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SRO America News Notebook

SRO Motorsports America has announced the postponement of the planned May race meeting at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, part of the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend, in Ontario, Canada.

The move has come as a result of the Canadian government’s non-essential travel restrictions and mandatory incoming quarantine requirements, SRO Motorsports America has thus decided to relocate and reschedule those rounds.

“We are extremely disappointed that we aren’t able to share our season with our Canadian friends,” said SRO Motorsports America President and CEO Greg Gill. “Our appearance at the Victoria Day SpeedFest event is a featured stop in our series that’s beloved by our teams and drivers, as well as our Canadian fans that support us, year after year. We look forward to the return to racing up North when it’s safe and practical for all involved to do so.”

“We at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park share Greg’s disappointment that SRO Motorsports America’s championships will not be racing here in May,” added CTMP President & General Manager Myles Brandt. “While we would love to see their high-octane brand of racing at CTMP, we all have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Making this decision now allows everyone to plan accordingly.

The series is currently working on the replacement events and will announce its plans shortly.

2021 Series Explained

For those somewhat bamboozled by the new-for-2021 naming and formats of the SRO America Series, a recent set of Tweets from Kelly Brouillet might help:

1) GT World Challenge America: GT3. Two races per weekend, 90 minutes each. Two drivers. Classes are by driver ranking (Pro/Pro, Pro/Am, Am/Am)

2) GT America: GT2, GT3, & GT4. Bronze drivers. Two races per weekend, 40 minutes each. One driver. Classes are by car category (GT2, GT3, GT4)

3) GT4 America: GT4. Two races per weekend, 60 minutes each. Two drivers. Classes are by driver ranking (Pro/Am, Silver, Am)

4) TC America: TCX, TC, TCA. Two races per weekend, 40 minutes each. One driver per car. Classes are TCX, TC, TCA

Thanks Kelly!

Compass Confirm Acura NSX GT3 

Compass Racing enters new territory with the debut of an Acura NSX GT3 Evo for the 2021 season of SRO’s Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS. Drivers Rodrigo Sales and Matt McMurry have been named as pilots for the full championship.

The move marks the first time Compass Racing will race in the top tier of the GT-based championship, after having won in Pirelli GT4 America, TCR and Touring Car classes. The addition of the NSX to the team’s 2021 programmes rekindles a very successful relationship with Honda Performance Development (HPD), which produced nine Manufacturer Championships, six Driver and Team Championships, and three Rookie of the Year trophies from 2006 through 2015.

“We’re truly thrilled to introduce the #77 Acura NSX GT3 Evo as the newest platform Compass Racing competes with,” enthused Team Owner Jill Beck. “We’re equally excited to enter the GT World Challenge America series for the first time, with two tremendous drivers. It’s an exciting new chapter for our team, and we are so pleased to once again be working with the wonderful people at HPD.”

Sales, who races under both Mexican and American flags, is no stranger to the team, having been vice-champion in IMSA’s inaugural TCR championship in 2018, whilst American McMurry won the GTD title in an NSX GT3 last year and has been named an HPD Junior Driver. “The are championship-calibre talents, and we’re excited to get the season underway at Sonoma,” noted Beck.

“I’m pleased to return to race with Compass in their new Acura, which is a proven, competitive platform,” said Sales. “We had a great run together in 2018, and I’m looking forward to being back in the SRO paddock again!”

McMurry was equally effusive. “After a tremendous season last year with the NSX, I could not be happier to make my start as a new HPD Junior Driver with Compass Racing. It’s a new platform to the team, but they have a great pedigree in World Challenge and I hope to bring my knowledge of the car to help get us wins and be in the hunt for the championship.”

The #77 livery will pay tribute to the visually-impaired philanthropic artist and long-time Compass collaborator Jeff Hanson, who passed away suddenly last December at the age of 27 from neurofibromatosis, the genetic disorder that took his vision 15 years prior.

The team has established a fundraising campaign in memory of Jeff, via their partner non-profit the Race Day Foundation http://racedayfoundation.org/jeffhanson in hopes of helping to reach Jeff’s goal of raising $10 million for charity by his 30th birthday in 2023.

“We ran cars featuring Jeff’s artwork throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons with great success, and it warms my heart to see his work return on our new Acura NSX GT3,” remarked Team Principal, Karl Thomson.

