An eventful GT America opening weekend which gives first win for Bell at St Petersburg

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Two races around the street circuit layout of St Petersburg was always going to make for some eventful action for the twenty-seven cars in the SRO GT America Series and that is precisely what happened even though some was at the expense of our preferred teams.

Five Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 powered Bronze rated drivers headed to Florida for this weekend’s season opening, two forty-minute rounds with reigning GT4 Champion Jason Bell near the top again in class with his #2 GMG Racing prepared car after Qualifying for Race 1 on Friday.

He was joined on track with Gray Newell aboard his #25 Heart of Racing car, the debuting Bryan Putt and his #15 Bsport Racing car, Ross Chouest with his second available #50 car after his Chouest Povoledo Racing AMR suffered engine issues earlier in the weekend and Sean Whalen aboard his distinctly liveried #888 Zelus Motorsport Aston Martin.

Under clear blue skies and intense Floridian sunshine Race 1 got underway in straight in incident and accident even before the grid reached turn one as the #15 car of Putt was involved in multiple contacts with other cars that sadly resulted in extensive front quarter damage for the red, white and blue car at the end of the start straight. Unfortunately for him, his debut race in the solo driver GT America Series would end there and then with a DNF.

The inter-car action car incident and accident action continued into turn 2 where the #2 car of Bell and the #25 car of Newell got together, spinning Bell around and placing him close to the rear of the pack as the race went under Full Course Caution but at least both cars were able to continue.

With nearly half the race time lost to the Safety Car, it was to be a twenty-two-minute sprint to the flag with the #50 car of Chouest surprisingly having survived journeying through all of this damage to assume third in class as the race went back to green with the remaining Aston’s down to P9 backwards.

With several drivers on a ‘recovery drive’ into the final minutes, a spin for Whalen dropped him back down the order whilst Bell and Newell had progressed to catch up with Chouest into the final lap just as the #50 car had lost out on a possible opening race class podium.

To end the race, #50 Chouest would finish P4 in class, #2 Bell P5, #25 Newell P7, #888 Whalen P9 and #15 Putt a DNF.

Saturday’s race grid positions were determined by their fastest lap in race 1 and that meant for a grid order in class of P3 for Bell, P4 for Newell, P6 for Chouest, P10 for Whalen and a distant P14 for Putt seeing that he hadn’t actually completed a racing lap on Friday.

More action into turn 1 on the opening lap for the now twenty six starters as Bell capitalised on the pole setting BMW GT4 getting baulked by the spinning Corvette to move up to P2 behind Derek DeBoer in his TRG Porsche – maybe with a little bit of muscle with damage clearly visible upon his white #2 GMG Racing Aston.

Fortunately no FCY this time as the grid was allowed to race after some hasty circuit clean up and it wasn’t too long before the GT3/GT2/GT4 grid was evenly spaced out around the street/airfield-based circuit layout.

After ten minutes of running, Bryan Putts audition sadly went from bad to worse as he was spun out by the #888 Aston of Sean Whalen with the #15 car being forced to retire again in pit lane from damage sustained just as Bell took the class lead from DeBoer.

Whilst Chouest and Whalen were busy battling with themselves down in P10, constant errors from DeBoer allowed Newell to catch the #66 Porsche and make a challenge for position going into the final five minutes.

Unfortunately for the Heart of Racing driver, DeBoer over defended a position already lost – contacted the #25 Aston Martin which spun Newell around but also ruptured his own radiators to then slam into the concrete barrier just one corner later to bring out another FCY. Fortunately for Newell, he had already been able to re-join the race before this to preserve a P5 finish for him as the race finished behind the Safety Car.

For Bell however, it was the first of (hopefully) many more race wins to come this season as Chouest and Whalen also completed the race (a lap down to the GT4 leaders) to finish their first weekend back racing in P7 and P10 respectively.

The series now moves onto Sonoma for their next round, this time in support of both the GT4 America and GT World Challenge America Series there in mid-April.

Photo credits – GT America / Teams

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes