ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ian James claimed victory Saturday in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg following a thrilling last-lap pass on Spencer Pumpelly.
The 50-minute single-driver sprint race, which was halted by a red flag for an accident by the No. 71 MarcoPolo Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 of Nicolai Elghanayan, resulted in a dramatic nine-minute shootout to the finish.
Polesitter Pumpelly, in the No. 66 TRG Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport took over the lead just moments prior to Elghanayan’s accident when the No. 41 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 of Jade Buford ran wide entering turn one.
While gapping Pumpelly on the final restart, the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT4 of James made a late charge to get alongside Pumpelly as the white flag waved. The Englishman managed to hold the inside line on the Porsche through turn one to take the lead in dramatic fashion.
James crossed the line .696 of a second over Pumpelly to give Team Panoz Racing its first victory since the passing of team owner and legendary motorsports figure Dr. Don Panoz.
“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 the first time out, so I’m very proud of the 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 a good drive and he gave me racing room and we got it done.”
Gar Robinson completed the podium in third following a strong run for the second-generation driver in the No. 74 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, who finished ahead of Michael Cooper’s debuting McLaren 570S GT4 from Blackdog Speed Shop in fourth.
Buford, who led the opening 22 laps of the race, finished seventh in GT4 Pro behind the No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Mustang of Ian Lacy and Shane Lewis’ Robinson Camaro, who had started from the rear of the 20-car field after a post-qualifying infraction.
Alan Brynjolfsson emerged from a wild final restart to claim his first GT4 Am win as a solo driver in the No. 7 Park Place Motorsports Porsche.
Brynjolfsson, who teamed with Trent Hindman for victory in the second GT4 America SprintX race at Circuit of The Americas last weekend, passed the No. 51 Panoz of Preston Calvert for the class lead moments after the final restart.
While Calvert attempted to regain the lead, the Panoz driver ended up finishing third in class after a battle with the No. 11 Blackdog McLaren of Tony Gaples, who crossed the line second in his first race in the team’s new McLaren.