A maiden win may have caught the attention of fans at Sonoma Raceway in the opening round of Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS. Eric Filgueiras and Steven McAleer won Race One in the No.28 RS1 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The win was a testament to the talent in the car and dedication to using the SRO Motorsports America ladder.
Filgueiras, of CoCoa Beach, Florida, grew up go-karting. His passion for the sport led him to develop an authentic talent and as he climbed the ranks of open-wheel, he gained immense knowledge and respect for his profession. His will to become a professional driver was strong; however, the cost of the sport harnessed his path of growth. Undeterred, Filgueiras became a driver coach to make ends meet and stay involved in racing.
It was while coaching that he met Tom Kopczynski.
“I started coaching Kopczynski in 2020, and at some point, he randomly said why aren’t you racing,” Filgueiras said. “So, after a long conversation and months after that, there was this plan to give me the opportunity in another series. I did four weekends, so eight races, and won six of those. When the new Clubsport came out, Kopczynski wanted one, but you could only get one if you raced in an open competition, platforms like SRO. I was with RS1 and Justin Bellinzoni so we took the program there and started forward with our campaign.”
The SRO America system allowed Filgueiras to grow through the Pirelli GT4 America series to the PRO Class of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS while staying with the team's desired Porsche platform. When Filgueiras and his supporters chose SRO America, it was based on the ability to place him amongst peers on the racetrack and funding.
“SRO was more cost-effective, and the competition made more sense,” Filgueiras said. “It looked like an opportunity for me to get used to the type of racing. At this point, I’d been mostly coaching to make a living, so I needed time on track. Originally, we talked about going racing in PRO-AM with Tom. But I didn’t think I’d be at the top of the professionals in that class. That was the beauty of starting out in the Silver Class with another Silver in Steven (McAleer).”
In 2022, the Pirelli GT4 America series was purposely chosen with a greater plan in mind. The plan is to advance Filgueiras to be a great PRO one day for Kopczynski, with both currently working on racecraft in their respective series.
“The silver class was the perfect place for me to be,” Filgueiras said. “Steven and I naturally progressed that year. It was the only class we fit in with our pairing, but we saw a lot of success.”
This season the duo took on the challenge of running a GT3 car in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS. A new car in a new series with the added pressure of being in the top class hasn’t seemed to faze the team.
That gap in a car between drivers is bigger. I’m learning. I’m getting there. Steven has more experience. The car is a very precise car. The Porsche is a momentum car.
“You get into GT3 competition, and you’re racing against names that have been in GT3 competition for quite a while. So, you have these benchmark people while respecting what the team and second drivers can do,” Filgueiras said. “That’s the realization in stepping up because it is a totally different ball game. GT4 Silver gave us a level of preparation in knowing the tracks, but the GT3 car is so much faster the downforce commitment level is greater.
“Colin Braun and George Kurtz are dialed in because they’ve spent time together in the car. We use them as a target even if they’re in a different class. We’re in an arena now where everyone is good. Our quick success is satisfying and maybe as big a surprise to us as anyone else. We knew we were fast because we were usually up front in both categories during practice. But we still have an accelerated learning process ahead of us.”
Filgueiras and McAleer, along with RS1 and SRO America, next take on NOLA Motorsports Park for rounds three and four. The weekend begins with a day of practice Friday, April 28, followed by qualifying and Race One on Saturday, April 29. Race Two takes place Sunday, April 30, and is prefaced with a fan walk open to all ticket holders.
All race sessions are streamed live on the GT World YouTube page. Join Ash Vandelay on Twitch by following the SROMotorsports channel. Vandelay hosts six-hour programs Saturday and Sunday, where she is joined by drivers while chatting with fans and giving an interesting insight into that day's races.
Tickets are on-sale at www.showpass.com/sro-Nola with enhanced offerings including the Patriot Car Corral, recently announced car show – NOLA Motor Showoff presented by The Bomb Factory – and trackside camping. Starting at just $10, it's fun for the whole family with kids 12 and under free with paid adult.