The No. 3 KPAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of Italy’s Andrea Caldarelli and South Africa’s Jordan Pepper took a dominant season-opening Fanatec GT World Challenge America presented by AWS victory at Sonoma Raceway.
“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 – a 1-2 is all we could hope for,” said Pepper.
Leading from pole, the Caldarelli/Pepper 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 (No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) had pressured 2020 GT4 America Sprint champion Michael Dinan (No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3) into a mistake at the final hairpin, allowing Ward to slot into a third place overall position he would keep to the finish.
After the pit window closed for the required driver changes, the No. 3 KPAX entry, with Pepper driving, resumed in the overall lead with the No. 77 Compass Racing McLaren atop the Pro-Am starters and No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari leading in Am.
Sadly, Compass Racing’s Pro-Am lead was short-lived as an improperly secured left-rear wheel would come off the 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 position with Ryan Dalziel and the No. 63 DXDT Mercedes third in class, half a second behind.
The stranded Acura would trigger 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 finish.
The race would get back to green with 28 muntes remaining with the No. 3 KPAX Lamborghini still leading, but with their lead over the No. 6 Huracan and No. 96 BMW, now with Robby Foley driving, slashed.
Heylen’s No. 20 Porsche kept the Pro-Am lead, but Dalziel’s Mercedes-AMG moved past Dickerson’s Acura into second position and begin to charge after the class leader.
Foley’s BMW magic seemed to run out as, with 16 minutes remaining, he made contact with a lapped car while navigating traffic. The No. 96 machine dropped through the order to ninth overall, but kept hold of third in Pro class. Heylen thus inherited the third overall position with Dalziel and Dickerson rounding out the top five – positions they would hold to the finish.
The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari pairing of Jean-Claude Saada and Conrad Grunewald finished eighth overall and claimed the the Am-class victory.
Round 2 of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America presented by AWS season goes green on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. PST, live on CBS Sports Channel starting at 4:00 p.m. EST and live streamed on the GT World YouTube Channel, available at gt-world-challenge-america.com/watch-live along with live timing and scoring provided by TSL.