James Sofronas: “We’re not walking away with the point lead, but we made big gains this weekend.”
LEXINGTON, Ohio - Headed into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, James Sofronas and the entire Global Motorsports Group (GMG) knew that the double-header event would play a critical role in Sofronas’ pursuit of his first-ever Pirelli World Challenge Series GT championship. Luckily for the team, repeat podium finishes accomplished just that.
Starting from the second row during Saturday’s round, the GMG team owner and driver took to the race with the knowledge that championship points were crucial for his No. 14 Mobil 1/Children’s Tumor Foundation Audi R8 LMS. Running in a very competitive lead pack, the highlight for the Villa Park, California resident came on an opportune pass over Randy Pobst’s No. 6 Volvo to seal third position.
Not only did the pass bring Sofronas back to the podium for the first time in three races, but it also earned him the “Cadillac Move of the Race” award. Unfortunately, the very Cadillac he was chasing in the championship, Johnny O’Connell’s No. 03, was one position ahead in second.
Heading into Sunday’s race, the 12th round in the championship, Sofronas knew that finishing ahead of O’Connell would be the only way to turn his championship position. Flying up to second during the race’s standing start, an early pass by Randy Pobst would put Sofronas back into third position, fighting hard with O’Connell to defend his podium spot.
As the two began to duel, the No. 14 began to settle into a rhythm, building a slight gap before fate intervened. Just past the halfway point, O’Connell’s No. 3 Cadillac pulled into the pits with apparent damage to the front end of his car, forcing the championship leader to retire. It would put James at ease for the rest of his race, finishing comfortably in third and now sitting just 13 points behind O’Connell.
“We really needed this for the championship,” continued Sofronas. “There’s only two races left, and every point counts. It’s going to be a straight fight between Johnny and I at Sonoma and Houston. All we can do is keep our heads down and stay focused.”
Aiming for his first podium finish in Pirelli World Challenge competition was Duncan Ende, who once again had unfortunate luck during this weekend’s events. Qualifying his No. 24 STANDD / Merchant Services, Ltd. Audi R8 LMS in seventh for Saturday’s race, Ende was well on his way to a possible top-five finish, but a flat tire would send the Los Angeles native to the pits just past the halfway point. Although Duncan was able to return to racing one lap down, there simply wasn’t enough time to gain on lost ground, eventually finishing 12th.
For Sunday’s round, a sixth-place qualifying effort would net Duncan a sixth-place finish. While it may sound like a quiet event from the results, Ende’s race was anything but quiet. Running a one-off event for Cadillac, the highly touted Jordan Taylor would race closely with Ende for much of the race, with the two making light contact throughout the event.
Ende would also incur damage after a tag from behind by Andy Pilgrim's Cadillac, causing his car to emit smoke as a result of his tire rubbing against bodywork. However, despite the damage and a nagging vibration, the No. 24 would take sixth place.
“It wasn’t quite the weekend we wanted, but it was a fun race today,” stated Ende. “There was definitely a bit of argy-bargy out there, but it was good racing and we’ll just set our sights on Sonoma. It will be nice to race in California again, hopefully that will be where we finally get the results we want.”
Driving the No. 08 Spyder / Lasso Audi R8 LMS, Alex Welch would have a relatively quiet weekend as well. During Saturday’s event, the Colorado native would translate his eleventh-place start into an eighth-place finish. Today, Alex would have a similar run, taking his ninth-place start into a seventh-place result. Welch has also elevated himself to ninth in the championship standings.
“I’m very happy to take two top-10’s on the weekend,” stated Welch. “The guys did a great job getting the car ready, and overall I’m satisfied to have clean runs that brought back-to-back podiums.”
Finally, Bill Ziegler’s No. 95 Swisher Racing Audi R8 LMS would also run a fairly quiet and trouble-free event. On Saturday, the Floridian would take his twelfth-place start to an eleventh-place finish, and would one-up his results today with an eleventh-place start and tenth-place finish.
“It was a quiet weekend for us, but I enjoyed it,” stated Ziegler. “There weren’t any major dramas with the car, which is a testament to the team, and we did our best to get into the top ten. I’m happy we’ve been able to get top tens during each weekend we’ve raced this car, and Sonoma should be even better for us.”
Taking a two-week break, the entire GMG organization will head to Sonoma, California for the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday, August 25. With everything on the line for the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship, the event will once again serve as a pivotal weekend for GMG.
Highlights of this weekend’s action will be broadcast on Sunday, August 18th at 2PM ET on NBC Sports.
Global Motorsports Group