by Tim Collier
The Champion Motorsports GT3 Sprint season has been spectacular, with the level of racing and competition, as well as field sizes well above the past few years. As the drivers arrived at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin it was apparent that another large field would mean that qualifying was more important than ever.
At the top of the qualifying chart was DJ Alessandrini putting his Audi out front with a lap time of 2:03.586 which was more than half a second faster than the second place qualifier Tyler Pinheiro, who was also the AM Class pole winner. Behind them in the second row were Chris Brunnemer and the Pro Class Points leader Michael Parker. The AM class points leader coming into the race, Steven Yanni, would be starting third in class and 13th overall.
The field of 49 cars heads thru Turn 1 at the start
As the field headed uphill, everyone closed up for what would be a tense first lap as the green flag fell. Several went three wide on the front straight and a lot of two wide into Turn 1, with some paint being exchanged but no issues until Turn 3 when a few drivers would be involved. Another incident at the kink would break up the field a little more and over the first few laps Alessandrini would hold the first spot with Brunnemer less than a second behind until Lap 9 when Miguel Colon would pass him to take chase for the lead.
In the AM class, Pinheiro would have an eventful start, falling from 2nd to 5th overall on the first lap but holding the AM class lead till Lap 5, when an off track moved him back to 25th and moved Douglas Hintze into the class lead that he would hold until Lap 13. It was then that Joe Stiefel, who started 17th overall and was working his way through the field, would catch and pass Hintze for the AM Class lead and into 8th place overall.
Behind all of them, many were having battles for positions that lasted until pit stops started at the halfway point, but several had offs and contact forcing a few early retirements. The field remained competitive though, and every position important for the points standings and bragging rights!
Up front, Alessandri would have an offtrack on lap 21, and Colon would take advantage and move into the top spot and hit pit road. The next few laps the front pack would swap positions as drivers peeled off for fuel (and some for tires!) and with only a few laps to go it would be Colon who would come out on top and head to the checkers for his third win this season! Behind him Alessandri would hold off Brunnemer for the final two podium spots.
Miguel Colon (#87) heads to the checkered flag for his third win of the season
In the AM class, the battles were far from over and Stiefel would work all the way up to 4th overall before pitting on lap 23, at which point Yanni would inherit the lead after pitting laps earlier and working the undercut. It would be enough to hold the lead all the way to the finish, his third AM class win of the season. Stiefel would come out of the pits just behind Hintze and take chase, getting past Hintze for second, but a late tangle with another car caused him to lose the spot and Hintze would finish in second in the AM class, and Stiefel in third in his first race at CMS.
Am class driver Steven Yanni wins for the third time this season
This week, with only two races to go, it’s time to head to New York as the field takes on the Boot circuit at Watkins Glen. In the points standings, Michael Parker continues to hold the points lead due to consistency, with Miguel Colon only 15 points back in second and Chris Brunnemer battling Brett Stephens for the third position. In the Pro Class, there’s still 11 drivers mathematically in the hunt for the Championship!
In the AM Class, Steven Yanni has put a 2 point gap on Nick Kuhn in the battle for the points lead, which wasn’t helped by Kuhn’s early exit this week. In third only 18 points back of Kuhn is Ernesto Diaz, with Shane Norton only 5 behind him for the third spot in class. When looking at who still has a chance, with zero points a possibility every race, there are still 9 cars in the hunt for the title with two races left.
More than ever, it’s important to keep the car clean and grab those points as we wrap up this amazing season!