(SONOMA, CALIF.) – The Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R team of Scott Hargrove and Patrick Long were victorious in Sunday’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America Round 8 race at Sonoma Raceway. Southern California team GMG Racing’s James Sofronas and Dirk Werner won in the Pro/Am class.
Pole sitter and Pro/Am category competitor Matt Campbell, in the #91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R took the green flag and led the pack through turn 1 to start the 90-minute, 48-lap contest. Second-on-the-grid and Saturday’s Round 7 co-winner Toni Vilander slotted into second in his #61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3. California native and former GT Driver’s Champion Long slotted into third in his #58 machine, with Werner in the #14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R in fourth. Another former GT Driver’s Champion Alvaro Parente, in the Sonoma based K-PAX Racing #9 Bentley Continental GT3 deftly moved up two positions on the start and into 5th.
Before competitors could complete the first lap, Race Control issued a full-course yellow to retrieve a disabled car. On the restart the top 5 held their positions, with Campbell stretching his lead to 1.7 seconds by lap 7. By lap 19, the top 5 – Campbell, Vilander, Long, Werner, and Parente – continued to hold their positions, with Campbell leading by over four seconds on Vilander.
The 10-minute pit window for refueling and driver/tire changes opened on lap 22, and Long brought his #58 machine into the pits first. Vilander pitted near the mid-point of the window, while Campbell pitted near the end of the window.
With the pit stops complete, Imperato, who took over for Campbell, maintained a slight lead, while Hargrove slotted into second, Molina, who took over for Vilander, in third, Soucek (Parente) fourth and Pro/Am Saturday race winner Mike Hedlund now in fifth in the #43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX. Sofronas slotted into third in class, seventh overall.
On Lap 30, Hargrove moved into the overall race lead overtaking Imperato through turn 7. On lap 37, contact between two machines approaching turn 4 brought out a full-course yellow. On the restart, Hargrove led Molina, Soucek and Imperato to the line. By Lap 41, with 14 minutes remaining in race, Hargrove held a .676 lead over Molina, while in Pro/Am Imperato led Sofronas who had moved past Hedlund. Another full-course yellow was issued when the #63 of David Askew in the DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 went off at the exit of turn 6.
The lap 45 restart with four-minutes left in the race initiated a green, white, checkered shootout. Hargrove once again led Molina and Soucek to the line, while behind them Imperato worked to hold off Sofronas. On the white flag lap, Sofronas executed a pass through turn 3/3A to take over the lead in Pro/Am. At the checkered, Hargrove won over Molina by 1.3 seconds with Soucek in third overall. Sofronas finished sixth overall and first in Pro/Am over Hedlund (seventh overall) and Imperato (eighth overall).
Unofficially, Vilander and Molina co-lead the Pro category Driver’s Championship leaving Sonoma with 148 points. Parente and Soucek sit second with 134 points. Hargrove and Long sit third with 101 points. Pro/Am championship leaders coming into the weekend, Kyle Marcelli and Martin Barkey finished fourth in Pro/Am and 9th overall in the race and leave Sonoma in the lead in category with 128 points.
“It’s been a hard-luck year and it’s finally over. Pat (Long) had an awesome qualifying and held it in third and the Wright Motorsports guys did a great job in the pit stop and were on it and we managed to jump the Ferrari. Our Porsche was absolutely on rails and I’m just so happy to be back in victory lane,” said Hargrove. “The Wright Motorsports guys have I think been the fastest in the pit lane all year, and they got the job done today.”
Sofronas who wasn’t originally scheduled to drive in the race commented, “well it was on the schedule with Brent Holden, who is a great friend and a partner on the car, he couldn’t make it. I love World Challenge and Porsche has been so good to me and the GMG boys really put together an awesome car. At the end we could run with the top pros, and it gave me a lot of confidence. We just needed some good luck and the yellows to close the gap. Once we closed the gap and we had position I was going to take it.”
Results are provisional until posted final. Watkins Glen is the next destination for Blancpain GT World Challenge America teams (Aug. 30-Sept. 1) for Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2019 Championship. Races will be streamed live on gt-world-challenge-america.com, as well as live on CBS Sports Network.
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