MONTEREY, Calif. – Closing out a 2016 season that has seen the team take over a dozen victories, podiums, and a series championship, GMG would close their Pirelli World Challenge calendar with two additional podiums to their challenge. Entering three cars in four separate categories, the team would see their Porsche 911 GT3 R, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, and Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport machines achieve further success under the guidance of drivers Alec Udell, Brent Holden, Chris Thompson, Matt Halliday and James Sofronas.
“I’m very happy with how we closed out our season, and it’s a great way to start momentum for next year,” stated Sofronas. “This was a big weekend for us, as we were the first team to compete with all three of Porsche’s customer categories in the same event, and we showed well everywhere. Walking away with two different podiums is a testament to the quality of not only our drivers, but our amazing crew who have worked so hard to develop these cars. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone within the organization, and it’s a great way to transition in to a busy off-season.”
The first of two podiums would be accomplished with the team’s all-new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport program. As a purpose-built racing car designed after the highly touted mid-engine street car, the “Clubsport” has recently entered the highly competitive GT4 category of international racing, designed specifically as a production-adapted car, designed for less experienced drivers who may not be ready to jump to the higher horsepower Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. In the case of the Pirelli World Challenge, this would be the team’s first foray in to the highly touted GTS category, entering Saturday’s SprintX race with drivers Matt Halliday and Sunday’s traditional sprint race with James Sofronas.
Taking part in their first-ever SprintX race for the GTS category, the team would make its debut with the car under the ultimate test, endurance racing. Still under development, the team would opt to put two veterans in the car, with team owner James Sofronas opening the race, and then changing over to sportscar and open wheel veteran Matt Halliday.
Making a strong start, Sofronas’ opening stint would feature his usual trademark consistency, running within the top-three throughout the majority of his stint, and then pitting when an opportune yellow would allow Halliday in for the second half of the race. Giving chase to the field in front of him, Matt was running lap times on pace with the lead pack in his efforts to chase down the lead, however ultimately choosing patience to close the race and settling in for an eventual third place.
For Sunday, the team would take part in their first sprint race, with Sofronas driving the race in its entirety. Starting the car from the sixth row, the Villa Park, California resident would spend the majority of his race focusing on development, opting for a consistent drive to analyze the car over ultimate pace. Running as high as seventh, James would end a fairly quiet race in 13th, owed largely due to a visit to the pits due to a series-issued penalty over procedure.
Also competing in the series’ SprintX category would be drivers Alec Udell and Bret Holden, driving the No. 13 Spyder / Mobil 1 / The Thermal Club Porsche 911 GT3 R. Having previously clinched the championship in the series’ GT-Cup category, both Udell and the team elected to elevate him to his first race in faster “R,” where the 20-year old wasted no time getting up to speed. Immediately making an impression on the category, Alec would actually top the first-two practice sessions, immediately demonstrating his ability to get up to speed quickly.
Starting Race One in sixth, Brent Holden would open the race with his usual pace and consistency, not putting a foot wrong throughout his opening run, and doing an excellent job of keeping the car on form until the time came to hand the car over to Udell. Once Alec took the reigns, the Woodlands, Texas native put his focus on gaining positions, with the team moving up to fifth before settling in for the finish. Not to be outdone, however, Udell would set one of the quickest times of the race, having literally never raced the car prior.
For Sunday’s Race Two, the starting order would reverse, and with the top-two cars in qualifying failing to make the start due to prior incidents, Alec would start the race from second position. Chasing down the highly-touted Michael Lewis throughout the opening laps of the race, an unfortunate mechanical problem for Lewis’ Porsche would send him to the pits, with Udell taking the lead by lap six. No stranger to leading, having won 12 races in this year’s GT-Cup category, Udell would be stuck in a race-long battle with BMW factory driver John Edwards. Seen as one of the top sportscar drivers in the paddock, Edwards would spend the entirety of their stints trying to chase down Alec, yet despite his experience found the pace of the GMG driver to be too tough to pass, proving the pace and race-craft of Udell. Eventually, pit stops would ensue and the car would be handed over to Holden for the finish, where Holden would once again run incredibly well, and with high hopes of a podium finish. Unfortunately, contact with a competitor would lead to a terminal failure on the car’s left-front suspension, eventually forcing the No. 14 in to retirement to close the weekend.
