Brynjolfsson Takes Am Class Victory.
Ian James, at the wheel of the #50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4, took the win at in Round One if the 2019 Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Series with a dramatic last-lap pass on Spencer Pumpelly, driving the #66 TRG – The Racers Group Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, taking the chequered flag .696 seconds ahead of the Virginian driver.
Taking the final overall podium position was Gar Robinson, driving the #74 Robinson Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.
In the Am class the victory went to the #7 Park Place Motorsports Porsche Cayman driven by Alan Brynjolfsson with Tony Gaples and his #11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren 570S GT4. Taking the final podium position in the Am class was the #51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano driven by Preston Calvert.
Pole-sitter Spencer Pumpelly led the field as the race went green but was immediately put under pressure by Jade Buford in the #41 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4. Buford passed Pumpelly after ten minutes and pulled out a gap of a little over 2.5 seconds over the #66 car.
There was drama, however as the 50-minute race approached the 20-minute mark after 14 laps when contact between Ian Lacey in the #12 Ian Lacey Racing Ford Mustang and Jarett Andretti in the #18 Andretti Autosport McLaren at T1 resulted in the retirement of Andretti and the #18 entry and a considerable amount of oil spillage on the racing surface. As a result, the race was neutralised behind the Safety Car for 13 minutes.
The restart saw even more activity when Nicolai Elghanayan, at the wheel of the #71 Marco Polo Motorsports KTM X-Bow, lost a right rear wheel nut followed immediately by the wheel. Elghanayan incurred a heavy impact with the barrier to drivers left and, although thankfully unhurt, the resultant damage required the race to be red-flagged.
When the race re-started with just over ten minutes remaining. Ian James, driving the #50 Panoz, started to put Pumpelly in the Porsche under pressure and, as the race entered its final lap, passed the TRG driver to rake the lead, which he held to the chequered flag.
In the meantime, in the AM class there was fascinating battle between Tony Gaples in the #11 McLaren and Preston Calvert in the #51 Panoz, the Blackdog Speed Shop driver finally passing Calvert for second place in class on Lap 22.
Ian James was delighted with the win.
“I just want to say thank you to the Panoz family,” said James. “We’re out here in the Stars and Stripes car that Don Panoz made so famous. It’s a tribute year to him and we win first time out, so I’m very proud of then whole team. The race with Spencer, obviously I had a different tire pressure strategy. Every green he took off on me, and then I’d come back.
“I was a little bit worried there wasn’t going to be enough time but he had a bad drive off the last corner, we had good drive and he gave me racing room and we got it done.”
Norwegian Alan Brynjolfsson acknowledged that it was special to win his class on a street circuit.
“It’s awesome,” said Brynjolfsson. “Not only is this my first street course but racing at home is unbelievable. I was not expecting this at all. I didn’t know what I was going to get (racing) a street circuit. To have my first win on a street circuit here is special. It’s been a great two weeks and I’m very happy.”
Race Two of the 2019 Pirelli GT4 America double-header at The Streets Of St Petersburg gets underway at 11:25 local time on Sunday March 10.