SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With four cars running in five different categories, Global Motorsports Group (GMG) and their full roster of drivers and crew took full advantage of the most recent rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge with a victory and four podiums at the renowned Utah Motorsport Campus. With podiums in the upstart SprintX category as well as GTA, the highlight of the weekend once again went to Alec Udell in one of two GT Cup category entries, who managed to close the weekend with yet another victory and a strengthened lead in the championship. Despite the variety of machines on hand, the weekend was additionally highlighted by a remarkably smooth weekend with zero mechanical difficulties and every lap of competition completed.
“What an incredible weekend for our whole team,” stated team owner and driver James Sofronas. “Four podiums in three different categories is a huge testament to the quality and depth of our team, and it really showed this weekend. We seemed to always have a car on the track, but the entire weekend went smooth, and we have the trophies show for it. Alex Welch re-joined us this weekend and did a remarkable job pushing with the young guys in GT Cup. It’s a really talented group of young guys in similarly matched cars, and Alex did his best to keep with them all weekend and not put a foot wrong, he should be proud of how close he was to a podium. Brent Holden and I had a great time in our Porsche 911 GT3 R, it was my first time running SprintX and I really enjoyed the format, and coming back with a trophy is always a nice way to way to look back on the weekend. Brent was also very impressive driving the car during the GTA sprint races, and it showed with yet another podium! Kevin Westcott was with us for the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA, and for his first experience at a track like this one he did remarkably well. Of course Alec Udell was the star of the weekend. He was the fastest all weekend, and proved on Saturday that even with adversity he has the calm and patience of a champion, which of course really showed on Sunday with a remarkable drive. There’s still three races to go and anything can happen, but it was a big weekend for his championship hopes. We’re proud of the effort and look forward to Sonoma.”
Headlining the effort once again was Alec Udell in the No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports / Panther Pipeline / Amsource Capital Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Coming in to the weekend with a narrow lead in the series’ GT-Cup standings, the 20-year old knew that beyond the normal emphasis on wins, a “zero-mistakes” run would be critical to ensure maximum points heading in to the final races of the year. As the fastest car throughout practice, the No. 17 would be well poised thanks to a stellar pole position lap on the morning of Saturday’s Race One.
Taking the green flag, the battle between championship-rival Sloan Urry was immediately evident, with the two battling hard through the opening laps; Urry managing to sneak ahead of Udell on the race start. Knowing championship points were critical, Alec would stalk the leader throughout the first half of the race, at one point taking the lead before Urry would grab it back. With the duo past halfway and guaranteed finishing points, the stakes would raise as they embarked in to the remaining minutes of the race. Unfortunately, as Alec continued to stalk Urry within inches of his bumper, the hot and thin desert air would cause Udell’s engine temperatures to rise, forcing him to exercise patience for the remaining laps. Knowing he’d set the fastest lap and was in position to start on pole for Sunday’s Race Two, Alec would resign himself to second-place in the race in an effort to ensure he didn’t risk losing valuable points to a damaged engine.
For Sunday’s Race Two, the Clemson University Engineering Student’s patience on Saturday would pay immediate dividends. Starting from pole, a surprise hard charge from local challenger McKay Snow would create an unexpected extra challenge to both Udell and Urry, with the trio engaged in a fantastic nose-to-tail battle throughout much of the first half of the race. Having learned from Saturday’s events, Udell demonstrated experience beyond his years during the opening half of the race, showing the best pace of the three but maintaining a healthy gap to the leader in order to ensure clean airflow in to his car as a precaution to keep engine temperatures low. As the race came in to the second half, Udell would mount his charge, putting pressure on Snow until the opportunity would come through the famous “Attitude” corners where Alec would make a fantastic exit to take the lead. With Urry following suit, the trio would get three-wide at one point, with Udell holding the lead and never looking back. Adding insult to injury for Sloan Urry, a rare mechanical failure would hit with just minutes remaining, sending him down to fifth and putting a major dent in to his championship hopes.
Serving as his 10th victory of the year, Alec will head in to the final two weekends with a strong championship lead, but not an insurmountable one.
“This was an excellent weekend for us, I’m incredibly thankful,” stated Udell. “Saturday was a perfect example of teamwork, where we all collectively had to look at the big picture and decide to back off, but it put us in a great position for Sunday. Obviously the win on Sunday was amazing, and put us in a great championship spot. You hate to see your competitors have misfortune like that, but we’ll go in to Sonoma and Monterey in a very advantageous position, and that’s critical for us. Huge thanks to James, Neville, and everyone at this team for all of the great preparation and help, we’re looking forward to Sonoma!”
Running in both the SprintX and GTA categories, the No. 14 Mobil 1 / The Thermal Club / Spyder Porsche 911 GT3 R of Brent Holden and James Sofronas endured more run-time than any other car in the team’s lineup, performing without fault and finishing every lap.
