Former Mid-Ohio Driving Instructor Tops Aschenbach in Great Battle, Kurtz Wins Again in GTSA

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Englishman Ian James posted his third GTS victory of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge campaign Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by driving the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT sports car past Saturday GTS winner Lawson Aschenbach in the PWC Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio presented by Honda Racing.

James, a former race school instructor at the famed Mid-Ohio circuit near Columbus, started second in the 50-minute GTS Sprint event (Round 12) and hounded GTS point leader Aschenbach for the first 18 laps of the 35-lap contest before taking the lead on the 19thcircuit Sunday and extending his margin to 1.917 seconds at the checkered flag.

James, now residing in Paradise Valley, Ariz., is the first GTS driver to win three features this year and moved into second in the current GTS point standings behind Aschenbach, the two-time GTS series champion from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Driving the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, Lawson has notched 11 podium finishes in 12 starts in 2017 and unofficially holds a 267-181 point advantage over James.

“The Camaro was a bullet out of a gun and I couldn’t keep up for the first four or five laps, probably a little bit due to strategy in tire pressures or downforce loads,” said James. “Then I inched up on the back of him and Lawson was driving a defensive pace in the Chevrolet. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get by and then he got a little loose. I made a run on him and it was probably now or never at that point. It was a good race, I really enjoy this format and I can worry about putting a run together. It’s good racing. I love the diversity of the cars.”

Rounds 13 and 14 for the GTS class will take place at Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, Utah, on August 11-13.

From the pole position Sunday, Aschenbach jumped to the lead in his Camaro and extended the margin to two seconds by lap four. But James chipped away at Lawson’s lead and both raced within a few car lengths for ten laps before Ian slid underneath the Camaro driver on lap 19 for the top spot.

“It was apparent after a few laps that (the Panoz was) quite a bit quicker than us and I did everything that I could to hold Ian off,” said Aschenbach. “I pulled every move that I possibly could but it was really just a matter of time. Once he got in front of me, he just kept managing the gap so it was pretty clear that they were quicker than us. But it was a good battle. Ian keeps it clean, we’ve had a few good battles this year and hopefully we’ll continue to do so for the rest of the year. This is a special place for us. We’ve had a lot of success at Mid-Ohio, and then the win Saturday being the first win of the season, and the Blackdog Speed Shop team being on the podium today.”

Teenager Harry Gottsacker of San Antonio, Tex., Saturday’s pole winner, put in another impressive showing Sunday in his No. 69 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT55 GT4 machine with a third place in GTS event, just 2.664-seconds behind James.

“We fought our way back up to Ian and Lawson today,” said Gottsacker, who celebrated his 18th birthday Friday with a GTS pole position. “The Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta felt so good in the second half of the race. I knew I was closing on the top two and it is a privilege to race against pro drivers like them. I really like the sprint format in the Pirelli World Challenge since you just drive the car flat out. A pole and two third places is exciting for me this weekend.”

In a wild finish at the checkered flag, Ernie Francis Jr., of Miami Fla., slipped past Parker Cahse of New Braunsfels, Tex., for fourth in tremendous battle between the teenage drivers. Francis was driving the No. 40 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4, while Chase was at the wheel of the No. 19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT55 GT4.

In the GTS Amateur division, George Kurtz also of Paradise Valley, Ariz., past veteran PWC competitor Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., on the final lap to capture his fourth consecutive race win after a double victory event at Road America and taking Saturday’s GTS Am category at Mid-Ohio in the CrowdStrike/GMG McLaren 570S. Gaples, in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R led the majority of the GTS Am class race Sunday before taking the runner-up position over Bob Michaelian of Seal Beach, Calif., in the No. 45 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN CAR 1 GT4.

“Crowdstrike and GMG gave me a great car so I have to thank them,” said Kurtz. “We had a bad start when one of the SIN cars checked out and I almost hit Parker (Chase) so everybody got around us. Then throughout the race, Gaples was leading and he’s a great driver so we just put our heads down and just kept chipping away until the last lap. I had to get it done so going through the back straight, it was a late brake going into that turn and I managed to get around him so it’s a great win for the team and a great weekend and we’re delighted with the results. It was a dogfight.”

Round 12 of the GTS Class will be televised Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. EDT on the CBS Sports Network.

Results from the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Honda Racing Round 12 GTS race on Sunday, July 30, 2017 Results are provisional until posted Final.

Pos,PIC,Class,Name,Hometown,Car,Laps,Status,Race Time,Gap
1,1, Pro,Ian JAMES,Paradise Valley, AZ,Panoz Avezzano GT,35,Running,51:30.711,
2,2, Pro,Lawson ASCHENBACH,Palm Beach Gardens, FL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,35,Running,51:32.628,1.917
3,3, Pro,Harry GOTTSACKER,San Antonio, TX,Ginetta G55,35,Running,51:33.375,2.664
4,4, Pro,Ernie FRANCIS JR,Miami, FL,Ford Mustang,35,Running,51:46.949,16.238
5,5, Pro,Parker CHASE,New Braunsfels, TX,Ginetta G55,35,Running,51:46.963,16.252
6,6, Pro,Jeff COURTNEY,Milwaukee, WI,Maserati GT4,35,Running,52:05.061,34.350
7,7, Pro,Martin BARKEY,Huntsville, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,35,Running,52:06.116,35.405
8,8, Pro,Nate STACY,Tulsa, OK,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,35,Running,52:19.337,48.626
9,1, Am,George KURTZ,Paradise Valley, AZ,McLaren 570s GT4,35,Running,52:21.941,51.230
10,2, Am,Tony GAPLES,Libertyville, IL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,35,Running,52:22.556,51.845
11,3, Am,Bob MICHAELIAN,Seal Beach, CA,SIN R1 GT4,35,Running,52:22.870,52.159
12,4, Am,Jason BELL,Tampa, FL,SIN R1 GT4,35,Running,52:45.713,1:15.002
13,5, Am,Mark KLENIN,Lone Tree, CO,McLaren 570S GT4,35,Running,52:55.013,1:24.302
14,6, Am,Adam MERZON,Greenwich, CT,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,34,Running,51:43.952,1 LAP
15,7, Am,Bill ZIEGLER,Ponte Vedra, FL,KTM Xbow GT4,34,Running,52:04.375,1 LAP
16,9, Pro,Rodrigo BAPTISTA,Barcelona, Spain,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,19,Not Running,31:43.493,16 LAPS