Zelus Lamborghini Set To Debut

Zelus Motorsports will make its debut in SRO America with a two-pronged GT3-based effort in Lamborghini machinery. Beginning at the season opener at Sonoma Raceway, Zelus Motorsports will field an entry in the GT3 class of the GT America powered by AWS series.

Following their debut, the team will join the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series in the two-driver, SprintX format.

A relatively young team, Zelus Motorsports formed in 2019 when team principals Tigh Isaac and Jason Harward teamed up to compete under the official moniker. Harward’s racing career began in 2016, after completing the Ford Racing School’s NASA licensing program. Afterwards, he gained most of his driving experience behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

President Tigh Isaac has been involved in running Harward-setup machinery since 2017 in various local amateur events. Once the two found success behind the wheel of a GT3 Lamborghini at a stepped-up level from local amateur events, they decided to officially join and run a GT3-based competition team.

The season begins for Zelus Motorsports when Harward takes the wheel to line up for the first GT America powered by AWS GT3 class grid at Sonoma Raceway. The single-driver sprint series will feature GT3, GT2 and GT4 machinery piloted by bronze-level drivers, taking the green flag simultaneously. GT America weekends are single-qualifying, double-header racing events where winners are lined-up and determined for each competition class.

At the second SRO America event, Harward will continue the GT America bid but will be joined by co-driver Madison Snow to contest the dual-driver format of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series. The premier racing event of the SRO, the GT World Challenge series features both Pro and Am teams and driver pairings competing in the 90-minute, two-race competition weekends that require mandatory driver changes and dual qualifying sessions, requiring both drivers to navigate the start and end of one race each.

“I am excited to see how I compare to these other drivers, some of whom might be seasoned professionals,” Harward explained. “I would like to think that I’m a fast learner but I guess we’ll see since the results won’t lie.”

GTWCA co-driver Madison added, “We might be a new team on the scene, but I think we’re going to kick some ass.”

TR3 Switches To Lamborghini

After making a dramatic change to its programme in the off-season, TR3 Racing is eager to go racing again in 2021 as the Florida-based team prepares for its return to the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS.

The team will now field a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for its assault on the 2021 World Challenge America championship.  Ziad Ghandour returns to the team to pair with young up and coming Lamborghini specialist Giacomo Altoe in a Pro-Am combination.

A six-year veteran of the Ferrari Challenge competition, Ghandour first made the move to GT World Challenge America with TR3 Racing in 2020, contesting a partial schedule of events.

Ghandour made progress with every outing, scoring fifth in the opening race of the year at Circuit of The Americas before moving up to a podium result in the second race. The move to World Challenge followed Ghandour’s best season in Ferrari Challenge, taking three poles as well as winning four of eight race wins in 2019 on his way to scoring second in the North American championship.

“I am looking forward to my first full season in World Challenge America and to continue to develop my racing career with TR3 Racing,” said Ghandour. “The Lamborghini is really exciting to drive, and we have a lot of potential working with this new car. It will be a lot of good teams and drivers this year. I am eager to go racing with this package along with Giacomo (Altoe) as my co-driver.”

Altoe is a 20-year-old Italian who captured the 2019 International GT Open GT3 Pro championship, after winning the 2018 title in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final Pro division. He has 23 victories and 50 podium finishes in 137 races during his five-year career.

“I’m really motivated to be racing for the first time a full championship in the USA this year with TR3 Racing and my mate Ziad,” said Altoe. “It will be my first season in America and we will try to fight for the PRO-AM title with our Lamborghini GT3 Evo.

It will be a challenging season, competing in the most popular category and I’m really looking forward to it. Can’t wait for the 1st race weekend in Sonoma!”

Altoe raced in the 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the Ebimotors Lamborghini, finishing 17th.

In 2020, TR3 Racing also finished second in the Amateur Teams championship in 2020 GT World Challenge America. The team entered two races, winning both rounds at VIR, with John Megrue and Bill Sweedler leading the class in the #31 Ferrari 488 GT3.

RENNtech AMG GT4 

RENNtech will return to SRO Pirelli GT4 America Challenge in 2021 with the Westport #89 RENNtech Mercedes-AMG GT4. The car will be driven by SRO-rookie driver Ross Chouest in the GT America Sprint -series and by Chouest and Aaron Povoledo in the SprintX -series.

