Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pirelli World Challenge: Heartbreak for GMG Racing in Houston

By Johan Laubscher

The finale of the Pirelli World Challenge took place on the streets of Houston this weekend. It was a title showdown between James Sofronas in his GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS and Johnny O'Connell in his factory Cadillac CTS-V.R, which ended in heartbreak for GMG Racing. 

James Sofronas arrived in Houston as the points leader, with a mere 21 point lead over O'Connell. Three Audis were entered this weekend: two Audi R8 LMS cars from GMG Racing in the GT class and one Audi TT RS car from Istook Motorsports in the GTS class.

The second GMG R8 LMS was piloted by Rene Rast, the factory Audi Sport customer racing driver, who had been added to the squad to support Sofronas’ bid for the title. Rast immediately showed his pace by placing second in the first practice session and first in the second session. Sofronas was sixth in both of the practice sessions. 

Qualifying was cancelled due to track altercations in the long break between practice sessions one and two, thus the grid was determined by championship points. This resulted in James Sofronas gaining the crucial pole position and Rene Rast starting sixth, last in the GT class, as he had no points on the table.

The race itself saw very wet conditions. Sofronas lead the way ahead with Rast immediately moving up to fifth. The sixth placed Volvo misjudged the very next corner and went off and blocked Rast on track, resulting in Rast falling far behind. Sofronas continued to lead at the front as Rast began a tremendous recovery drive, lapping much faster than the front runners. Pobst in the Volvo took the lead followed by Sofronas ahead of O'Connell. Rast was able to catch and pass O'Connell, taking third and defending Sofronas in second. As the track began to dry the Cadillacs began to show pace. Sofronas suffered rear contact from Andy Pilgrim in the second Cadlillac, who had gotten past Rast. 

The resulting damage slowed Sofronas on track. O'Connell was able to take the lead from Pobst in the Volvo, whilst a massive battle ensued behind them with robust racing between the Audis and the second Cadillac. In the closing minutes Sofronas suffered a rear puncture and the championship dream finally came to an end, as O'Connell won the race and the championship. Rast finished fourth and Sofronas finished fifth within the GT class, taking second in the championship.

Photo credit: Pirelli World Challenge