ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – James Sofronas and Jack Baldwin 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 .301 second 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 race averaged 82.373 mph, slowed just once by a single full-course caution for on the opening lap.
“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.”
Sofronas, who sat on the Motul pole, dropped back to fourth off the start, then battled for 25 laps with Pobst for third place.
“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 Sofronas/Pobst battle would turn out to be for the lead when the then-leaders each experienced misfortune. Ryan Dalziel, of Windermere, Fla., pulled into the pits from second on lap 29 with a cut left front tire as a result of contact with a lapped car, boosting the Audi driver to second. On Lap 31, leader Alex Figge pulled his No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 into the pits from the lead to replace a punctured tire. That put Sofronas at the front of the GT field.
“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.
“When I found myself in the lead, I started to drive as hard as I could to maintain it. Randy was coming, but I knew, being a professional, he wouldn’t take any high risk moves. On the last lap, I went wide into Turn One, the brakes were gone and the tires were gone. But the car was still strong in the sense that I could push it and it was predictable and stable. My hats are off to the GMG crew. They always make me proud, but especially this weekend.”