The Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Race One at Road America showcased what homefield advantage means. Milwaukee-native Manny Franco and teammate Alessandro Balzan take home Conquest Racing’s first win of the year. George Kurtz and Colin Braun walked away winners in the PRO-AM Class.
The start of the race came with haste, and in the urgency, a few mistakes were made. Will Hardeman in the No. 19 Esses Racing with Mercedes-Benz of Austin Mercedes-AMG GT3 went off and into a wall, taking on significant damage and retiring the car early. Shortly after the track went back to green Adam Adelson made contact with a tire barrier. The No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R bounced back onto the track before coming to a stop. The damage ended Adelson’s day and caused a nearly 20-minute caution for cleanup.
Once through the second caution, every team seemed to put their heads down and focus forward. The pole sitters turned to winners while their respective classes fought for ground throughout the 90-minute race.
Franco and Balzan had as close to perfect of a race as possible, earning the Ferrari 296 first win in North America. Franco put the No. 21 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 on the pole and kept the lead while fighting off pressure from the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Eric Filgueiras. He and co-driver McAleer would ultimately finish the race fourth. This in part because the No. 94 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT3 of Chandler Hull and Bill Auberlen was unstoppable.
Hull started the race third and hung in the front of the field, amongst the very competitive and winning No. 04 CrowdStrike by Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3 of George Kurtz. Auberlen took over for Hull and put his veteran status to use, keeping the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 EVO of Mario Farnbacher at bay. Farnbacher’s teammate Ashton Harrison kept the car clean, pushing forward to hand the No. 93 Acura NSX over. Farnbacher challenged Jan Heylen to push past the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and the Porsche of McAleer.
McAleer would hold off Heylen who tried to push past along with Farnbacher. Heylen came to the race guns blazing after Madison Snow handed off the Porsche in perfect condition and the Wright Motorsports crew performed a well-conditioned pit stop to get the car ahead on track. The No. 53 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Seth Lucas and Trenton Estep finished the race sixth in the PRO Class. Lucas and Estep recovered to from early off to finish eighth overall.
Kurtz started the race from pole and challenged for the overall lead at the start. Once he settled into his own race Kurtz became untouchable. Braun’s story was similar to Kurtz in never being caught but chasing down an overall win. Braun would finish the race third overall. However, he was slowly being reeled in by and eager Neil Verhagen in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3. He and teammate Samantha Tan found success with back-to-back podium finishes in their first weekend as co-drivers at VIRginia International Raceway. They made it three in a row today with a second-place finish. Third place went to the No. 007 TRG Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 of Derek DeBoer and Valentin Hasse-Clot who silently weaved their way to the podium.
Scott Smithson and Bryan Sellers No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 served a penalty for a pit lane speed violation. The team had the car on rails and he recovered for a fourth-place finish. Teammates Corey Lewis and Jeff Burton in the No. 91 Mercedes-AMG GT3 took home fifth with an eight-second gap between the cars. Daniel Morad and Ziad Ghandour in the No. 9 TR3 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 had a similar story to that of Sellers and Smithson as their headway was halted by a penalty for a pitlane speed violation.
The No. 32 EBOOST Porsche 911 GT3 R made its first appearance in the PRO-AM Class with drivers Kyle Washington and Jeroen Bleekemolen. The GMG Racing team will continue to push as they test themselves against the ultra-competitive class. What had appeared to be a podium finish for the home team turned into an eighth-place finish due to a mechanical issue. Drivers Anthony Bartone and Adam Christodoulou get a second shot at success in Race Two.
The lone AM Class entry of Paul Kiebler and Jon Branam continued gathering intel in their No. 77 TR3 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. The race was successful as the team walked away 14th overall in Race One.
Let’s Go Racing
Race Two brings the SRO Motorsports America weekend at Road America to a close. Race Two begins with a grid walk open to all fans at 2 p.m. CT with the green flag set to drop at 2:15 p.m. Join the over half a million subscribers by watching the live stream on the GT World YouTube page. The race is also streamed live with over a million users taking part in the conversation with Ash Vandelay.