Championship-winning sports car racing team GMG Racing has arrived in Belgium where team drivers Kyle Washington, James Sofronas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Patrick Long have united for a Pro-Am class campaign in this weekend's CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa in the No. 132 GMG Racing by Car Collection Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R on the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Debuting 24 Hours of Spa drivers Washington and GMG Racing principal and founder Sofronas turned the team's first laps of the event in Tuesday's Bronze Test, clocking in a solid ninth fastest in class in the productive session.
"There is no question this place is overwhelming as far as the aura it has around it, the stories you hear through the pits and just seeing Eau Rouge," Washington said. "Our pit is right at the base of Eau Rouge, so we get to see every car every time go blowing by us at speed, ripping up there. I could sit there and watch it like a fire. It's just mesmerizing. All around it is just a mecca of sports car racing, I have never experienced this European fanfare and knowledge. We did some impromptu autographs and people had pictures of every car, knew Jeroen's and Pat's racing history, and had photos from all of these races over the years that they had personally been to. It's just amazing, and it's not just the men, the Dads. It is also the Moms, Grandmas and Kids, they are all fanatical about it."
This weekend's 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.
"The test yesterday was really to get Kyle and I back in the groove," Sofronas said. "We did a lot of laps, and the point was to get us up to speed, which we did. I think we are prepared and now we want to get Jeroen and Pat in the car. The test went well but this is a seriously stacked field. We will see how everything shakes out after qualifying, but in this 24-hour race you have to be there at the end."
Long is the accomplished former Porsche factory driver who retired at the end of the 2021 season but makes a one-off appearance at Spa in support of GMG and Washington, who he has mentored and coached the last few years.
"Pat is definitely retired," Washington said. "He happens to be here for non-racing reasons, he has been coaching me for a couple of years, and let's just say he may or may not have lost a pool bet! This weekend he is fulfilling his obligation of that particular wager! Is Pat Long a better race car driver than pool player? One thousand percent!"
The GMG effort at Spa is in partnership with top European sports car racing team Car Collection Motorsports.
"I have only raced against Car Collection before but they have won a lot of the big races already, which shows they know how to do the job," Bleekemolen said. "It's great, no worries or concerns at all, everything just runs more or less by itself. We just relax and enjoy the driving, come up with a good strategy of course, but it all goes very well."
The GMG Racing presence at Spa this week 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 co-drives with top American sports car racing driver Andy Lee in the SRO GT4 European Series that is a featured support race of the CrowdStrike 24 Hours.
"Todd Parriott and Andy Lee tested at the same time as us on Tuesday for the GT4 European Series race and did really well," Sofronas said. "They like the car, Racing One is doing a great job presenting it, and so far so good. Todd has really come along great for his first time being here, and Andy was quick right out of the gate. All of the traffic mitigates fast-lap opportunities to really see what you got, but they were on pace right from the beginning."
Following Wednesday's traditional competitor parade through Spa City Center, 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.