This marks a return to a series where both RENNtech and Povoledo have had great success. Since their first entry into the SRO GT4 -series, RENNtech was an instant podium contender and won two GT4 races in the second half of 2019. Povoledo is a proven winner and podium finisher in both the Touring Car and GT4 (formerly GTS) -class where he drove for the factory Volvo K-Pax team and GSP Racing.

For Chouest, this will be his first foray into the GT4 Class of sports car racing. For the past 6 years, Ross honed his skills by winning championships in both the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Ferrari Challenge -series, marking himself as one of the up-and-coming amateur drivers in America.

Bimmerworld Field BMW Trio

Despite the challenges endured by competitors throughout the 2020 season, team principal James Clay captured the drivers’ championship in TC America, Chandler Hull finished fourth overall in TC, and the duo of Bill Auberlen and James Walker, Jr. finished third in the overall season championship in Sprint X Pro-Am. BimmerWorld topped off the SRO season with Clay, Auberlen, and Hull taking home the win in the inaugural SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Indianapolis 8-Hour Endurance Race. Building from the success in 2020, BimmerWorld returns with three cars and six drivers for the 2021 season.

Bill Auberlen and James Walker, Jr. return for their second season together behind the wheel of the Red Line Oil BMW M4 GT4 now wearing #34. Throughout their first season together, the duo managed to net three wins, two podiums, and several top-10 finishes placing them third overall in both team and driver standings. 

James Clay and Nick Galante will be driving the #36 OPTIMA Batteries / Racing To End Alzheimer’s BMW M4 GT4. Galante previously won the 2018 IMSA ST championship in a BimmerWorld F30 328i and drove the team’s M4 GT4 in the 2020 IMSA season, but this will be his first year in SRO, and 2021 will also be the first year the duo have shared a car as teammates.

In addition to OPTIMA Batteries, a core BimmerWorld partner, Racing to End Alzheimer’s will continue their partnership with BimmerWorld Racing which started in 2018. Racing to End Alzheimer’s is focused on raising awareness of the disease and funding the cure. For the 2021 season, names of friends, family, and loved ones affected by this debilitating disease will be featured on the car based on donations to the cause.

Chandler Hull returns to SRO racing action for 2021 and, like Clay, is making the jump from his TC M240iR to a full-time M4 GT4 Sprint X Silver class entry along with Jon Miller, who is a new addition to the BimmerWorld driver line up. Hull and Miller will be piloting the TAC Energy #94 M4 GT4. 

Hull netted several podiums in 2020 with 4th-place overall in the drivers’ championship for TC America, and a win in the Indy 8-Hour as part of the three-driver BimmerWorld team. He also captured several podiums and a win in another M4 GT4 Silver entry. Jon Miller has his own list of accomplishments over the past few years; last year he claimed second place in the drivers’ championship in the GT4 America Silver class division along with six podiums throughout the year and finished second in the Indy 8-Hour in a competing BMW car. The pair have just returned from the UAE where they formed part of the Walkenhorst Racing effort in the Asian Le Mans Series and took a GT4 class win at the 2021 Dubai 24H.

Murillo Racing Set To Field First All-Female SRO America Line-up

Aurora Straus, Christina Nielsen, and Katherine Legge will make history in 2021 as the first all-female lineup in SRO America, debuting with Murillo Racing in Pirelli GT4 America driving the #43 Porsche 718 GT4.

Straus and Nielsen will drive in most of the races, with Legge serving as programme mentor in an effort sponsored by Richard Mille, Arch Capital Group, Supergoop!, and Sabelt.

Aurora Straus is a full-time student at Harvard University and has a history of success with both SRO Pirelli GT4 America and Porsche. In 2017, while in high school, she made her professional racing debut with IMSA in a Porsche Cayman, ending the season as the highest-finishing rookie. In 2018, Straus deferred her acceptance to Harvard to compete for a full season in Pirelli World Challenge GT4 (now SRO America), where she took four podiums – including two wins – and finished second overall for the season championship. Straus is also the founder of Girls With Drive, an initiative that runs trackside educational and mentoring programs for young girls to inspire them to pursue automotive careers.