Opening the weekend in the series’ SprintX category, Brent Holden and James Sofronas would team up for the first multi-driver race of the weekend. Qualifying third overall, Holden would take on starting duties, maintaining a solid pace before turning the car over to teammate James Sofronas. With Sofronas trading his president duties for a return behind the wheel, James would pull some of the quickest laps in the category, eventually finishing third by time the 60-minute race came to a close, taking his first Sprint X podium of the 2016 season, and the third for Holden in succession.
For SprintX Race Two, which would close out the weekend, series rules would require the drivers to reverse roles, with Sofronas taking on opening duties for the first half of the race before handing the car over to Holden. Maintaining a strong pace, Sofronas would find himself in fourth by time he made his required pit stop, handing the car over to Holden who would drive without error to finish in the same spot.
Taking on double duty, Holden would also mount a strong effort in the series’ signature sprint events, competing with the same machine in the GTA category. Holding steady in fourth throughout Race One, Brent would end a solid run just outside of the podium, setting the stage for an exciting Race Two.
For Sunday’s event, Brent’s patient driving would prove strong, improving one position from the previous day’s running and finishing on the podium in third.
For Holden, taking two podiums in two different categories would provide a strong sense of satisfaction on the weekend.
“The fun thing about this type of weekend was the opportunity to compete in the same car with my good friend James,” stated Holden. “We needed to plan strategy, compromise on car set up and practice driver changes. As a side note, it is no small feat getting larger drivers in and out of a race car quickly. In that I also drove in the GTA races there was a lot of pressure on the crew to get the car prepared from one session to the next. The fact that we were able to run nearly eight hours of racing without one single hiccup is a testament to the quality of GMG, I couldn’t be happier with the efforts of everyone involved. A podium in both GTA and Sprint X was unexpected and quite fortunate. Full credit to the team for a strong run, I’m looking forward to finishing the season with this kind of momentum.”
Also taking part in the weekend’s GT-Cup action was Colorado native Alex Welch. Back for his first race since Road America in June, the driver of the No. 08 Torque Branding / ManCan / Morgan Adams Foundation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup would enjoy a strong weekend with a pair of fourth place finishes.
For Saturday’s Race One, Welch would qualify in fifth for the day’s festivities, making a strong start and running within sight of the lead pack for much of the race. Running his best lap within one second of the top time, Alex would advance to fourth as the race wore on, eventually crossing the finish line just outside of the top-three.
For Sunday’s Race Two, a similar outcome would play out for Alex, once again running within a second of the lead pack, advancing to fourth by time he crossed the checkered flag.
Running a smooth, error-free series of races, the weekend would once again prove Welch’s reputation as a patient and calculated competitor.
“It’s a really competitive group of young guys in GT Cup, so it’s always fun being to able to push with them,” stated Welch. “We had a few challenges in practice that really required a full team effort, and it was the exact kind of occasion that demonstrated the quality of GMG. The whole team jumped in during practice to make sure the car was in perfect condition, and that ensured the smooth weekend we had. It’s always great being a part of the series and I’m thankful to everyone for the opportunity.”
Finally, running in the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA, Kevin Westcott would enjoy a fun weekend in the series, gaining additional experience at a track he’d never been to as he works his way through the team’s driver development system. Improving with every session, Westcott would end the weekend strong, fighting for the top-10 en route to 11th.
“Utah Motorsport Campus is a completely different track than I’m used to,” stated Westcott. “With such long straights and fast corners you really have to be on your toes, but I felt well prepared and really enjoyed the experience. With so many cars here this weekend the team was able to provide a lot of help and access to information, and I’d say that went a long way. The Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA is a great venue for someone likely myself who’s working his way up, and I thank everyone for a great experience.”
With only three races in two weekends remaining, the team will enjoy a small break before finishing the season in California, returning to Sonoma Raceway in just one month’s time before finishing the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Official practice for Sonoma will begin on Friday, September 16 with race action taking place on the 17th and 18th.
Founded in 2001 by James Sofronas, GMG has quickly established itself as North America’s premier performance tuning and racing facility. What began as a small 1,200 sq. ft. shop, maintaining two race cars, has grown into a 30,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art performance tuning, racing and service facility located in (Orange County) Santa Ana, California. The staff’s experience, attention to detail, and passion are what make GMG the choice of professionals and enthusiasts world wide. Whether you want to maximize the performance of your street car, or race wheel-to-wheel on both amateur and professional racing series across North America, GMG’s reputation for service and quality is unmatched.
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About The Thermal Club
The Thermal Club is the premier private motorsports facility in the world. In addition to 4.5 miles of members-only racetrack, the Club facilities include a fully amenitized Clubhouse and Village unrivaled in the motorsports world. All 4.5 miles of our exquisite racetrack are designed to push both amateurs and professionals to their limit, giving members the thrill of driving at peak performance amidst the endless desert skies. Featuring three different private circuit configurations, trackside villas, a motorsport village with a state-of-the-art clubhouse, tuning shop, a fuel island, as well as member storage garages, The Thermal Club will bring the country club lifestyle to Southern California’s diverse car culture.
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