KPAX Racing Controls GT World Challenge Opener

KPAX Racing's Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper topped the GT World Challenge opener on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.
KPAX Racing's Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper topped the GT World Challenge opener on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

SONOMA, Calif. – The No. 3 KPAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper took a dominant season-opening Fanatec GT World Challenge America presented by AWS victory at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday.

“A great job by the team,” said Caldarelli. “We were confident the car was going to be good, so we knew we had the pace.”

“We’ve been working on the car really hard this off-season and this is a great result for the team with a 1-2 and that’s all we could hope for,” said Pepper.

Leading from pole, the Lamborghini duo never put a foot wrong, winning by 14 seconds over teammates Corey Lewis and Giovanni Venturini in the No. 6 Lamborghini. Early in the race Russell Ward and the No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 would pressure Michael Dinan into a mistake aboard his No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 when he ran wide at the final hairpin, allowing Ward to slot into third overall.

After the pit window closed for the required driver changes, the No. 3 KPAX entry, now with Pepper driving, remained in the overall lead with the No. 77 Compass Racing McLaren atop the Pro-Am class and the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari leading in Am.

An unsecured left-rear wheel would come off the Compass Racing Acura NSX GT3 just six turns into Matt McMurry’s stint, giving the class lead to Jan Heylen’s No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche. Dakota Dickerson and the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura would slot into second with Ryan Dalziel and the No. 63 DXDT Mercedes third in class, a half second behind.

The stranded Acura would cause the first full course caution of the day, bunching the field up behind the Lamborghini Urus safety car with 38 minutes left on the clock. At the same time the third-place No. 33 Mercedes would face an electrical issue, forcing the car to the pits, dropping down the order and out of contention for a podium.

The race would get back to green with 28 minutes remaining with the No. 3 KPAX machine still leading, but with their advantage over the No. 6 Lamborghini and No. 96 BMW, now with Robby Foley driving, slashed. Heylen’s No. 20 Porsche kept the Pro-Am lead, but would see Dalziel’s Mercedes-AMG pass Dickerson’s Acura for second and begin to charge after the class leader.

Foley’s BMW magic seemed to run out as with 16 minutes remaining  when the car made contact with a lapped car while navigating traffic. The No. 96 machine fell through the order to ninth overall, but still remained third in the Pro class. Heylen would inherit the third overall position with Dalziel and Dickerson rounding out the top-five, where they would ultimately finish.

The hectic pace would settle for the final 10 minutes of the race with Colin Braun’s No. 4 Mercedes-AMG sixth overall, fourth in Pro-Am with Michael Cooper’s No. 19 Mercedes-AMG seventh overall, fifth in Pro-Am.

The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari pairing of Jean-Claude Saada and Conrad Grunewald would take the Am-class victory.