Championship-winning sports car racing team GMG Racing makes its major international competition debut in next weekend's CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa where team co-drivers Kyle Washington, James Sofronas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Patrick Long co-drive the No. 132 GMG Racing by Car Collection Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R in Pro-Am Class in the world's premier 24-hour GT3 race.
"This is the biggest GT3 race in the world and probably one of the hardest ones to win because every car on track has the ability to run up front," said Sofronas, a championship-winning driver who is the founder and principal of GMG Racing. "You are going to be fighting every corner, every lap for 24 hours, and there aren’t multiple classes with different types of cars. We are all in same-spec GT3 cars, so this is probably one of the biggest challenges of my career and in the history of GMG Racing from that regard."
The 24 Hours of Spa debut has been fueled by the three-year development of team driver Washington and three decades of race and championship-winning sports car racing programs in North America led by Sofronas and the growing GMG Racing operation. Headquartered in Orange County in Southern California, GMG Racing is also expanding with a new 27,000 square foot trackside motorsport facility at The Thermal Club, the exclusive luxury motoring enthusiast and competition driving club that Sofronas and GMG have supported since it opened in the greater Palm Desert, California area over a decade ago.
"I am really proud of our driver development program and how it’s evolved with many of our clients coming from The Thermal Club. We strive for all of our clients to reach the highest level that they want to achieve," Sofronas said. "Having Spa as the halo event to shoot for is fantastic, and to realize that in a short period of time - especially with Kyle, who has only been racing for three years - and has gone through our ladder program, is fantastic. What started at Thermal and has escalated to Porsche Cup racing, SRO, IMSA and now this massive endurance race at Spa is a testament to our program and the team behind it all."
Sofronas and Washington co-drive at Spa with two of the best sports car drivers of their generation with Bleekemolen and Long. Bleekemolen, a native of the Netherlands, is well familiar with GMG and raced and won with Sofronas in North American SRO GT competition in the past. Long is the accomplished former Porsche factory driver who retired at the end of the 2021 season but will make a one-off appearance at Spa in support of GMG and Washington, who he has mentored and coached the last few years.
"It is great to be part of this lineup and working again together with GMG Racing," Bleekemolen said. "As soon as the whole project started it was, for me, a cool thing to be involved with. I have raced a lot with James in SRO, we have had some wins there, so that relationship goes way back. We even did the 24 hour in Daytona back in 2011. I did Daytona last year with Kyle, and we all have always wanted to come back together. Great group of people, and having Pat onboard is just amazing. It's great to drive with him, I have raced with him before, so it's all going to be a lot of fun."
The GMG effort at Spa is in partnership with top European sports car racing team Car Collection Motorsports.
"I was introduced to Car Collection through a mutual friend in the motorsports industry, and I have watched them for years with all of their success, but they switched to the new Porsche GT3 R platform this year and they have already shown how competitive they can be," Sofronas said. "They have won races overseas, in Dubai, the Nurburgring, so the experience is there, and after my first interaction and test with them at the Spa test days last month, I knew we picked one of the best teams we could have worked with. I am excited, this team is switched on, very well run and organized, and we had strong pace at the test. We are optimistic about the race."
While the CrowdStrike 24 Hours marks GMG's biggest international race to date, the team and Sofronas have 10 years of experience racing in Europe. The team won a Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals title at Vallelunga, Italy in 2013 and returned to the same Super Trofeo event in 2019 in Jerez, Spain. The team and Sofronas also won in GT2 competition in Barcelona, Spain in 2019, the same year Sofronas made a pair of starts at Spa in the Porsche GT2 RS inaugural race and the 30th Anniversary SRO Invitational representing Team USA.
"I have been lucky enough to race overseas, but not in this race which is so significant, and the fact that I am doing it with one of my close, dear friends Kyle and two top professional drivers in Jeroen and Patrick, who I have either raced with or against, makes it extra special. Jeroen and I raced and won together in SRO and I raced against Patrick 10 years ago in GT World Challenge, so it is going to be great to all be on the same team together. I am very excited and anticipating an action-packed week in really focusing on getting the team up to speed for that top spot in the Pro-Am class."
The 24 Hours of Spa is also a special event for Bleekemolen, who has won Le Mans and other legendary endurance races, but joins Long in looking for his first victory in the twice-around-the-clock race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
"I am really looking forward to it, I think it is one of the coolest lineups we can have," Bleekemolen said. "We are all friends, we are all going to have a great time, and that usually contributes to good results as well. I am really excited to go back to Spa which is where I had my very first 24-hour race, the very first one I ever did. So it is also a special race for me. I have never won it, for me this is the big one that is missing, more or less, so if we have a chance to win, that would be amazing, but first of all we are going to do all that we can, have a nice time, and then we will see how far we can get and fight for the win."
The GMG Racing effort at Spa next weekend also includes a support-series entry for team driver Todd Parriott, who is teammates with Washington and Sofronas in this year's Porsche Sprint Challenge North America Western series. Parriott competes in the SRO GT4 European Series that is a featured support race of the CrowdStrike 24 Hours.
"Todd is one of our most recent driver development clients, who came in again through The Thermal Club, we got him his license, did a lot of testing, started doing some Porsche racing and now he is dabbling in GT4. What started out as him wanting to come out and watch, experience and learn more about Spa turned into an opportunity - from the relationships I have overseas with the European teams - for Todd to not just watch but to race. So we are super excited for him to do the GT4 support race at Spa. Needless to say, we are going to have a great time over there, we have a lot of friends and support coming out, and having Todd there is extra special because I know he is as excited as anyone to have his first race at Spa and in Europe."
After the traditional competitor parade through Spa City Center next Wednesday, on-track action at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa begins in full on Thursday, June 29, with free practice, qualifying and night practice in preparation for the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa that runs July 1 and 2.