by Tim Collier
After four races, the Champion Motorsports GT3 Sprint series packed their bags and headed to North America for the second half of the season, as all five remaining races on the Season One schedule won’t require oceanic travel. This week, the teams headed down to the kudzu-covered state of Georgia to visit the world-renowned Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the second endurance length race of the season.
With the Daytona 24 Hour race in the rearview mirrors, everyone shook off the dust and filled the garages with 51 entries, the second largest field of the season. With 22 Pro teams, the battle for the overall Pole Position was fierce but in the end Miguel Colon would take the spot with a time of 1:17.420, edging out DJ Alessandrini by a mere 0.014 seconds! In the AM class, Tyler Pinheiro would start 10th overall and take the class pole, with CMS newcomer Daniel Saleem Howard starting second in the AM class and 14th overall.
DJ Allessandrini in the #01 Audi leads the field into Turn 1 at the start of the race
Nerves were frayed before the green lights fell, and pole sitter Colon would experience a technical issue forcing him to start the race from the pits. Alessandrini would move up and lead the field to the green flag and proceed to pull away from Christian Youngwall who started in third. In the AM class, Pinheiro would get a great start moving up from 10th to 8th overall on the first lap, but on Lap 2 would fall all the way back to 47th place from an off track and waiting for the field to pass before rejoining the race. This would give the AM class lead to Howard, who would hold the spot until Lap 10 when Steven Yanni passed him for the lead in the AM class.
Up front, Alessandrini had pace but behind him Paul Darling would catch up and pass for the lead on Lap 15, but the two were glued together and over the next 10 laps the gap would remain under a second in the battle for the lead. Unfortunately for Darling, an incident with a lap car would put him out of the race just before halfway, and Victor Tanaka would take advantage of the situation and take the lead until lap 35. At this point Chris Brunnemer would take the front spot as pit stops began to cycle for the front runners with Alessandrini returning to the lead after everyone had made their stops. At the checkered flag, it would be Alessandrini taking his first win of the season, Victor Tanaka finishing in second place and Michael Parker swooping in and grabbing that last podium step in Pro and overall.
In only his second race at CMS, DJ Alessandri takes the overall and Pro class win
In the AM Class, the battle was only starting as Howard would find trouble on Lap 14, giving Yanni some breathing room to second place that was now occupied by Ernesto Diaz, with Liam Park and Gabriel Albano right behind him. By Lap 28, Park had moved into second place behind Yanni, and Pinheiro had made an incredible recovery and moved back into third place, just ahead of another newcomer to CMS, Edward Nelson. At this point it seemed as though everyone had a shot at the podium, but as the laps wound down it would come down to timing and opportunities, and no one had enough to catch Yanni who took the AM class win, his second of the season. Shane Norton with a brilliant drive in the latter half of the race would grab second place, with Pinheiro recovering for third in class.
The AM Class winner, Steven Yanni, exiting Turn 7 as the sun sets behind the trees
This race saw carnage early, and 14 DNFs leaving 37 cars running at the finish, and a lot of disappointed drivers by the end of the night. But as with all things competitive, we just look forward to the next race and learn from the experience.
The next race takes a drive up to the Continental Divide into Canada….Ontario to be exact….where the series will tackle the famed Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, more affectionately known as Mosport for what is sure to be another exciting race!!