GT World Problem America’s Professional-Am Championship Chase Takes Middle Stage

Within the ultra-competitive North American sports activities automobile racing panorama, what does GT World Problem America provide to seize the eye of discerning followers with out the dearth of choices to speculate their time and power?

Okay, can we curiosity you in a scintillating efficiency for the Professional-Am Class Championship? The place the highest three groups within the class are coated by simply 4 factors within the Drivers’ Championship – and simply two factors within the Staff Championship?

That is the state of affairs in play this weekend in a pair of 90-minute races at Sebring Worldwide Raceway, the ultimate “common” race assembly for SRO Motorsports Group America’s flagship GT3 collection.

They have been the identical three groups that stood on the pro-am podium in race two at Sonoma Raceway, all the way in which in April – all in the identical order they’re within the championship now.

And every one among these groups, and their drivers, has a novel story to inform — maybe, compelling sufficient to develop a vested curiosity or two.

For instance, think about the excellent success of #93 Racer’s Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 co-driver Ashton Harrison—who may grow to be the primary girl in GT World Problem America historical past to win a season championship in any class. A full season of GT3 racing.

“I feel it would go down the wire,” Harrison says. “I feel the highest three proper now and – effectively, even the highest 4, with Bimmerworld – are all podium contenders, and I feel it would go all the way down to Indy. I feel this week There will probably be struggle on the finish of it.”

Harrison and his two-time IMSA GTD class champion teammate, Mario Fernbacher, have pushed Florida’s Racers’ Edge Motorsports workforce to the highest of the workforce championship on countback after ten races and inside two factors of the Drivers’ Championship lead. They’re solely a month away from two Professional-Am victories in two races at Street America, which have propelled them to the highest of the desk.

It will be an opportunity for Harrison to proceed the trailblazing historical past he had made a 12 months earlier in his GT3 racing debut: the HPD Racing Academy alumnus grew to become the primary general winner in GT World Problem historical past when he, together with Farnbacker and Matt McMurray, Pushed a automobile Compass Racing’s NSX gained final 12 months’s three-hour race at Indy inside an eight-hour run.

This 12 months, GT World Problem America and the Indianapolis 8 Hour Race are eliminating the nesting dollop of endurance racing and returning to a conventional format, which means all groups will intention to run the complete eight hours.

“However I am hoping everybody performs sensible, in order that all of us have an opportunity to struggle it out at Indy,” says Harrison, who – like anybody chasing this championship – is hoping earlier than it will get worse. alternative to achieve its climax.

“However on the finish of the day, we’re all drivers and racers and all of us have a objective. And we plan to go so far as attainable.”

Good luck and ready for well being, Harrison and Farnbacker may have one other veteran NSX GT3 driver with them for Indy who is aware of a bit of bit about being a trailblazing champion: two-time IMSA GTD title winner Christina Nielsen, a The primary girl to win a serious North American sports activities automobile racing championship would be part of Harrison and Farnbacker because the third driver for Indy.

And you’ll’t ask for a greater bronze-rated “assistant” in GT3 endurance races than a driver like Nielsen, who claims class victories in large endurance races at Sebring, Suzuka and the Nürburgring.

Harrison additionally plans to convey Farnbacker to the rostrum in a golden wig to make sure a quorum between all three Racer’s Edge drivers, one thing she’s been attempting to do all through the season.

However it’s defending Professional-Am champion Wright Motorsports – and specifically, their drivers Charlie Luck and Jane Helen – who at present lead the Professional-Am Drivers’ Championship by a slim two-point margin over Harrison and Farnbacker.

When somebody is as busy because the well-travelled Helen, it may be taxing: He is driving with Luck on the GT World Problem America, he continues with Ryan Hardwicke at IMSA, and he is on his final run. Persevering with its work with World Problem Co. -Driver Fred Purdad within the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship GTE M Class.

However it’s a pleasure for Helen to run for miles and run throughout continents. “I imply, it is all the things you need, is not it?” asks the 42-year-old Belgian racer. “I imply, I nonetheless get pleasure from driving as a lot as I did 30 years in the past, so it is a enjoyable place to be — and undoubtedly a busy season — however I am undoubtedly not complaining.”

“Excited to be within the final two races in pursuit of the championship, so it could not get any higher.”

Final season, Helen introduced two championships – the GT World Problem Americas Professional-Am title, and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Problem Grand Sport (GT4) title. When Helen and her new co-driver Luck arrived in Sonoma at first of the 12 months, they have been on their approach to repeating the championship comparatively simply.

A month later, his season hit a snag, and the prospect of a repeat victory pale in levels all through the season.

“Yearly is totally different, however I feel everybody has their very own story. After which, you recognize, so will we,” Helen says. “We’re fortunate to be the place we’re. However on the identical time, we have additionally had some races that did not go our manner, and there have been some misfortunes, and a few errors. However you recognize, all people had it.”

“We actually haven’t got the tempo that we had final 12 months. It primarily comes all the way down to the BoP solely, and it hasn’t been as form to us this 12 months. So it has taken a couple of turns in comparison with final 12 months’s race. Made the race a bit of more durable.”

“However nonetheless, we’re on high, and we obtained Sebring this weekend. So on the finish of the day, right here we’re,” smiles Helen.

The season obtained again on monitor in a giant manner in the course of the weekend’s first GT World Problem America race at Watkins Glen Worldwide.

When each professional automobile within the discipline suffered both a tire downside, a mechanical Gremlin, and even harsh penalties for avoidable contact, it gave Wright Motorsports Porsche not solely an opportunity to win its class , reasonably given the prospect to win general towards a discipline with Professional. Class Automobiles – one thing that hasn’t occurred on this collection since 2019. Helen held Colin Braun’s #04 CrowdStrike/Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in lower than a automobile’s size to safe a outstanding victory for himself and fortune.

