GMG survives 25 Hours of Thunderhill for fourth place finish

Fighting for a podium finish, the team had to settle for fourth after gearbox issues near the end.

WILLOWS, Calif. (December 10, 2013)- After an impressive job by both drivers and crew, Global Motorsport Group (GMG) survived a wild event to take home fourth place honors during this weekend’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill.

#08 GMG Racing 1 Audi R8-LMS: Michael McGrath, Drew Regitz, Alexandra Sabados, James Sofronas, Alex Welch
#08 GMG Racing 1 Audi R8-LMS: Michael McGrath, Drew Regitz, Alexandra Sabados, James Sofronas, Alex Welch

Photo by: James Holland

“This weekend was a total team effort,” stated GMG team owner James Sofronas. “I couldn't be more proud of the crew as they never once winced at the hurdles we faced throughout the weekend, nor did they ever complain about the circumstances they faced when repairing the car after heavy damage on Friday morning. Every single person was willing to jump in at a moment's notice and that was especially inspiring for me when I was in the car, driving as hard as I could to try and get us to the front. It was great to be able to race alongside Alex and his whole Colorado team, everyone did a great job and should hold their heads high. We also have to thank Spyder for their help on this one, as their cold weather apparel really saved us through some long nights.”

Joining Sofronas would be team veteran Alex Welch who has come off of a tremendous 2013 season. Hailing from Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, Welch brought along a contingent of Colorado-based drivers to join him in the No. 08 Spyder Audi R8 LMS. Coming from a mix of national and regional sportscar ranks, Welch would be joined by Colorado’s Alexandra Sabados, Michael McGrath, and Drew Regitz. The team enjoyed sponsorship from Spyder who are synonymous with providing warm, water-resistant apparel that is critical in the Colorado snow.

While the race is most notorious for starting on Saturday and lasting 25 hours, the longest endurance race in North America, the real race for GMG began on Friday. An incident during Friday morning practice would cause significant damage to the car.

While the damage was enough to consider retirement, the entire GMG crew knew that this was not an option. Springing into action, the team spent a very busy Friday afternoon and evening changing out a litany of parts in the repair process. Having to literally fly crew and spares in from the team’s Santa Ana, California headquarters, the team’s tireless efforts went well into the night, all in advance of a race that was to last 25 hours.

However, when the call to fire engines came on Saturday morning, the team’s Audi did so without a hitch and the race was on.

With the experienced Alex Welch starting the race, a trouble-free double stint would see the team well positioned after the first 90 minutes. As the race continued, the team would cycle through McGrath and Sabados, all running error free.

The first hiccup of the race would come just past four hours when a battery issue would surface along with a small penalty for a race infraction. Running well into the top 10 during the first four hours, the battery and penalty setbacks would place the team back to 20th, but still with 19 hours remaining.

With the race entering the night, it was time for Sofronas, this year’s Pirelli World Challenge runner-up, to turn up the heat. Driving a strong series of stints, Sofronas’ pace was impressive and with 11 hours to go the team found itself threatening to rejoin the top 10.

Following a relatively flawless run through the night, consistency became the theme for the team. With each driver cycling through, the team found itself in the top five as daylight emerged. To top it off, the strength of the Audi R8 showed when, after 532 laps of running, Sofronas turned the fastest lap of the race for the No. 08.

With four hours to go, the fight was on for the podium with the team enjoying a great fight with the No. 83 Porsche, and even furthering their best lap time on lap 567.

With Alex Welch taking the reigns for the final drive with under two hours remaining, the team was up to third.

Looking set for a podium in their 25 Hours of Thunderhill debut, problems would arise during the last half hour of the race, as the Audi’s gearbox began to fade with Welch stuck in fourth gear. Driving in fourth gear and nursing the Audi home, the car began to smoke in the closing laps with the gearbox eventually giving up the ghost with just minutes to go. The crew would push the car to the finish, taking fourth place honors in the process.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Endurance
Drivers James Sofronas , Alex Welch , Drew Regitz , Michael McGrath , Alexandra Sabados
Article type Breaking news
Tags audi, endurance, gmg, lms, r8, thunderhill