Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Race No. 1 in St. Petersburg Saturday (March 9) had been dominated by PF Racing’s Jade Buford and The Racers Group’s Spencer Pumpelly. However, it was Team Panoz Racing’s Ian James that was able to make the move to get around Pumpelly on the final lap of the 50-minute race to take the victory.
Pumpelly set a track record to claim the pole for the race, but that advantage lasted for a mere one turn. At pit out, Buford was able to get past Pumpelly and take the lead in his Ford Mustang GT4. Buford was then able to open up an advantage of nearly five seconds over the Atlanta-based veteran racer.
A full course caution closed the pack up with less than 20 minutes to go. Buford led the field to green, then went way too hard into Turn 1 and was forced to go straight into the runoff. That allowed Pumpelly to retake the lead while Buford to near the back of the field.
Shortly after this happened, the wheel nut backed off of the left rear wheel on Nicolai Elghanayan’s KTM X-Bow GT4. The wheel nut turning traitor resulted in Elghanayan’s left rear wheel leaving his car entering Turn 3 and the KTM crashing hard into the unprotected concrete wall (moving it in the process). Elghanayan was able to exit his car and walk to the medical recovery vehicle on his own, but chose to go for additional medical treatment. It is currently unclear whether his weekend is over or not. The race was briefly red-flagged while Elghanayan’s car was retrieved, the debris cleaned up and the wall moved back into proper position.
Pumpelly ended up in second, seven-tenths of a second back. Gar Robinson was third in the first of the Robinson Racing Chevrolets. Blackdog Speed Shop’s Michael Cooper was fourth in his McLaren, while Ian Lacy ended up fifth in class (13th overall) in his Mustang.
The Am class was something of a duel for much of the race. Jarret Andretti started on pole in his Window World-sponsored McLaren, but he was quickly usurped. Park Place Motorsports’ Alan Brynjolfsson, fresh off of a victory in SprintX Race No. 2 on Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, managed to snag the advantage briefly. However, Brynjolfsson went wide a lap later, allowing Andretti to take the advantage back.
Andretti was able to put some fast laps down early on and put a couple of Pro class cars between himself and the rest of the Am field. That ended up being his downfall. While fighting for position with Lacy, contact was made in Turn 1. Andretti spun and backed into the wall. While the contact did not appear to be all that hard, it caused significant mechanical issues that ended his day. Lacy was judged responsible for the crash and had to serve a drive-through penalty.
Buford’s issues brought James up to second and Robinson to third. Once the race restarted, Pumpelly opened up a couple of seconds on the pack, then came back to James in the closing laps. On the final lap, James made his move entering Turn 1. After some side-by-side racing, James emerged with the advantage
Andretti’s crash gave the lead over to Team Panoz Racing”s Dr. Preston Calvert, but Calvert seemed to not have the pace. Following the red flag, Calvert came under stiff pressure from Blackdog Speed Shop’s Tony Gaples and Brynjolfsson. Brynjolfsson was able to get past Gaples, then snatched the lead back on Lap 28.
From there, Brynjolfsson pulled away to take his second victory in six days. The performance was also good enough to finish fifth overall.
Gaples was able to get past Calvert for second in the closing laps, but still ended up 2.217 seconds behind Brynjolfsson. Calvert was third, followed by Precision Driving Tech’s Marko Radisic in the race’s sole BMW. BGB Motorsports’ Thomas Collingwood was fifth in his Porsche.
Even though Buford ended up finishing in a disappointing 15th, he managed to turn in the fastest lap during the race at 82.201 mph. That lap is good enough to give him the pole for Race No. 2. Race No. 2 is scheduled to go green shortly after 11:20 a.m. Sunday morning The race will be streamed live at World-Challenge.com.