It was the most recent in a rising resume of sports activities automobile racing approval for Helen, however to her co-driver — and father-in-law — luck, it was the fruits of her surprising journey from travelman driver to the NASCAR Grand Nationwide Collection. Within the mid-Eighties, abstaining from racing for greater than three a long time, then re-emerging in sports activities automobile racing and now, on the age of 62, in his first 12 months in GT with the Professional-Am Championship in his 2021 GT America want to comply with the top-class title. World Problem America.

“There are two races to go, and we’re on high of it – so it is ours to lose now,” Helen mentioned. “We simply must execute and never make errors, and hopefully all of it involves us. I feel if we are able to come out of right here and preserve what we’ve got, or that high Can keep fairly shut in three – so it is everybody’s race at Indy two weeks from now.

“And I am preserving my fingers crossed that we’re having a reasonably regular weekend right here, after which I am actually excited to maneuver to Indianapolis.”

Shortly after Wright Motorsports gained Race One at The Glen, CrowdStrike Racing and Riley Motorsports rallied within the closing minutes of race two to safe an equally inconceivable general victory for one more Professional-Am workforce.

With that win and a 21-point benefit after eight races, it appeared like Brawn and George Kurtz have been lastly going to interrupt away from the pack and head in the direction of profitable the title in time. However his luck at Street America took a toll when Kurtz was assembled right into a multi-car pileup in simply three corners within the first race, after which some extra first-lap contact within the second race led him into the pits to maintain the bonnet. pressured. latch off.

“Street America was an odd phenomenon for us,” Braun recollects. “And you will have it in racing. There are issues out of our management that have an effect on the weekend at instances. And so I suppose it’s important to take a look at them and go, ‘Hey, can I do one thing totally different? No. , ‘Go forward – and return to what we have been doing.

Coming away from one among Mercedes’ strongest circuits, with simply 4 factors to indicate for its diligence, the first-year alliance of CrowdStrike Racing and powerhouse Relay Motorsports Group not has a Professional-Am factors lead. However their four-point deficit within the Drivers’ Championship, and two-point hole within the Groups Championship could possibly be reversed with only one win.

“I feel for us, we’re simply doing what we have been doing all season,” Braun confidently commented. “Really, it is not a change. We maintain going as we have been.”

The 34-year-old from Texas – as soon as a teenage prodigy of the game – has cemented his place as probably the greatest drivers in American sports activities automobile racing after a troublesome race by the world of NASCAR, surpassing his title rival Luck. Not a lot totally different. ,

As he matures and develops, Braun is now turning into a mentor—on this case, for Kurtz, who has invested his wealth not solely as co-founder of CrowdStrike Cyber ​​Securities, however with 15 Has additionally developed right into a effectively rounded gentleman racer. Years of racing expertise.

“George is actually, actually obsessed with racing and, you recognize, taking a look at his progress through the years is, you recognize, a straight line. He is working actually exhausting and [getting] Higher and higher and higher. I feel he has grow to be probably the greatest bronze medalists within the nation. It is actually spectacular to see him do his job.”

Already a bronze cup winner on the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps earlier this 12 months – days after it was introduced that CrowdStrike would grow to be the occasion’s new title sponsor from 2023 – Kurtz was topped champion in each the GT World Problem America Professional of the 12 months. can finish. -M, and in addition the SRO3 class of GT America – the place he may take the title early Saturday after Race One.

Whatever the final result when the checkered flag drops at Indy, Braun is pleased the way in which everybody on the Crowdstrike/Relay workforce this season, and is optimistic that one of the best continues to be to come back for the longer term.

“I feel whether or not we win a championship or not – we had a profitable 12 months, we had actually good outcomes and you recognize, we are able to solely put our greatest foot ahead, engaged on getting higher each time. are out. ”Braun mirrored. “And what occurs, occurs.”

All three of those essential title characters intrigue, who enter Sebring Weekend with three victories. However there’s a fourth contender price investigating.

Chandler Hull and Invoice Auberlein’s #94 Bimmerworld BMW M4 GT3 hasn’t gained their class this season, however they’ve been constant sufficient with seven podium finishes, inside 24 factors of Luck and Heylen, from Racer’s Edge. 22 factors behind. Proper Motorsports.

It will even be story for Hull, whose 2022 marketing campaign started with a heavy take a look at crash at VIR, which prompted the workforce to utterly re-arrange their plans for the season, together with its GT4 America efforts. Compelled to. It’ll additionally come when Hull will overtake 100 races on the wheel of a BMW race automobile, lots of them in SRO competitors.

Forward of the race weekend, Oberlen mentioned: “Chandler and I’ve had a wonderful 12 months thus far and hopefully Sebring will see our first win – in all probability of their one centesimal BMW debut. Would like to see this well-known monitor attain that milestone as effectively. We’re excited to be on the market for this finish of the season push.”

And whilst he nears his 54th birthday, the unstoppable, unassuming Oberlain continues to be probably the greatest wheelmen within the enterprise – actually on the wheel of a BMW, the touring automobile collection of Pace ​​World Problem. A resume stuffed with accolades, together with a championship within the U.S., all the way in which again to 2003.

Nothing could be extra preferrred than these 4 groups coming into the Indy 8-hour race degree on factors for a winner-take-all showdown, as inconceivable as it might be. However barring a disaster at Sebring, it is a championship struggle price watching, price investing in, all the way in which to the final lap.

Photographs © Brian Cleary, Regis Lefebvre / SRO Motorsports Group America

Supply hyperlink