PWC Newcomer Piana Paces First GTS Practice Round

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – European veteran Gabriele Piana of Italy established himself as a favorite Friday in the GTS class in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge season opener after setting the quickest time in the first practice round at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Piana, 31, drove his No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche Cayman GT Clubsport MR over the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit next to the St. Petersburg harbor at a time of one minute, 19.298 seconds to secure the No. 1 spot in the GTS division Friday afternoon.

Second went to former GTS race winner Jade Buford of Nashville, Tenn., in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 at 1:19.670 followed by 2017 GTA and SprintX Pro-Am champion James Sofronas of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS at 1:19.799, defending GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R at 1:19.949 and Vinnie Allegretta of Hamptons, N.Y., in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 at 1:20.291.

Leading the GTSA class in Friday Round 1 practice was Sonoma winner Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R at 1:20.470.

Former TC series champion Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., in the No. 26 Fast Track Racing/Classic BMW BMW M4 GT4 was second quickest in the GTSA category at 1:20.546 followed by veteran Jeff Courtney of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo MC GT4 at 1:20.625, Mike Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 at 1:21.378 and Marko Radisic of Serbia in the No. 22 Precision Driving BMW M4 GT4 at 1:21.659.

The next GTS practice round is set for 4:10 p.m. EDT.