Sunday, February 13, 2022

IMSA: Early incident leaves GMG Racing out after less than four hours


by William Soquet Guest Contributor

GMG Racing scored their first last-place finish in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in January’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona when their #34 Porsche 911 GTR was terminally damaged after completing 88 laps.

The finish came in GMG’s third series start.

Global Motorsports Group is primarily an import tuning shop in Santa Ana, California. Over the past twenty years, the shop has grown from 1,200 to 30,000 square feet. Due to its proximity to many European manufacturers, the company keeps up a presence in racing, most often at the club level. However, the team has occasionally competed in IMSA. In 2014, team principal James Sofronas teamed with former Rolex Grand-Am Series winner Marc Basseng and entrepreneur Alex Welch to run the 12 Hours of Sebring in an Audi; the group finished 11th in the GTD class. In 2020, bronze driver Kyle Washington brought funding for the team to once again step up into WeatherTech Championship competition. Washington already drove for the team in SRO America events and wanted to try another series. Paired with Sofronas, the entry was the next-to-last car running in GTD, three laps behind the class-winning Paul Miller Racing team.

Coming into 2022, the team’s plans would largely revolve around Washington; in a press release announcing the Daytona effort, Washington was the featured driver. Sofronas also returned, along with a pair of surprising pickups for the team: Dutch sports car veteran Jeroen Bleekemolen was signed, and Porsche Motorsports lent factory driver Klaus Bachler to round out the four-driver effort. Primary backing was through MovoCash, a mobile banking service. The team also touted a new partnership with Troy Lee Designs as a way to bring flair to the Porsche that they would be entering.

GMG was just one entry in a crowded Rolex; this year’s 61 entries eclipsed last year by a full dozen. While DPi stalwarts like Penske and Meyer Shank captured most of the attention, there was depth all throughout the field. In GTD, the class that GMG would be competing in, heavyweights such as Magnus Racing, Vasser Sullivan, and Turner Motorsport occupied the entry list for what promised to be a well-fought class championship.

The Roar Before the 24 brought GMG’s first on-track action of the season; they failed to finish the race and were classified 19th out of 22 in class as Hardpoint Racing finished last and Porsches claimed three of the Bottom Five spots in the race. GMG was 45th of the 47 cars that wound up on the timing sheet for first practice; the #64 Team TGM entry was last on the charts, a full seven seconds behind the GMG entry. In Practice 2, the GMG entry did not complete a timed lap, and surprisingly, it was the GTD Pro cars of TR3 Racing and KCMG anchoring the charts.

In the starting lineup, T3 Motorsports was the last car lined up, with Canadian pilot Misha Goikhberg starting the race behind the wheel. GMG lined up in the 54th position, with Sofronas taking the helm for the first stint.

The last-place position varied often through the early hours, with teams such as Team TGM, Core Autosport, Team AWA and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Dwight Merriman of Era Motorsports brought out the first full-course yellow just shy of an hour into the race; the all-Italian Cetilar squad was sitting in last place just shy of the three-hour mark. At that time, Washington’s Porsche, which had been running in the 40s overall, slipped in between turns four and five and smacked the guardrail head-on, ending GMG’s race. The incident did not collect any other cars, although it did result in a lengthy full-course yellow for cleanup.

Next to exit the race were the GTD entry of SunEnergy1 Racing and the GTD Pro entry of Heart of Racing, both caught up in the same accident on the banking in the fourth hour of competition. The Alegra Motorsports GTD succumbed to electrical issues after completing 181 laps, and the Bottom Five was rounded out by the Crucial Motorsports GTD; that car also exited the race due to crash damage.

61) #34-GMG Racing / 88 laps / crash
60) #75-SunEnergy1 Racing / 101 laps / crash
59) #23-Heart of Racing / 103 laps / crash
58) #28-Alegra Motorsports / 181 laps / electrical
57) #59-Crucial Motorsports / 263 laps / crash

1st) #34-GMG Racing GTD (1)
DPi: 1st) #01-Chip Ganassi Racing (1)
LMP2: 1st) #20-High Class Racing (1)
LMP3: 1st) #6-Muehlner Motorsports (1)
GTD Pro: 1st) #23-Heart of Racing (1)
GTD: 1st) #34-GMG Racing (1)

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