Sofronas hands Audi first podium of the new season at St. Pete

Sofronas, GMG Audi R8 LMS takes podium in season opener on the St. Petersburg temporary street circuit. No.14 Audi R8 on pole for round two

St. Petersburg, Fla. (March 23, 2013)- Following his fourth place starting position during today’s season-opening round of the Pirelli World Challenge, James Sofronas opened the year with a hard-earned second place finish in the no. 14 GMG / Children’s Tumor Foundation Audi R8 LMS.

James Sofronas, Audi R8, GMG/Mobil 1
James Sofronas, Audi R8, GMG/Mobil 1

Photo by: Mike Geng

Sofronas, from Newport Beach, got off to a steady start as the 42-car field roared in to the first turn of the 1.8 mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit. Starting strong, the Californian made strong work of the field in front of him as the race began to unfold. Engaging with Randy Pobst’s no. 6 Volvo, James would spend the next several laps studying his opponent before finally making an opportune pass just a few minutes in to the race. With a strong dice among the front-runners throughout the first 30 minutes of the race, an endless series of back and forth passes and daring maneuvers would eventually put the no. 14 in third position. With a late yellow closing up the field, James would have one last chance to make a run at the leading no. 46 Porsche of Ryan Dalziel and no. 9 Volvo of Alex Figge, however discretion would take over as he observered a massive battle between the two leaders, opting to settle for third and take strong points in the process.

As post-race inspections followed, however, the front splitter of Dalziel’s winning TruSpeed Porsche failed to meet series requirements, disqualifying the Scot and removing all points. This would in turn hand victory to Figge, as well as elevate Sofronas to second.

With the race’s fastest laps setting the field for tomorrow morning’s second round of the championship, the no. 14 will actually start on pole for round two, Sofronas having set the fastest lap during today’s race.

“What a great way to start the season,” stated Sofronas. “We’ve been working hard during the off season to get to this point, and I think our preparation showed. The entire team came here ready to race, so to kick it off with a podium and fastest lap puts us is in great shape for tomorrow.”

Also taking a strong top-10 was GMG’s Alex Welch, who would finish eighth in his Spyder / Lasso Audi R8 LMS. Welch, currently residing in Colorado, negotiated traffic masterfully to patiently make his way up the grid. Following a race-long battle with Tim Pappas’s no. 54 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, Welch would make an aggressive pass to break in to the top-10, eventually finding his way to seventh.

“I’m really happy with today’s finish,” stated Welch. “The car was solid all day, and I was really enjoying the battles I found myself in. I actually have to give credit to Tim who raced very cleanly. The guys put together a great car and it showed, hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

Unfortunately, for Duncan Ende and Bret Curtis in the no. 24 Merchant Services / STANDD entry and no. 32 Spectra Resources Audi R8LMS, the day was not quite as lucky. Curtis would find himself caught out in GTS-category traffic early on, making contact with slower traffic and retiring as a result of suspension damage. For Duncan Ende, oil pressure issues throughout the race would sideline the no. 24 just past halfway. Ende would be credited with 13th; Curtis 14th.

In GTS, driver Bill Ziegler would also suffer from an unfortunate day. After running a steady race and keeping his nose clean, the Florida-based driver would also retire with an engine issue midway through the race, eventually being credited with 16th.

While unfortunate results would befall on some of today’s five-car fleet, the ultimate strength of GMG’s preparation still shined through.

“Ultimately, I think the team really showed strong today,” stated Sofronas. “Duncan and Bret drove incredibly well, and for much of the race were right behind me. With a little better luck, they would have also have had great finishes. Bill was also having a great race, and had an unfortunate change of fortune, but everyone will get there. Alex and myself obviously started today on a great note, and it’s great that we’re already showing just how strong this Audi program can be. The Audi is such a great car, it’s built like a tank. I slapped the wall at the beginning of the race, and the car was really loose – but then the car came back to me. The car was really strong at the end, and then I went for it to see if these guys were going to drop the ball in front of me. They didn’t, but there was a lead change and I was waiting to jump.”

Round Two of the Pirelli World Championships will take place tomorrow at 9:15AM ET.


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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Randy Pobst , Tim Pappas , Alex Figge , James Sofronas , Duncan Ende , Bret Curtis , Alex Welch , Bill Ziegler
Article type Race report
Tags audi, curtis, ende, gmg, pirelli world challenge, scca-wc, sofronas, st. petersburg, welch, ziegler