New Panoz Avezzano GT sports car wins over Aschenbach’s Camaro, Courtney’s Maserati
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – On Saturday at Road America, Ian James recorded the first Team Panoz Racing victory in 11 years with a wire-to-wire win in the new Panoz Avezzano GT sports car with a 1.523-second margin over Lawson Aschenbach’s Chevrolet Camaro and Jeff Courtney’s Maserati in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 9 50-minute race.
James, who won the pole position on Saturday morning, grabbed the lead in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT and never really looked back to post the team’s first victory since the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2006.
The Panoz Avezzano GT was just introduced at the Pirelli World Challenge season opener in the streets of St. Petersburg in March, but the development of the new sports car continued on including its first podium finish last month at Lime Rock Park. The car’s potential came to life this weekend at the famed four-time road circuit north of Milwaukee with strong runs in practice and qualifying.
Then today’s 50-minute sprint victory capped off a sensational weekend performance that could continue in Sunday’s GTS Round 10 event.
“At the start, I managed to find the sweet spot of where our engine is,” said James, who now resides in Paradise Valley, Ariz. “I tried to settle into a rhythm since I knew that tire degradation would be an issue today and then Lawson was coming – he put it down and he was right there. Thankfully, Jeff showed up and took his attention so every time I looked down at turn five and saw the orange mirrors on (the Maserati) and the blue on the uprights (of the Camaro) I knew they were having fun together so I could focus ahead.”
“It’s great racing – it’s close. It’s been eleven years since Panoz has won a race (Sebring in 2006) and Dr. Panoz has probably done more for American racing than anyone so it’s great to thank him for all the effort he puts in and bring the car out here and enjoy the racing. Tomorrow is another day, we’re going to have a much harder fight tomorrow.”
James took advantage late in the 22-lap GTS feature Saturday with Aschenbach and Courtney fighting it out for second place and the UK native was able to open his margin at the end.
“We came close at Lime Rock,” said James. “We had a second place on the first day. They spent a year developing that car so ours has really been a compressed program to really get on top of it and understand it. This track is great in any car – a Mazda Miata or a full blown prototype. Road America is just an amazing track. This is one of the gems in the world of tracks. So many tracks these days are cookie-cutter but this track, you go in and you have grass on the side, you have real consequences, you have to be perfect. You take an extra foot of track and you break the car; it’s that sort of track, and every time you get it right it’s a really good feeling. With fourteen corners, if you lose a tenth each corner, you’re already a second-and-a-half down just like that. You have to put it all together here.”
GTS point leader Aschenbach put on a sensational show with his No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R with a solid start and then by holding off a challenge from Courtney in his No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4.
“Jeff raced me really clean and fair which is obviously something that you want to see,” said Aschenbach, the two-time GTS series champion. “I knew it was probably a good show for the fans. I was doing everything I could to keep him behind me. I had to pull out all the tricks and everything I could and I was hitting every curve I could possibly hit. He did a great job keeping me honest there. Unfortunately, neither of us had anything for Ian today, so congrats to them. They’ve been so close this year in so many instances so it’s nice to see them, another manufacturer, get a win.”
“All in all, I’m not going to lie – these second-places are getting old. You hate to say that about second place but we’ve put so much work into this car in the off-season. We’re very proud of those podium finishes this year but it’s tough. You want to win and you want to be able to stand on top of the podium but it’s eluded us for awhile. I think we have a good car and we seem to be good everywhere which is a positive, so I have to thank everyone at Black Dog Speed Shop and Team Chevy because without them we wouldn’t be here.”
Courtney, the local favorite from Milwaukee, challenged Aschenbach throughout the final laps of the GTS race Saturday but had to settle for third.
“Ian and Lawson had fantastic starts and I had a little bit of trouble at the start,” said Courtney. “About a third of the way in the race, I flat-spotted the left front tire and had to back off the braking which I think helped me from overcharging. Late in the race, I was thinking I had something for Lawson. I had a couple of runs but nothing that I could close the deal on.”
Fourth in the GTS division was Austin Vertaag of Sandy Utah, in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow followed by Lime Rock GTS double winner Rodrigo Baptista of Spain in the No. 3 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR and Harry Gottsacker of San Antonio, Tex., in the No. 69 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta G55.
Capturing the GTS Am category Saturday at Road America was George Kurtz of Paradise Valley, Ariz., in the Crowdstrike/GMG McLaren 570S, followed by Drew Staveley from Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 and Mark Klenin of Lone Tree, Colo., in the No. 62 KPR/Tender Belly McLaren 570S.
In the Touring Car class, Cody Ellsworth of Jupiter, Fla., drove his No. 111 Porsche Cayman to victory over Nick Wittmer of Montreal, Que., Canada in the No. 91 ST Racing BMW M235iR and defending TC series champion Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., in the No. 1 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.
