Aston Martin dominate in opening round of GT America

Saturday, March 04, 2023


The opening round of the 2023 GT America Series around the street and airport circuit of St Petersburg, Florida was again equally exciting as it was dramatic as five Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 crews got back behind the wheel for the solo gentleman driver series.

Drama was to behold the series even before a practice lap had been turned when it was revealed that the #007 The Racers Group AMR Vantage GT3 of Derek DeBoer would not in fact be running the event (despite being listed by the series) as they would be sticking true to their plans for a Pro-Am GT World Challenge America commitment starting at their local track at Sonoma later this month.

Next, there were issues with track communications around the circuit which forced all sessions to be delayed until such time as that was fixed meaning that the GT America crews went straight from Practice 2 into Qualifying for what would become Friday night’s opening forty-minute race.

With the five Aston Martin’s locking out the opening five places on the grid saw Todd Coleman secure class pole position within his #69 Archangel prepared car followed by Jason Bell in his #2 Flying Lizard car second and Gray Newell in his #25 Heart of Racing car in third. They were then followed by reigning GT America GT4 Champion Ross Chouest (#55) in fourth and Moisey Uretsky in fifth with his #55 API Aston Martin.

As with any street circuit it is not always the racetrack that presents the problems – rather than the hard concrete walls that surround them and during Fridays opener, it took just three to four corners before the first incident which resulted with a prolonged Safety Car period.

Featuring one of the GT3 cars ahead, nearly a third of the race clock was lost to the clean up before the race went back to green with twenty-four minutes remaining but importantly for some, precious little ambient light around the tight and twisting 1.8mile circuit.

Once they got back to racing, Coleman and Bell soon broke the tow of the chasing pack, but Coleman always looked under pressure from the former Champion and eventually that pressure took its toll for Coleman to miss a braking point and end nose first into a tyre wall. Although he would extricate himself, his race was done down in tenth.

That left just over five minutes of the race remaining, but Bell had picked up a front puncture from somewhere around the circuit and was trying to nurse the car home until the final lap when a lunging Chouest claimed top spot whilst Bell and Newell were squabbling for position together.

With just three corners to go, Chouest would claim the class win with Newell second, Bell in third and Uretsky coming home in forth.

Saturdays second race was again delayed due to track issues, but it would be the fastest lap of race one that would used to dress the starting grid with Bell this time claiming Pole ahead of Coleman with Uretsky third, Chouest fourth and Newell fifth for another AMR lockout.

However, and like race one earlier, another incident for a GT3 car ahead again brought out the Safety Car whilst debris was cleared and again would lose the race nearly half of its allotted duration.

On the restart, contact between the #69, #50 and #25 Aston Martin’s would cause front end damage to Chouest and would delay Coleman (also with damage) as well as Newell. Chouest would try to continue but only straight into the wall with broken steering which would bring out another Safety Car.

With only eight minutes remaining by the time, they went back to green, the drama would be far from over however as another spinning GT3 would baulk Newell and would allow Uretsky passed for second as Bell made his escape up ahead, but the #55 car would be into the tyre wall before the end of the penultimate lap allowing Newell back passed for second just in time for the chequered flag.

It wasn’t to be all Aston Martin at the end as Bell claimed the win after being robbed of the same yesterday with Newell again finishing second but with Uretsky back in sixth and Coleman classified in seventh after stopping on track on the final lap. Chouest would rack up his first DNF of the season.

The next round of the season will be with the GT4 America Series at Sonoma at the end of March.

Photo credits – GT America / Teams





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