ST. PETERSBURG, FL, March 24, 2013 – James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., and Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., took home Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS class wins, respectively, in Sunday’s Round Two at the St. Petersburg Sports Challenge presented by StopTech.
Sofronas scored the first Audi win in GT since 2004 when Michael Galati drove an RS 6 to victory at Road America, and the latest Audi win since Adam Pecorari won in the Touring Car class in an A4 at Mosport in 2007. Sofronas crossed the line just 0.301 seconds ahead of Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, GA., in the 34-lap race at the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course on the Streets of St. Petersburg.
Pobst, driving the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, battled hard with Sofronas after the No. 14 GMG/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS got underneath Pobst on the approach into Turn 10 and made the out-braking maneuver stick, earning Sofronas the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
“The Audi platform is great,” Sofronas said. “There’s so much history with the Audi brand – to bring that to World Challenge, and have four in our stable this weekend, and have the Audi Sport Customer Racing bring down their 18 wheeler to support us with parts and technical support, it really means a lot. It was a big jump for us to go from Porsche to Audi, and obviously well worthwhile. Not only do we have good results, but we have support, too. The guys were up last night until five in the morning changing a motor [in Duncan Ende’s car], and that was all the inspiration I needed.”
“The standing start was tough, we don’t have the launch control in the car yet,” Sofronas said. “So I had to do the old-school burnout like I did in high school, and just try to figure it out. I only managed to lose to one non-Volvo, and then it was all about patience and watching them. The Audi platform is just strong under braking, and I knew that was going to be an advantage to us. I couldn’t catch the leaders and just tried to pace myself.”
“The race was definitely not easy. If people just look at the results, they’re not going to get the full picture. I was settling for third, that’s all I had. And then the first two cars found some trouble somewhere toward the end, but obviously in racing you have to be there at the end.
Pobst, whose first victory as a professional was on the Streets of St. Peterburg in the Volkswagen Cup, scored his 69th career Pirelli World Challenge podium, less than a car length behind Sofronas.
“I got a lot of help from my teammate Alex Figge, who won yesterday. He was quick this weekend, and I learned from his data and got better. I feel bad for Alex, he had a little problem today and something took him out. But it’s a long season, and I just tried to keep my nose clean and darn near got another win for the K-PAX Volvo.”
“It was a great race,” O’Connell said. “I’m really proud of everyone in the series. We started out the season with two races and what did we have, three or four caution laps? Everyone has just really raised their game this year. I’m pretty stoked, we got third with a fifth-place car. As a driver, you review your performance and I look at both races, and I drove them about as well as I can. I’m pleased with my performance and the team’s performance, and we’re just looking forward to doing what we know how to do – finish races and hopefully get some wins along the way.”
Sitting on the Motul pole, Baldwin battled with Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., early in the race until Lee pulled the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro into pit lane with mechanical issues. Baldwin was then able to hold off Lawson Aschenbach, of Jupiter, Fla., maintaining a gap to the second place driver through traffic on the street circuit.
Aschenbach, driving the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, earned his 26th career Pirelli World Challenge top three in his second start in the GTS class.
The No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX driven by Peter Cunningham finished in the third GTS position, making a pass around Kevin Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., on lap 30. Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., tallied his 114th top-three finish with Sunday’s result.
Gleason matched fourth-place finish from Saturda in the No. 16 Napleton Porsche Porsche Cayman S.Nic Jonsson put his No. 36 KIA Motors America KIA Optima in fifth place on Sunday, just ahead of teammate Mark Wilkins’ No. 38 KIA Motors America KIA Optima.
Brian Kleeman, of Towson, Md., got a good jump on the start, gaining seven positions in lap one in his No. 07 DXD Clutches/DWW Motorsports Nissan 370Z, to win the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award. Kleeman finished Race Two in 11th in GTS. The driver of the No. 24 STANDD.org/Merchant Services Audi R8, Duncan Ende, of Los Angeles, Calif., made the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race on his way to a seventh place finish.
Round Three of the Pirelli World Challenge will take place April 19-21 at the Long Beach Grand Prix presented by Kia, as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The race will be streamed live online at www.world-challgetv.com. More information on the series can be found at www.world-challenge.com or on Twitter @WCRacing.