The 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS PRO Class driver and team champions were none other than Eric Filgueiras and Stevan McAleer in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The duo kicked off 2023 as champions from the previous race season. Together, they took top honors in the Pirelli GT4 America series, winning the Silver Class Driver Points Championship. They decided to push forward and take on the PRO Class in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America competition for 2023. Their confidence steered them in the right direction as they now are back-to-back champions within SRO Motorsports America.
The jump from an established Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport to the new Porsche 911 GT3 R gave RS1 an additional project alongside getting Filgueiras up to speed in GT3 competition. His teammate, McAleer, had previous GT3 experience but was behind the wheel of other manufacturers.
McAleer reflected on the nuances the team learned to create a competitive platform in the GT3 series.
“This championship was much harder to win,” McAleer said. “It was new to everyone- team, crew, drivers, rules and regulations. It was very challenging as we were never the fastest car but we were the most consistent, and it has proven time and time again that consistency wins championships.”
Filgueiras and McAleer begun the season with a win in Race One at Sonoma Raceway. In fact, they won the first three opening races at each calendar event- Sonoma Raceway, NOLA Motorsports Park and Circuit of the Americas. The win at COTA would be the drivers last win of the season. However, RS1 never relinquished the fight, and the driver pair went on to add four podium finishes for a total of six over the course of the season in addition to the three aforementioned wins. The consistency McAleer spoke of carrying them through adversity.
Filgueiras spoke to the frustrations the team felt midseason.
“VIR was easily our hardest weekend of the year,” Filgueiras said. “t felt like we spent three days making changes to the car and becoming frustrated because we found no improvement with practice and testing. We didn’t have an immediate moment of overcoming that, but we did go test at Road America in preparation for the next round, and we regrouped.”
Down to the wire is the only way the championship can be easily described. Three teams had an opportunity to win the title should the right misfortunes and successes fall into play. While the No. 45 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R of Jan Heylen and Madison Snow would go on to win the Indianpolis-8 Hour presented by AWS. The RS1 team would place second, giving the team the points advantage for its second championship.
Filgueiras and McAleer are the first drivers pairing to win GT4 and GT3 titles consecutively. A success story for the SRO ladder system compliments the success story the two drivers built over the 2023 race calendar.
“It was a super emotional season,” McAleer said. “I thought after COTA we were going to run away with the championship, but then we had a bad spell for two events. Set up, BOP, we just didn't have the speed. Then Sebring got us a fairly large points gap, but it was certainly not in my mind that we had clinched it at all. At Indy, with the Ferrari having a bad day, we knew we had won the championship. Honestly, I only knew we were safe with 22 minutes remaining, so it really did come down to the wire.”
Filgueiras broke down the elements atop everyone’s minds as the eight-hour clock ran down.
“During the Indy 8 Hour, we knew we had a checklist of things we needed to get through in order to have an understanding of where we would be not only in the race but the championship,” Filgueiras said. “We had to get past 50% race distance, make sure we had minimum drive time for each driver in case something happened to the car and we were eligible for points, and so on. It was really about being tidy and minimizing risk in a lot of situations before getting closer and having an understanding that we were looking good.”
The two drivers have confirmed they will part ways after garnering 15 wins, 26 podium finishes and 16 poles together. While RS1, Filgueiras and McAleer will announce 2024 plans separately at a later date, McAleer is sure this won’t be the last time fans see their names written together.