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(Photo: Phil Allaway)

Nolasport Dominates Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Opener

The year may be 2020, but it doesn’t seem like much has changed in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX.  NolaSport’s Matt Travis and Jason Hart dominated the season opener Saturday (March 7) for Pirelli GT4 America SprintX at Circuit of the Americas to win for the second straight year.

Marco Polo Motorsports’ Nicolai Elghanayan won the pole and led early in his previous generation KTM X-Bow GT4, but his car simply didn’t have the power to stay up front.  Travis stalked Elghanayan for the first six laps before pouncing at Turn 1 to take the lead.

Once out front, Travis slowly pulled away from Elghanayan and the rest of the field.  However, it was the mandatory pit stop that really separated Nolasport from the field.  A solid stop to swap over to Hart put them in good position to maintain a solid lead.

Then, everyone else made mistakes.  The Marco Polo team dropped nearly 30 seconds on their stop.  ST Racing’s Samantha Tan emerged from the stops in second, 13 seconds back.  However, Tan could not run anywhere near Hart’s pace.  As a result, Hart’s 13 second lead quickly became 30 seconds.

Having such a large lead allowed Hart to take it easy for the last few laps of the race.  Further back, Rennsport One’s Jan Heylen quickly moved up the order after getting in his Porsche.  He was fifth when he got in the car and within five laps, was all the way up to second.  That was as far as he’d get as Hart easily took the win.

The margin of victory for Hart and Travis was 31.604 seconds over Heylen and Charlie Belluardo in their Porsche Cayman GT4 MR.  Third was Black Swan Racing’s Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tim Pappas in a previous generation Cayman.  GMG Racing’s Andrew Davis and Jason Bell were fourth in class after a charge late from Davis, while Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Michael Dinan and Robby Foley were fifth in their Aston Martin, despite getting caught up in a wreck early on with Murillo Racing’s Matthew Fassnacht and Rearden Racing’s Jeff Burton.

New for 2020 is the Silver class, designed for two silver-rated drivers.  Despite winning the overall pole, Elghanayan is part of the Silver class.  He led the class for most of the first half of the race.  ST Racing’s Jon Miller was able to run him down and take the class lead (along with second overall) just before the mandatory pit stops.

Those stops were crucial.  ST Racing was able to swap Miller out for Tan rather quickly and get her out there.  The Marco Polo Motorsports had big problems on their stop and lost 30 seconds.  As a result, Tan exited the pits in second overall.  However, Tan was not up to the pace necessary to maintain her position.

Tan was losing roughly three to five seconds lap to overall leader Hart.  That allowed Andretti Autosport’s Jarret Andretti to quickly run her down and take the Silver class lead.  Once out front, Andretti pulled away to take an easy class victory in fourth overall.

Andretti and Colin Mullan‘s margin of victory was 3.619 seconds over Elghanayan and Mads Siljehaug in the KTM X-Bow GT4.  ST Racing’s No. 28 BMW M4 GT4 for Nick Wittmer and Harry Gottsacker finished third in class and seventh overall after starting way back in 26th.  Tan and Miller had to settle for fourth.

In the Am class, GMG Racing’s Alex Welch qualified fourth overall and led the class easily for the first half of the race.  However, once Michael McGrath got in the car, the pace dropped significantly.  That allowed Nolasport’s Zac Anderson to run down and pass the GMG Audi.  Once out front, Anderson pulled away to give Nolasport two wins on the day.

Anderson and Sean Gibbons ended up ninth overall, 29.716 seconds ahead of Welch and McGrath.  The Racers Group’s Derek DeBoer and Dr. James Rappaport were third.

PIRELLI GT4 AMERICA SPRINTX AT COTA RACE NO. 1 RESULTS

Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Race No. 2 is scheduled to go green at 10:50 a.m. ET Sunday morning.  The race will be streamed live at GT4-America.com.

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About Phil Allaway

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Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.