The 2020 International GT racing season kicked off with a huge field of competitors at Sebring International Raceway last weekend. The battle was fierce throughout the weekend in the GT3 4R category. JUAN LOPEZ-SANTINI #24, finished first in sprint race 1 and took the overall win for Sunday’s 90-minute enduro race. There was close competition throughout the weekend at the front of the field with Wright Motorsports #20 driven by MAX ROOT and FRED POORDAD winning overall honors in sprint race 2. Sunday’s enduro would see two yellow flags which played heavily into pit strategy and Lopez-Santini endured constant pressure from MARK SANDRIDGE #58 Team Salad entry, who took a pair of second place finishes in sprint 1 and the enduro and rounded out the podium, finishing third in the second sprint race.
There were also several familiar faces with new cars on the grid. JUAN GONZALEZ #81 (above) shrugged off his traditional white and blue livery for a splash of hot red in his new Porsche and was on the podium for sprint race one in the GT3 4R category.
Two cars ran in the Exhibition category and gave a strong showing at the top of the field. For sprint race one, GIANO TAURINO #88, racing his Lamborghini Huracán finished first overall and KEN THWAITS #5, ran his black Audi R8 to finish second in the Exhibition class.
We’re getting used to seeing the largest fields in the Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy 3.8 liter category and Sebring was no different. However, the 4 liter cars are gaining ground and they had the second largest field of the International GT event. MARK GREENBERG in his Extreme Velocity Motorsports #421 Porsche took first place finishes among the 4 liters in the first and second sprint races. SCOTT DAIGER #39, bought a new race car over the off season and although he had a bit of a learning curve ran very strong, standing on all three steps of the podium, finishing first in the enduro, second in sprint race 1 and third in sprint race 2. New to IGT competition was JASON McCARTHY #11 from New York who had a great debut with the series taking 2nd and 3rd place in the two sprint races. Rounding out the 4 liter category was TODD SLOAN in his #25, Wright Motorsports Porsche. Still learning the car that he purchased mid-season in 2019, Todd finished just off the podium in sprint race 1.
In 3.8 the weekend belonged to TOM PANK in his #42, Ultra Performance Porsche. But it wasn’t without a struggle. Pank started out in his Audi R8 in the Exhibition category but experienced mechanical difficulties on the testing day. This forced him to switched to his 4 liter Porsche but an overzealous run into Turn 17, landed him in the tire barriers and into his backup, backup car, his 3.8 liter Porsche usually driven by son Lukas, who missed Sebring to attend his Engineering classes at Virginia Tech. But once he settled into the 3.8 car Pank was unstoppable, sweeping the weekend winning all three races! Pank’s competition was tough and he had to work hard getting tremendous pressure from JIM MATTHEWS in his Orbit Racing #139 who finished second and third respectively in the sprint races, JEFFREY FREEMAN #116 who finished a close second in sprint race 1 and JOHN UGLUM, in his SpeedSport prepared #711 who had a great run in the enduro finishing second on Sunday morning. Series founder # BILL RIDDELL, in his #00 RaceLink race car with the distinctive military livery finished just off the podium but had a solid run throughout the weekend’s races. After missing the last few International GT races in 2019, we were happy to see BOB WISEN #27 back and on the podium in Sunday’s enduro.
A driver we haven’t seen for a while in IGT competition, PETER TOOMBS (left) with his Warehouse 8 Racing/Atlantis Motorsports #66 won both sprint races in the Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy 3.6 liter category, while series regular BRAD WAITE in his striking black and orange #37 took second in both sprint races. Another familiar face in a new car was RANDAL CASSLING #70 who took a pair of third place finishes in the sprint races. For Sunday’s enduro, Toombs would co-drive with teammates JON MANSHIP and LONNIE PECHNIK in Manship’s #155 GT3 Cup 4 liter Porsche, giving the trio a second place finish in the endurance race.
New to the series were CLARICE and GREGG LEE from nearby Winter Haven and who raced their 3.4 liter Porsche to podium finishes in all three races on the weekend.
The Stuttgart Cup saw one of the largest entries in recent years with TIM HORRELL #45 driving a Breathless Racing Porsche ClubSport winning both sprint races in the 3.8 liter category. Horrell did double duty, racing in Trans Am as well. In the sprint races there was a close battle and BILL HANDLER #44 in an Extreme Velocity Motorsports prepared Cayman kept the pressure on Horrell taking a pair of second place finishes. The podium for the sprints was completed by SCOTT KEE #351 in a Zotz Racing ClubSport, a newcomer to International GT competition, Kee shared his ride on Sunday with RON ZITZA and the two combined to take the win in the enduro!
Returning 2019 Stuttgart Cup champion, WILL WACHS in his striking #017 green and black Gatorgang Racing Cayman swept the 3.4 category winning all three races on the weekend. Wachs shared some very close racing with RUSSELL WITTENBERG #33 who finished second in the two sprint races.
In Maranello Cup competition another 2019 champion, BENOIT BERGERON #127 took up where he left off last year, winning sprint race 1 in his Etcetera Racing Ferrari 458. There was some very fierce racing among the prancing horses with JOHN PATRICK MULLANEY in his #36 Ferrari finishing second in sprint race 1, winning sprint race 2 and with co-driver CHRIS HALL, on the podium for the enduro in second place. COLIN COHEN #15 in his familiar red Ferrari from Norwood Auto Italia who finished second in the 2019 championship started 2020 strong, with a hard-fought win in the enduro with co-driver JASON HART. Cohen was on the podium in each race with a second and third in the sprint races. Although he struggled with some early mechanical issues, GREG GRIFFIN #71 in his easy to spot black and white 458, completed the podium on Sunday finishing 3rd.
Next up at the end of March, International GT will host Round 2 of the 2020 season at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA, March 26-29. With its well-known elevation change through the rolling red clay hills, the race will offer a bonus third sprint race on the weekend along with a 90-minute enduro.