GT America powered by AWS completed a weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. The portly city hosted rounds one and two of the competition for the sprint series as part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Race One and Race Two featured race-defining yellow flags and tight battles throughout the field of 22 entries. Beyond race winners, there were stand-out performances by manufacturers as well. SRO Motorsports America welcomed Toyota as the official pace vehicle for 2023. In SRO3, Mercedes took home both wins, and Aston Martin followed suit in the GT4 Class.
Leading the field was a gorgeous new Toyota Supra sponsored by the Skip Barber Racing School. The new pace car comes with an expanded partnership with the manufacturer. Spectators also get a good look at the Toyota Highlander as the safety car. The medical team is fully prepared to take on the challenges of on-track safety with the Highlander, as the field capably led to the green flag behind the Supra.
SRO3 Class Race One, Lap One
Race One lap one saw a brutal hit by Jeff Burton in the DXDT Racing Mercedes. The No. 91 Mercedes AMG GT3 took a wide turn and made contact with the wall ending his race. The resulting chain of events led to Scott Smithson in his No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 spinning on his own while George Kurtz in the Crowdstrike by Riley No. 04 Mercedes AMG GT3 took on damage.
SRO3 Class Race One Winners
Jason Daskalos used fancy footwork and took over first-place duties early in the race. He and his No. 27 Mercedes AMG GT3 would hold on to the lead through the checkered flag. James Sofronas in the No. 14 Audi R8-LMS was hot on Memo Gidley's No. 101 TKO Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 heels. They would finish second and third, respectively.
“It’s because of them,” said Jason Daskalos, EBOOST Hard Charger Award winner. “I was P1 early in practice. I hit the wall. We switched to the backup car out but it wasn’t ready to race. The crew worked their butt off to get it to race ready. It’s all because of them.”
GT4 Class Defining Moments in Race One
Todd Coleman and the No. 69 Archangel Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 had the pole and the lead for 34 minutes. However, with six minutes remaining, Coleman slid through a corner and into a tire barrier. With his race over hometown hero Jason Bell in his No. 2 Flying Lizard Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 took over the lead, but a last lap pass sent Bell wide where his front right tire would rub a wall just enough to give him a flat tire. Bell would fight through to the checkered flag and take third with a flat tire.
GT4 Class Race One Winners
On the last lap, Ross Chouest dove to make a pass for the lead. Chouest made the pass stick in his CP Racing No. 50 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4. Gray Newell in the No. 25 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 passed Jason Bell for second place. Bell took home third, solidifying the podium.
“The boys did a great job,” Chouest said. “Halfway through the race, I couldn’t quite find the speed. It became very challenging as the sun went down with concrete everywhere. I clipped my left side mirror and had a slight wobble in the wheel after grazing my right front. Later in the race, I saw an opportunity and jumped on it.”
SRO3 Class Race Two, Lap One
It was another rough start, this time mid-field for the SRO3 Class. Andy Wilzoch in the Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 460 Porsche 911 GT3 R made contact with the wall after Turn 4 and ended his race early. The contact led to an extended caution period while the track crew diligently repaired the wall.
SRO3 Class Race Two Winners
Former INDYCAR driver Memo Gidley gave a professional performance as he brilliantly held the lead, taking over first on lap one in the No. 101 TKO Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3. Sofranas, in the No. 14 Audi R8 LMS of GMG Racing, stayed close throughout the race but with under 10 minutes of green flag racing, he would take the checkered flag in second. He was followed across the start/finish line by Race One winner Jason Daskalos in the No. 27 Mercedes AMG GT3.
“Today was every bit the same as yesterday without the darkness,” Gidley said. “People can’t imagine the restarts here. The tires seem warm, but you’re like a deer on linoleum. You’re slipping and sliding all over the place. James was right on me the whole time, so I couldn’t just backpedal a little bit; I had to go. It was like one-lap sprint races.”
GT4 Class Race Two Restart
Another long yellow followed the Lap One incident was cleared. Race One pole sitter Todd Coleman in the No. 69 Archangel Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 spun on the restart, with Ross Chouest in the CP Racing No. 50 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 receiving damage as the two collectively pushed for Race Two pole sitter Jason Bell's top spot.
GT4 Class Race Two Winners
Jason Bell, in the No. 2 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4, made redemption look effortless as he had a sizeable lead over Gray Newell and his Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 in second. Tony Gapels of Blackdog Speed Shop in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R kept his cool to take third place.
“Flying Lizard gave me a really good car,” Bell said. “Yesterday, we had some unfortunate luck but were lucky overall, being able to finish the race. I’d rather race than run under yellow. But we got a few clean laps at the end, and I was able to show what the car was capable of doing.”
Up Next on the Docket
The GT America powered by AWS series joins Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, Pirelli GT4 America, TC America powered by Skip Barber and Toyota GR Cup North America at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, March 30 through April 2.