Jacob Ruud in the #81 Classic BMW M2 CS Racing scored an overall win in the Sunday TC America Race in the SRO event at Circuit of the Americas on the first weekend in May. BMW racers were class winners at COTA as well; Ruud took a class win on Saturday on the day before his overall win, and M4 GT4 racers Sean Quinlan, Chandler Hull, and Jon Miller scored class wins as well.
Much of the drama at COTA came on Saturday, when a deluge arrived during the GT World Challenge race and rain continued for the rest of the day. The GT4 SprintX competitors got in the first of their one-hour, two driver races before the rains came, but their race was affected by an early red flag for an Aston-Martin that rolled over on the second lap, the driver was fine, but after the cars circulated under yellow for a time the red flag was thrown to allow repairs to the Armco barrier. The #11 Classic BMW M4 GT4 driven by Stevan McAleer and Toby Grahovec led before and just after the race was stopped; they fell back to finish third in the Silver class. The silver win went to another M4 GT4, the #94 BimmerWorld car piloted by Chandler Hull and Jon Miller. The best finishing BMW in the Pro-Am class was the fourth overall, fourth in class #34 BimmerWorld M4 GT4 driven by Chandler Hull and Bill Auberlen. The overall and Pro-Am wins went to Jason Hart and Matt Travis in the #47 Nolasport Porsche Cayman, the same car that had dominated GT4 SprintX at the season opener in Sonoma in March. While the Porsche won, the M4 GT4s were much stronger at COTA than they had been at Sonoma.
Saturday’s 90-minute GT World Challenge race started in dry conditions. Michael Dinan in the #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3, the only BMW in the race, made a dramatic move from his second-row position at the start, taking the lead from the two Lamborghinis that had started ahead of him. But the Lambos had an edge, and soon retook the lead. Dinan stayed in contention, as did his co-driver Robby Foley after the handoff. The rains slowed the pack and shortened the race; in the end Foley and Dinan finished third behind the winning #3 KPAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Jordan Pepper and Andrea Caldarelli and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Russell Ward and Philip Ellis.
The deluge persisted for Saturday’s Touring Car race, delayed for an hour because of lightning in the area. Ruud started from pole, leading a class of five M2 CS Rs running in the TCX class. While the TCX cars were much quicker than the TC and TCA class racers, the rain eliminated their edge; Ruud fell back, winning the class and finishing fifth overall. Second in TCX went to Samantha Tan in the #438 ST Racing M2 CS R, back in SRO on a break from ST Racing’s run in the worldwide Creventic 24H Series. She made a great start, moving up from third in class to second. She stayed there, finishing second in TCX. The overall and TC class wins went to Hyundai Veloster N racer Jeff Ricca, who mounted an impressive charge through the pack on the rain-soaked circuit. The best BMW finisher in TC was Austen Smith, fifth in class in the #51 Auto Technic Racing BMW M240iR. In the TCA class, Derek Jones in the #61 Mini finished second to Caleb Bacon in a Hyundai.
The rain continued for Saturday’s fourth race, the 40-minute GT America for GT2, GT3, and GT4 cars. Sean Quinlan in the #119 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4, the only BMW in the pack, fell back early; he finished eleventh in the GT4 class. The class win went to Ross Choest in a Mercedes-AMG GT4.
On a sunny Sunday morning, Ruud and his M2 CS Racing showed their prowess in the TC race. Ruud took the overall and TCX wins, finishing with a 31-second lead over second-place finisher Samantha Tan. Steve Streimer in the #30 Hard Motorsport M2 CS R finished third. TC belonged to the front drive cars again, with Kevin Boehm taking the win in a Honda Civic Type R. The best BMW finisher in TC was Toby Grahovec in the #26 Classic BMW M240iR, third in class at the end. Bacon once again won TCA, with Clay Williams in the #62 Mini fourth in class.
The SprintX race went to the Travis/Hart Porsche again, but only after Matt Travis was able to get by Sean Quinlan in the #119 Cameron M4 GT4. Their late-race battle, a reprise of the 2019 finale in Las Vegas that left Quinlan and his co-driver Greg Liefooghe with the drivers’ title, went in the Porsche’s direction this time, but it is early in the season. Quinlan hung on to finish third overall and second in class. Just behind Quinlan was the best BMW finisher in the silver class. the second-place #11 Classic BMW car driven by McAleer and Grahovec. The silver class win went to the #72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG. Soon after the Sunday race began, Chandler Hull went off-course, setting off a multi-car incident that brought out a yellow flag and took out several cars, among them the M4 GT4s of Hull and Bill Auberlen.
In Sunday’s GT World Challenge race, Dinan and Foley finished fifth overall and third in the pro class in the #96 Turner M6 GT3. The overall and pro class wins went to the second KPAX Lamborghini driven by Giovanni Venturini and Corey Lewis.
Quinlan won the GT4 class in the Sunday GT America sprint, the last race of the weekend. He had moved up to third in class, challenging Saturday class winner Ross Choest in the Mercedes for second, when class leader Jason Bell in the Aston Martin spun and fell back with just three laps remaining. Bell came back on course behind Quinlan, but could not make a pass. Meanwhile, Quinlan closed in on the Mercedes, getting by near the end for the win.
The series runs again at Virginia International Raceway on June 4–6.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy SRO Motorsports America.]