NOLA Motorsports Park was the second calendar event for Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, but teams had no love lost as they battled for the championship lead that is to be decided in Indianapolis at the Indianapolis 8-Hour event.
The two-race weekend format always provides ups and downs for teams, but the weather brought an added aspect for Race One at NOLA. After a heavy downpour, the track dried within reason to fly the green flag. The track still had a loss of grip after rinsing clean, giving teams a measure of apprehension when going for position.
Pole sitters and Race One winner Steven McAleer and Eric Filgueiras in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 911 GT3-R led prior and past the pit window where Filgueiras handed the Porsche over to McAleer. The No. 21 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 of Manny Franco and Alessandro Balzan were inches from taking their first fin of the season after the first yellow flag waved and gathered the field together. However, regardless of looks, the No. 21 Ferrari would finish behind the No. 28 Porsche.
While first and second-place finishers battled for the win third and fourth battled for a podium. The No. 94 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT3 of Chandler Hull and Bill Auberlen started the race third. Still, they fell back to fourth after the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 took over the position while in the hands of Mario Farnbacher. Farnbacher pushed ahead to second and was then hot on the heels of the No. 28 Porsche, who led the PRO Class. Farnbacher would go wide and bring out a second full course caution as he beached the No. 93 Acura in the gravel.
Auberlen in the No. 94 BMW faced similar fate laps later. He regained third after Farnbacher skidded off the track. Auberlen maneuvered past the No. 21 Ferrari, but in a lunge for the lead, he drove too deep into a turn, compromising the exit and position. Farnbacher would regain third place and round out the podium.
Scott Smithson and Bryan Sellers in the No. 08 DXDT Mercedes-AMG GT3 began from pole position, the team's first of the season after a string of unfortunate luck. At the start Smithson fell back after Adam Adelson lunged for the lead in the No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R. In the chaos, Pedro Torres ACI Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R found a hole to follow the No. 120 Porsche past the No. 08 DXDT Mercedes. Smithson used the fallback as inspiration to fight. He went on to regain second place before handing the car over to Sellers.
Sellers stalked first place bringing the No. 08 across the finish line in second place. Further back in the field, it was a consistent turn-style rotation of drivers and cars fighting for third place. Ultimately, thanks to pristine pit stops and strategy, Derek DeBoer and Valentin Hasse Clot in the No. 007 TRG Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 took the final step on the podium in Race One.
Race Two looked a bit more promising under sunny skies and competitors had their elbows out, ready to make up for anything lost in Race One. The added angst of making the weekend count in the final race of the weekend made for a dramatic closure as tempers rose with the temperatures.
The No. 93 Acura of Ashton Harrison and Farnbacher began the race on the pole. However, the No. 28 RS1 Porsche took over the lead early in the race and held it through much of the race. The two stayed close, always within the possibility of swapping positions. This match would come to a head after the pit window when Filgueiras and Harrison were behind the wheel of their respective race car.
Harrison and Filgueiras went side by side in a turn, coming together as they did, which sent Harrison off course. Filgueiras continued as the race leader. A post-race penalty was passed to the No. 28 Porsche as being responsible for the incident. The results of Race Two are now finalized and showcase a drive-through penalty assessed after stewards reviewed the video of the collision.
After the incident, the No. 94 BMW in the hands of Chandler Hull made a late race pass for the win in the PRO Class. Filgueiras finished second, fending off a stable and steady Seth Lucas in the No. 53 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R. The No. 53 Porsche faced a race of attrition as it sat further in the field and assumed position after position while competitors faced tragedy.
The Pro-Am Class ranked supreme at the end of the day. The race-winning George Kurtz and Colon Braun in the No. 04 CrowdStrike by Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the laps that mattered most thanks to a strategy that saw Braun pit with only 10 seconds remaining in the pit window. In contrast, the No. 007 Aston Martin Vantage of DeBoer and Hasse Clot pitted at the very start of the window due to low fuel.
DeBoer proved what he was made of as the No. 007 fell back in the field, but he worked his way back up to second through smooth driving and consistent lap times. The second-place finish was done through team effort, without a doubt, as Hasse Clot led his entire stint after starting on pole. A little luck was also in play. ST Racing and Samantha Tan were nearing a podium finish up until the final lap. A technical issue shut off her BMW to protect the engine which gave way to DeBoer taking second. Tan had run second through the duration of her stint.
Charlie Luck and Jan Heylen found redemption. Whereas a flat tire ended their hunt in Race One, time brought them nothing but opportunity in Race Two. As drivers spun around him in the final minutes of the race, Luck unshakingly continued forward. Luck made contact with Ziad Ghandour in the No. 9 TR3 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, who spun directly in front of Luck as they rounded the final corners. It was Luck and Heylen’s first podium of the season. Ghandour was not alone in his podium hunt woes; he was one of four teams affected by late-race drama.
Y’all gather the horses and circle the wagons for the next event on the SRO Motorsports America calendar, Circuit Of The Americas. The Austin, Texas, circuit welcomes SRO America, home to another doubleheader weekend packed with racing, cowboys, grid walks and much more. Tickets are now on sale. Camping at the United States-only FIA Formula 1 purpose-built track is also available. Check out ticket bundles here.