James Takes GT4 Sprint Race 1 Win in Thrilling Last-Lap Pass at St. Petersburg
Ian James has claimed victory in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, following a thrilling last-lap pass on Spencer Pumpelly for top honors Saturday at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by CrowdStrike.
The 50-minute single-driver sprint race, which was halted by a red flag for an accident by the #71 MarcoPolo Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 of Nicolai Elghanayan, resulted in a dramatic nine-minute shootout to the finish.
Pole-sitter Pumpelly, in the #66 TRG Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport took over the lead just moments prior to Elghanayan’s accident when the #41 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 of Jade Buford ran wide entering Turn 1.
While gapping Pumpelly on the final restart, the #50 Panoz Avezzano GT4 of James made a late charge to get alongside Pumpelly as the white flag flew. The Englishman managed to hold the inside line on the Porsche through Turn 1 to take the lead in dramatic fashion.
James crossed the line 0.696 seconds over Pumpelly to give Team Panoz Racing its first victory since the passing of team owner and legendary motorsports figure Dr. Don Panoz.
Gar Robinson completed the podium in third following a strong run for the second-generation driver in the #74 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, who finished ahead of Michael Cooper’s debuting McLaren 570S GT4 from Blackdog Speed Shop in fourth.
Buford, who led the opening 22 laps of the race, finished seventh in GT4 Pro behind the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Mustang of Ian Lacy and Shane Lewis’ Robinson Camaro, who had started from the rear of the 20-car field after a post-qualifying infraction.
Alan Brynjolfsson emerged from a wild final restart to claim his first GT4 Am win as a solo driver in the #7 Park Place Motorsports Porsche.
Brynjolfsson, who teamed with Trent Hindman for victory in the second GT4 America SprintX race at Circuit of The Americas last weekend, passed the #51 Panoz of Preston Calvert for the class lead moments after the final restart.
While Calvert attempted to regain the lead, the Panoz driver ended up finishing third in class after a battle with the #11 Blackdog McLaren of Tony Gaples, who crossed the line second in his first race in the team’s new McLaren.
Class pole-sitter Jarett Andretti enjoyed a strong start until an incident on Lap 15 with Lacy that resulted in the #18 Andretti Autosport McLaren backing into the wall and sustaining rear-end damage.
It brought out the first full course caution of the race.
Race 2 for Pirelli GT4 America Sprint is scheduled for Sunday at 11:25 a.m. ET. Tape-delayed coverage will air on CBS Sports Network.
Ian James, #50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4 (Winner, Overall & GT4 Pro): “I just want to say thank you to the Panoz family. We’re out here in the stars and stripes car that Don Panoz made so famous. It’s a tribute year to him and we win the first time out, so I’m very proud of the whole team. The race with Spencer, obviously I had a different tire pressure strategy. Every green, he took off on me and then I’d come back. I was a little bit worried there wasn’t going to be enough time but he had a bad drive off the last corner, we had a good drive and he gave me racing room and we got it done.”
Alan Brynjolfsson, #7 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport (Winner, GT4 Am): “It’s awesome. Not only is it my first street course but racing at home is unbelievable. I was not expecting this at all. I didn’t know what I was going to get [racing] a street circuit. To have my first win on a street circuit here is special. It’s been a great two weeks and I’m very happy.”