James Sofronas, of nearby Newport Beach, Calif., took a popular hometown win Sunday at the World Challenge ACS Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Lala Motorsports, Round Two of the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship. Eric Curran, of Easthampton, Mass., and Brandon Davis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., completed the podium.
In the curtain closer of the 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sofronas started second in his No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 and moved past Mike Davis’ No. 11 Applied Computer Solutions/SunMicro Ford Mustang Cobra on lap two to take the lead he would never relinquish. While he had cars close behind him, Sofronas drove a flawless race to take his second-career victory by 2.43 seconds, averaging 73.686 mph.
“This was a race we wanted to win for obvious reasons – you want to win in front of the hometown crowd,” Sofronas said. “We’ve been coming here for the last three years and had top fives every time, but finally getting the win is so gratifying. I think our team was one of the last to leave the paddock this weekend. They were up until 2:30 in the morning making changes.
“Having GMG right down the street, we’re lucky to have a lot of clients here and a lot of our cars on display. It gave a chance for people to see that we’re not as much a race team as a Porsche prep shop. We do a good amount of racing, but we do a lot more on the street tuning side. The racing is the branding. It gives us the image of racing on Sunday and selling on Monday. The best part though, is having my wife here. She’s amazing. I couldn’t do this without her and we’re expecting a baby girl in three months.”
After Sofronas took over the point and had the younger Davis (Mike’s son Brandon) behind him, he knew he’d be in for a fight, but learned he had the right car to do the job.
“I got by Mike [Davis] and the next thing I know I have this black beast in my mirrors, but I told myself to be smooth and run consistent laps,” Sofronas said. “What was amazing was, when I was going through traffic, I got into Turn Nine at full brakes and I had no idea I had that much brake left and it made me that much more confident. Moving forward, I was so confident knowing that, if Brandon came charging, I knew I could brake deep with the Stoptechs. I knew that as long as I didn’t make a mistake, I’d be OK.”
Curran, the 2007 race winner, started seventh but moved to fourth by the time a lap three caution came out to re-set the Turn One tire wall. Despite high engine temperatures in the 96-degree heat, Curran’s No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette was able to move up steadily after the restart, passing Mike Davis for third on lap eight and setting his sights on the lead duo of Sofronas and Brandon Davis’ No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions/SunMicro Ford Mustang Cobra.
With two laps to go, Davis missed a shift, allowing Curran to get a run and up to second place, equaling his Sebring finish to take the point standings lead.
“It was nice to get up to Brandon,” Curran said. “I didn’t think I had anything for him, but he made a little bit of a bobble and I just timed it right and got by him. I didn’t have anything for James at the end. Those Porsches are fast. They’re tough to chase down on a slippery track like this.”
Brandon Davis, the defending race winner, also experienced high engine temperatures after following Sofronas for so long, but held on for his second third-place finish of the season.
“It seemed like, in the beginning of the race, I had a little something for James, but it was in all the wrong places,” Davis said. “I had to push really hard to keep with him, but then the spots that I would catch him I couldn’t get by, so I think I burned the car up a little too much.
“The Mustang was really good on brakes. Our car is sprung really soft and we have a good package for the bumps here. It seemed like in the brake zones we’d catch up to James. But coming out of the slow speed corners we couldn’t get on the power as good as James. When I tried to stay with him, the back end would step out and it started wearing on the tires more and more. By the end of the race I had nothing left in the car and Eric was able to run me down.”
The lead trio stretched out to a 20-second lead over fourth place Mike Davis, who took the position, a career-best, after swapping it with Sebring winner Tony Rivera several times. Jason Daskalos moved up from his eighth starting position to complete the top five on the final lap in his No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper. His lap-27 pass on Rivera on the outside of Turn Nine earned him the AutoWeek Move of the Race.
Andy Pilgrim, who started third in his Volvo S60 but faded to seventh after the start, turned the Debaufre Fast Lap of the race with a 1:26.744 (81.674 mph) and passed Rivera for sixth on the final lap. He nearly had Daskalos for fifth, but lost the drag race out of the final corner to the finish line.
Rivera cited high engine temperatures that robbed his Porsche 911 GT3 of power throughout the race, leading to an eventual seventh-place finish. Polesitter Randy Pobst, who started fifth after a coin flip inverted the top five qualifiers, finished a quiet eighth in his Volvo S60.
Tony Gaples earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing from 17th to ninth in his No. 34 Kleinschmidt Inc/Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette. Jeff Courtney completed the top 10 in his Dodge Viper.
Craig Stanton, of Long Beach, Calif., won the GT3 Cup Shootout, finishing 11th overall in his stock No. 07 Aasco Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup.
After two of 10 Rounds, Curran took over the Drivers’ Championship point lead, with 222, followed by Sofronas (212), Brandon Davis (199) and Rivera (196). With two wins on the season, Porsche leads the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, with 19 points, followed by Ford (10), Volvo (two) and Dodge (two).
Today’s race will be broadcast Friday, May 22 at 2 p.m. (Eastern) on SPEED. The SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship next travels to New Jersey Motorsports Park May 1-2. For additional information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
<pre>Finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps complete, distance behind winner and reason out (if any).
1. (2), James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 29.
2. (7), Eric Curran, Easthampton, Mass., Chevrolet Corvette, 29, -2.430.
3. (4), Brandon Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 29, -4.370.
4. (1), Mike Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 29, -19.859.
5. (8), Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Dodge Viper, 29, -20.706.
6. (3), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Volvo S60, 29, -20.812.
7. (6), Tony Rivera, Missouri City, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 29, -21.118.
8. (5), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60, 29, -29.953.
9. (17), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 29, -55.375.
10. (15), Jeff Courtney, Slinger, Wis., Dodge Viper, 29, -1:00.388.
11. (9), Craig Stanton(G), Long Beach, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 29, -1:02.825.
12. (13), William Ziegler(R), Jacksonville, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3, 28, -1 lap.
13. (19), Galen Bieker(R)(G), Burbank, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 28, -1 lap.
14. (14), Ritch Marziale, Tempe, Ariz., Dodge Viper, 28, -1 lap.
15. (10), Rob Morgan, Costa Mesa, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 28, -1 lap.
16. (24), Robert Rodriguez(R)(G), Burbank, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 28, -1 lap.
17. (23), Bret Curtis(R)(G), Valencia, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 28, -1 lap.
18. (25), Patrick Flanagan(R)(G), Laguna Niguel, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 28, -1 lap.
19. (12), David Welch(R), Kirkland, Wash., Dodge Viper, 26, -3 laps.
20. (21), Wesley Hoaglund(G), Tustin, Calif., Porsche GT3 Cup, 22, Tire.
21. (11), Rob Foster, Phoenix, Ariz., Dodge Viper, 10, Mech.
22. (18), Sonny Whelen, Old Saybrook, Conn., Chevrolet Corvette, 9, OHeat.
23. (22), Kyle Foster(R), Phoenix, Ariz., Chevrolet Corvette, 8, Mech.
24. (20), Joey Scarallo, Smithtown, N.Y., Pontiac GTO, 5, Mech.
25. (16), Gunter Schaldach, Aspen, Colo., Dodge Viper, 0, DNS.
26. (26), Dino Crescentini, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 0, DNS.
27. (27), Chip Herr, Litiz, Pa., Lamborghini Gallardo, 0, DNS.</pre>