For Alec Udell, while the team would away with no hardware, there were many victories in the approach.
“I think we showed how strong we can run, and that was an important part of our weekend,” stated Udell. “This car was incredible to drive. The Cup car is a lot of fun, but the ‘R’ is a whole other level, between the power and the downforce, and it was an absolute joy. Being able to have some of the battles we had was the kind of racing I was hoping for, and overall I think proved ourselves well. I can’t thank the team enough for helping to make it happen, and I look forward to the next steps.”
For Brent Holden, a similar sentiment is shared.
“Obviously we would have liked to walk away with a podium, but with such a big field we knew the challenge that we would have,” stated Holden. “Alec did a great job. He was really quick on Saturday, and any time you can hold off someone like John Edwards you’re doing something right. On a personal level, Sunday’s incident was of course disappointing, but overall I was happy with how well prepared the car was and I look forward to next year.”
Finally, driving the team’s No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry, Chris Thompson would make his series debut in the ultra-competitive GT-Cup category, replacing series champion-elect Alec Udell. A veteran of many of the team’s grassroots events as well as the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA, the experience of Thompson would show during Sunday’s lone sprint race, where he would start and finish third, the team’s second podium of the weekend.
“I really enjoyed the weekend,” stated Thompson. “GMG did a great job preparing the car and making sure I had all the tools I needed to prepare for this weekend, and it worked out perfectly. We had a great car, and it was really satisfying to have the confidence of knowing what a solid piece we had. Any time you can walk away with a trophy is great, and I appreciate the program that James and all the guys put together.”
With the Pirelli World Challenge season at a close, the team will continue to focus on many grassroots programs taking place to close out the year, with full attention on a strong program for 2017. With the ability to run a vertically integrated platform that features everything from the Cayman GT4 Clubsport for the less experienced and budget minded, all the way to the prolific GT3 R, the team is entertaining a number of programs for next year, with more details to be announced soon.
Founded in 2001 by James Sofronas, GMG has quickly established itself as North America’s premier performance tuning and racing facility. What began as a small 1,200 sq. ft. shop, maintaining two race cars, has grown into a 30,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art performance tuning, racing and service facility located in (Orange County) Santa Ana, California. The staff’s experience, attention to detail, and passion are what make GMG the choice of professionals and enthusiasts world wide. Whether you want to maximize the performance of your street car, or race wheel-to-wheel on both amateur and professional racing series across North America, GMG’s reputation for service and quality is unmatched.
Learn more at www.gmgracing.com
Spyder was founded by avid skier and outdoor athlete David Jacobs. He rose to world-class rankings as a competitive skier, and stayed connected to the sport he loves by coaching, designing related products, and building one of the most powerful brands in the industry. His dedication to the sport of skiing and the Spyder brand is as inspiring as it is intriguing. Spyder’s growth exploded over the turn of the century, and the company is now the largest ski-specialty brand in the world. David has recently discovered the adrenaline rush in racing classic Formula One cars, finding success – not surprisingly – in this new pastime. For a man who’s thrived on sports, technology, and professional advancement, the world is sure to see David go a few more times around the track.
Learn more at www.spyder.com
About The Thermal Club
The Thermal Club is the premier private motorsports facility in the world. In addition to 4.5 miles of members-only racetrack, the Club facilities include a fully amenitized Clubhouse and Village unrivaled in the motorsports world. All 4.5 miles of our exquisite racetrack are designed to push both amateurs and professionals to their limit, giving members the thrill of driving at peak performance amidst the endless desert skies. Featuring three different private circuit configurations, trackside villas, a motorsport village with a state-of-the-art clubhouse, tuning shop, a fuel island, as well as member storage garages, The Thermal Club will bring the country club lifestyle to Southern California’s diverse car culture.
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