The Round 10 GTS 50-minute feature on Sunday at Road America will follow the Verizon IndyCar Series race at 2:45 p.m. CDT. The race will be live-streamed for free at World-Challenge.com and MotorTrendOnDemand.com; check World-Challenge.com for links.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Round 9 race results for the Pirelli World Challenge GTS and TC Open classes Saturday at Road America. Results are provisional until posted Final.
1,1, Pro,Ian JAMES,Paradise Valley, AZ,Panoz Avezzano GT,22,Running,51:47.662,
2,2, Pro,Lawson ASCHENBACH,Palm Beach Gardens, FL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,22,Running,51:49.185,1.523
3,3, Pro,Jeff COURTNEY,Milwaukee, WI,Maserati GT4,22,Running,51:49.359,1.697
4,4, Pro,Austin VERSTEEG,Sandy, Utah,KTM Xbow GT4,22,Running,51:50.555,2.893
5,5, Pro,Rodrigo BAPTISTA,Barcelona, Spain,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,22,Running,51:57.568,9.906
6,6, Pro,Harry GOTTSACKER,San Antonio, TX,Ginetta G55,22,Running,51:57.906,10.244
7,1, Am,Drew STAVELEY,Salt Lake City, UT,Ginetta G55,22,Running,52:22.200,34.538
8,2, Am,George KURTZ,Paradise Valley, AZ,McLaren 570s GT4,22,Running,52:22.315,34.653
9,7, Pro,Nate STACY,Tulsa, OK,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,22,Running,52:29.819,42.157
10,3, Am,Mark KLENIN,Lone Tree, CO,McLaren 570S GT4,22,Running,52:46.764,59.102
11,8, Pro,Martin BARKEY,Huntsville, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,22,Running,52:47.454,59.792
12,4, Am,Tony GAPLES,Libertyville, IL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,22,Running,52:52.204,1:04.542
13,5, Am,Fred ROBERTS,Toronto, ON,Maserati GT4,22,Running,52:52.942,1:05.280
14,6, Am,Adam MERZON,Greenwich, CT,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,22,Running,53:26.579,1:38.917
15,7, Am,Chris BEAUFAIT,Freeland, WA,SIN R1 GT4,22,Running,53:53.796,2:06.134
16,8, Am,Frank GANNETT,Steamboat Springs, CO,Ginetta G55,22,Running,53:53.809,2:06.147
17,9, Am,James PESEK,Harrisonville, MO,Ford Mustang,21,Running,52:12.272,1 LAP
18,10, Am,Cameron CASSELS,Coldstream, BC, CA,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,21,Running,52:15.028,1 LAP
19,1, TC,Cody ELLSWORTH,,Porsche Cayman,21,Running,52:24.128,1 LAP
20,2, TC,Nick WITTMER,Montreal, Quebec, CA,BMW M235iR,21,Running,52:31.621,1 LAP
21,3, TC,Toby GRAHOVEC,Celina, TX,BMW M235iR,21,Running,52:52.363,1 LAP
22,4, TC,Stefan SAJIC,Belgrade, Serbia,BMW M235iR,21,Running,53:14.509,1 LAP
23,5, TC,Jayson CLUNIE,Prince Albert, Sask, CA,BMW M235iR,21,Running,53:14.586,1 LAP
24,6, TC,Max FEDLER,Denver, CO,BMW M235iR,21,Running,53:14.621,1 LAP
25,7, TC,Samantha TAN,Gormley, Ontario, CA,BMW M235iR,21,Running,53:16.935,1 LAP
26,8, TC,Marko RADISIC,Belgrade, Serbia,BMW M235iR,21,Running,53:39.279,1 LAP
27,9, TC,Nicholas BARBATO,Wallingford, CT,Genesis Coupe,21,Running,53:49.780,1 LAP
28,10, TC,Gino CARINI,Milwaukee, WI,BMW M235iR,21,Running,54:21.791,1 LAP
29,11, Am,Jason BELL,Tampa, FL,SIN R1 GT4,20,Not Running,48:02.432,2 LAPS
30,12, Am,Bill ZIEGLER,Ponte Vedra, FL,KTM Xbow GT4,19,Running,52:06.714,3 LAPS
31,9, Pro,Parker CHASE,New Braunsfels, TX,Ginetta G55,15,Not Running,36:39.744,7 LAPS
32,13, Am,Keith JENSEN,Fort Worth, TX,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,10,Not Running,26:47.923,12 LAPS
33,11, TC,Jeff RICCA,Milford, CT,Genesis Coupe,6,Not Running,15:14.910,16 LAPS