Ian James, driving the #50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT, took the first victory for the brand in 11 years when he won the first GTS race of the Road America weekend.
Second across the line by 1.523 seconds was the #10 Blackdog Speed shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4 with Lawson Aschenbach at the wheel. Taking the final podium position in the Pro class was Jeff Courtney in the #99 JCB Motorsports Maserati GT4.
James started from Pole Position and held on to the lead throughout the fifty-minute race.
The Surrey, UK-born driver who now resides in Arizona was delighted at the win.
“At the start, I managed to find the sweet spot of where our engine is,” said James. “I tried to settle into a rhythm since I knew that tire degradation would be an issue today and then Lawson was coming – he put it down and he was right there.
“Thankfully, Jeff showed up and took his attention so every time I looked down at turn five and saw the orange mirrors on (the Maserati) and the blue on the uprights (of the Camaro) I knew they were having fun together so I could focus ahead.”
“It’s great racing – it’s close,” he continued. “It’s been eleven years since Panoz has won a race and Dr. Panoz has probably done more for American racing than anyone so it’s great to thank him for all the effort he puts in and bring the car out here and enjoy the racing. Tomorrow is another day. We’re going to have a much harder fight tomorrow.”
Aschenbach, who started from fifth on the grid, pushed hard James hard but came under pressure himself from Courtney in the #99 Maserati in the last third of the race.
“Jeff raced me really clean and fair which is obviously something that you want to see,” said Aschenbach “I knew it was probably a good show for the fans. I was doing everything I could to keep him behind me. I had to pull out all the tricks and everything I could and I was hitting every curve I could possibly hit.”
“He did a great job keeping me honest there,” continued the two-time GTS champion. “Unfortunately, neither of us had anything for Ian today, so congrats to them. They’ve been so close this year in so many instances so it’s nice to see them, another manufacturer, get a win.”
Third place finisher Courtney explained that a tyre issue had prevented him from taking second place.
“Ian and Lawson had fantastic starts and I had a little bit of trouble at the start,” said Milwaukee-based Courtney. “About a third of the way in the race, I flat-spotted the left front tyre and had to back off the braking which I think helped me from overcharging. Late in the race, I was thinking I had something for Lawson. I had a couple of runs but nothing that I could close the deal on.”
The GTS Am category was won by George Kurtz in the #04 GMG Racing McLaren 570S GT4 followed by Drew Staveley in the #12 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55. The Ginetta crossed the line first, after taking the very end of the race, but a post-race penalty was handed to Staveley for avoidable contact and he was demoted to second.
In the non-points-scoring TC class, Cody Ellsworth in the #111 RacerInk Motorsports Porsche Cayman took the win ahead of the #91 ST Racing BMW M235iR piloted by Nick Wittmer.
The lights go out for the second 50-minute GTS and TC class race of the weekend, round 10 of the championship for the GTS class, from Road America at 14:45 local time on Sunday June 25.
Photo courtesy of PWC