“I’m delighted to be competing in SRO with Christina and Kat. I grew up watching them race, at a time when I was routinely the only girl at the racetrack. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it, and their success was a huge factor in my decision to race. I’m incredibly grateful that our goals align, and that we have genuine partners in Murillo Racing, Richard Mille, and others who also believe in our mission to inspire young women in motorsport,” Straus said.

“Anyone who has met Christina and Kat knows that they are fierce competitors and also fierce partners. We describe ourselves as three women, no limits for a reason: our belief that women are stronger together. We hope this program inspires future female racers just like Christina and Kat inspired me.”

Christina Nielsen became the first woman to win a WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in 2016, following this achievement with a second consecutive WeatherTech championship in 2017. In 2018, she competed in a Porsche 911 GT3R with Wright Motorsports, taking eight top-ten finishes and one win. She is also the founder of Accelerating Change, which runs women’s track days across the USA.

“I am excited to be joining Aurora in the Porsche GT4 in SRO America for 2021! We have brought together a team that will present a strong united front within the racing community to show diversity in the sport,” Nielsen said. “This vision for equality is shared by partners like Richard Mille, and I am grateful to join another program that the company is supporting.”

Katherine Legge’s resume includes European Formula 3, Champ Cars, IndyCar, Formula E, and NASCAR. In 2000, she was the first female driver to qualify on pole in the British Formula Ford Championship and subsequently progressed through open-wheel series like British Formula Renault, Formula 3, and Toyota Atlantic. She has eleven podium finishes in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.

“I am so proud of what Aurora has achieved in her career thus far. She and Christina will make an excellent pairing. Richard Mille has been championing women drivers for a while now, and it’s through their iconic brand that we can create a force to be reckoned with in North America,” Legge said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the RM crew will achieve with Murillo Racing, and I will be standing with them every step of the way.”

The #43 Porsche 718 GT4 MR will be supported by Murillo Racing, a veteran racing team with a history of success. In 2014 and 2017, the team won championships in IMSA in a Porsche Cayman. In 2019, Murillo Racing won the GT4 America championship. This year, they plan to fight for another championship running a Porsche, this time in SRO.

Random Vandals BMW

Random Vandals Racing (“RVR”) makes its maiden foray into the SRO Pirelli GT4 America series for the full 2021 season driving a BMW M4 GT4 sponsored by Vbrick Systems.

2015 Rolex 24 winner Al Carter returns to SRO competition for the full season with RVR. Al will partner with SRO rookie and RVR Team Co-Principal Paul Sparta. Veteran race engineer Nathan McBride joins the effort with the intention of delivering a very strong first season in the Am Class with Pirelli GT4 America.

“Al and I have a season of endurance racing together driving the M4 GT4, so we are very familiar with the platform and each other’s capabilities behind the wheel. In addition to our great mechanical team, led by Car Chief Tim Fields, we are super excited to bring Nathan McBride on board as Race Engineer. His depth of experience will help us to quickly extract as much out the car and ourselves as possible,” said Paul Sparta. “We are also very happy to have Vbrick Systems on board as a sponsor, and we hope to take the program to the next level with their support.”

“I’m thrilled to be back for another season with Random Vandals. Although new to SRO, this is not a new team. The infrastructure, drive, and talent has them ready to perform at this level.  Having the chance to get back in the paddock on a full-time basis has me focused and pumped. This GT4 class is stacked with talent. Paul and I team really well together, so I am excited to build on the success we had last year in endurance racing.”

Supra For Smooge!

A new year, a new team, a new car, and a new series. SMOOGE Racing, a newly formed Ft. Worth-based race team, enters the Pirelli GT4 America 2021 season with the all-new Toyota GR Supra GT4.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing and Toyota Racing Development continue to raise the bar in every series they compete. This made the GR Supra GT4 our first choice when selecting our manufacture,” said team owner, Alex Geesbreght.

The team is campaigning the full Pirelli GT4 America Championship starting the first weekend of March in Sonoma, CA. The #68 Toyota GR Supra GT4 will be piloted by rookie contender John Geesbreght and veteran Kevin Conway.

“We can’t wait to get to Sonoma and kick off the 2021 Championship.  Our team partners have enabled us to build a solid foundation to learn and grow as a team in our first year.  The SRO Pirelli GT4 America Championship is one of the most competitive series in North America and we are very thankful to have this opportunity to compete and learn in 2021 with John and Kevin,” said Geesbreght.