on three different course configurations at The Thermal Club, which is located in Southern California near Palm Springs. December’s debut event
used a 2.7-mile track, January’s middle rounds were run on a 3.1-mile layout, and this past weekend’s finale was contested on a 4-mile configuration.
The SRO Winter Invitational didn’t crown champions, but Aghakhani would have surely won the title if season-end awards were passed out.
The only thing that prevented a podium-perfect run in the year’s six races was a bump-and-run incident from another competitor that knocked Aghakhani from contention while leading Saturday’s first race.
Aghakhani shined in the Winter Invitational despite being assessed a driver Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustment heading into the January race weekend. The sliver-ranked Aghakhani’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 was required to carry an additional 20 kilograms – more than 40 additional lbs. – for the January races and his past weekend’s doubleheader.
Full details on Aghakhani’s program will be announced in the near future.
Aghakhani competed in a renumbered No. 24 Mercedes-AMG GT3, adorned in a special gold and purple livery, in tribute to his hero Kobe Bryant this past weekend. Born in and a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Aghakhani grew up a Lakers fan and Kobe quickly became his favorite player. Aghakhani normally races with No. 6 and a silver/gray paint scheme, but for last weekend SRO series officials granted a special request by Aghakhani and US RaceTronics to compete with the No. 24. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was adorned with “Lakers Purple” stripes over a deliberate blend of “Lakers Gold” and the darker hued colors of an Olympic Gold Medal. In addition to winning five NBA World Championships with the Lakers, Kobe was also a key player for Team USA in winning gold medals in basketball at the Summer Olympics in 2008 and 2012.