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Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari & Lamborghini Take COTA Weekend Wins

Race 1

After a rain delay to the original day’s schedule, the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS competition delivered the action in bucketloads. When the downpour and lightning threat created the caution/checkered premature stop to the race, it would be Jordan Pepper in the #3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 that would lead the team to its next win and capture the CrowdStrike Fast Lap award for the race in the process.

At the drop of the green flag, P3 qualifier Michael Dinan deftly maneuvered the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 through the K-PAX Racing P1 and P2 traffic and eventually took the lead in the race. It was short-lived, however, and Dinan dropped back behind Pepper after denying him the possibility of a flag-to-flag win. The battle for second place ensued between the #96 BMW (Dinan), the #6 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini (Venturini) and the #33 Winward Racing (Ward) Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the length of the first driver stint.

By the opening of the pit window, it was Pepper in front, leading teammate Venturini, followed by Ward, Dinan, Iribe, George Kurtz (#04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG) and Jeff Burton (#91 Rearden Racing Lamborghini). The back-half of the starting field, in order, would see #9 TR3 Racing Lamborghini driver Ziad Ghandour in eighth place; followed by P12 qualifier Taylor Hagler (#93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura) making her way through the field into ninth place; Fred Poordad (#20 Wright Motorsports Porsche) down two positions into tenth; Erin Vogel (#19 DXDT Mercedes-AMG) jockeying for better positioning from her P11 start; DXDT Racing principal David Askew (#63 Mercedes-AMG) also finding himself down positions into twelfth; Jason Harward (#88 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini) struggling to gain ground from his thirteenth-place qualifier; and Jean-Claude Saada (#61 AF Corse Ferrari) and Frank Gannett (#12 Ian Lacy Racing Aston Martin) interchanging their qualifying positions. The #77 Acura NSX GT3 suffered a mechanical issue and was forced to withdraw from Race 1 for repairs.

Gannett and his Aston Martin were the first to execute the required pit stop, followed by Venturini and Dinan who exited at the same time. Burton, Poordad, and Vogel followed by Harward and Askew. Shortly after that, Foley and the Turner Motorsports BMW were the first out of the required pit stop with #6 co-pilot Corey Lewis close behind in the K-PAX Lamborghini. Because of the strategic in-and-out timing of the #3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini, co-driver Andrea Caldarelli re-entered the track after the pit stop and landed in first place. Winward Racing’s pit stop and driver change resulted in the re-entry of Ellis into second place. At the end of all the pit and driver change dances, the #96 BMW found itself with Robby Foley behind the wheel and a sixth place overall position.

After climbing back to third and catching Ward, the battle for second place resumed until the rain came in hard and fast, and the race was ultimately called checkered with a little over nine-minutes left after a yellow flag was called for the increasingly dangerous weather conditions.

With the overall top three mirroring the Pro class top-three, the inception racing team would capture the Pro-Am win with the Wright Motorsports Porsche and the TR3 Racing Lamborghini completing the Pro-Am podium.

Race 2

On the first and only completely dry day of the Circuit of the America weekend, the second race of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS doubleheader found the #6 K-PAX Lamborghini taking the overall and Pro wins for the second time in the weekend. In Pro-Am, the Kurtz/Braun duo driving the #04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 took the top step of the podium while the AF Corse #61 Ferrari 488 GT3 stayed the course and took home the top billing for the Am class.

The field went green with P1 qualifier Philip Ellis in the #33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 heading into Turn 1 with the other five top challengers essentially nose-to-tail entering and exiting. All cars survived without incident, but both the #04 DXDT Mercedes-AMG (Braun/Kurtz) and #9 TR3 Racing Ferrari (Altoe/Ghandour) bounced over the curbs through Turn 3, opening the door for the #20 Wright Motorsports Porsche (Heylen/Poordad) to slot into second position and attack Ellis for the lead with the #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG (Dalziel/Askew) in third. Altoe and Braun recovered into fourth and fifth place respectively, with the #6 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini (Venturini/Lewis) making its way past the #88 Zelus Motorsport Lamborghini (Snow/Harward) and the #19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG (Cooper/Vogel) to take the sixth spot.

Ellis and Heylen then proceeded to battle their way ahead of the pack and away from Dalziel and Altoe, engaged in their own battle for third, as well as a five-way battle for fifth place that lasted several rounds and saw both the #91 Rearden Racing Lamborghini (Kozarov/Burton) and the #93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura (Abel/Hagler) enter the pits to handle some early issues. At this point, the #3 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini (Caldarelli/Pepper) found itself at the back of the pack in twelfth position.

The battle for the lead transformed into a four-way affair between Ellis, Heylen, Dalziel and Altoe all within under two-seconds from the top spot, with the lead position changing several times and constant pressure from any number of the challengers. Caldarelli found pace and gained two positions from twelfth place to set the Fast Lap at the time, indicating a possible end to the problems that had held the car to the middle of the pack.

Just in front of Caldarelli in the middle of the field, Cooper, Snow and the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 driver Robby Foley were in a close battle for seventh position, then occupied by Cooper. After some time, the battle switched over to Caldarelli, now in ninth position overall and fourth in Pro Class with Foley losing some positions into tenth. Abel returned into the mix after a long pit excursion but stayed behind Kozarov, who had been in and out of the pits for several laps.

Slowly and methodically, Caldarelli battled car after car, setting and re-setting Fast Laps on the race, finally settling into seventh place overall before the opening of the pit window. At that point, the running order saw Heylen in front of Ellis and Altoe with Dalziel holding up fourth in front of Braun and Lewis. Cooper saw himself in eighth place, followed by Snow, Foley, Millroy, Grunewald, McMurry, Staveley and Abel who had finally run enough laps to overcome Kozarov’s time on the track.

At the close of the pit window dance and co-drivers on the track, the order for the top seven remained unchanged from the pit entry list, with Poordad in front in the #20 being challenged by Russell Ward in #33. After a few laps, Ward was able to overtake Poordad but immediately following the pass an incident with the #77 Compass Racing Acura NSX GT3 (Sales/McMurry) created a full-course yellow situation that bunched up the competitors and essentially reignited the battle for the top position with all the front-runners now in play.

When the green flag dropped, the competitors charged and without much advance warning, suddenly the existing points leaders K-PAX Racing, who had been plagued with issues keeping them in the middle of the pack, were now occupying the second and fourth positions on the track, with both closing in on leader Ward.

With less than 23 minutes to go in the race, Ward succumbed to the dual-pronged onslaught of the K-PAX Lamborghinis and found himself suddenly in third and Pepper in the #3 out in front. The battle to regain the top position continued for the remainder of the race but remained unchanged from that order until a white flag pass saw the #6 overtake its teammate and take the checkered flag first.

In the Pro-Am division, Kurtz had worked his way to the front and was defending against an onslaught of contenders in Poordad, Iribe, Harward, and Ghandour. A miscalculation sent Harward spinning and ultimately took him out of contention, with Kurtz taking the class win, followed by Poordad and Iribe to complete the podium.