The various series of SRO America competed at NOLA Motorsports Park outside of New Orleans this past weekend in the series second race weekend after competing at Sonoma Raceway in northern California in mid-April. You may have never heard of NOLA Motorsports Park. The track is not usually used for pro racing and was a last-minute substitute for the new Ozarks International Raceway, which was canceled in part due to concerns with having sufficient paddock space for the series.
The race weekend at NOLA was hot and damp, with storms leading to red flag race stoppages on Saturday. The weather kept everyone guessing, as it could be dry or wet or both. At the start of the second GT World Challenge race, it was actually wet on one end of the 2.7-mile track and dry on the other.
Despite all the challenges, there were several BMWs on the podium in the various series that raced there. In the top Fanatec GT World Challenge America championship that features GT3-spec machinery, the #94 BimmerWorld Racing M4 GT3 driven by Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull had a very successful weekend, finishing third in the Pro/Am class in race one and second in race two. Chandler Hull’s driving was especially noteworthy, as he put in great performances in both races and was really “up on the wheel” as TV commentator and former racer Calvin Fish says. The duo led 47 of 50 laps in the first race and may have gotten their first win if not for a late race yellow that shuffled them back to third after contact with another car.
Turner Motorsport didn’t fare as well in the Pro class with the #96 M4 GT3 driven by Robby Foley and Michael Dinan. The car was quick and competitive but suffered a cut tire in race one after Foley battled with the Mercedes of Loris Spinelli and had what looked like a transmission failure (which is not confirmed yet) in the second race that resulted in a DNF. The ST Racing M4 GT3 that competed in the opening rounds at Sonoma did not race at NOLA due to supply chain issues.
In the GT4 America series, there were several BMWs on the podium in the two races. BimmerWorld drivers James Clay and Charlie Postins won the Am class in race won in the #36 M4 GT4, while the #52 Auto Technic Racing M4 GT4 of Tom Capizzi and John Capestro-Dubets finished second in the Pro/Am class. Auto Technic also had their #51 M4 GT4 on the podium in the Silver class, as Austen Smith and Zac Andersen drove to a third place finish.
In race two of GT4 America, BimmerWorld Racing was on the podium again, this time with the #82 M4 GT4 in the Pro/Am class driven by Devin Jones and James Walker Jr. It was a real challenge for the team to get there, as they had to repair damage sustained to the car in race one when Walker Jr. was taken out at the start after being hit by other cars. The podium finish was also noteworthy for Jones, who is back in racing for a full season after suffering a broken back and arm in a crash at VIR in 2020. “Personally, this third place means a lot,” said Jones on social media after the race. “There was a time not long ago where I wasn’t sure if I’d ever stand on a podium again. I credit those who stood by me and kept believing in me, they pushed me to be here again.”
In TC America, there were a total of eight M2 CS cars entered in the top TCX class. Rooster Hall Racing driver Colin Garrett scored his first win in the series in race one after he held off challenges from defending champion Jacob Ruud. Ruud finished second in his #57 Fast Track Racing M2 CS, and was followed on the podium by Lucas Catania in the Rigid Speed M2 CS. That trio also finished on the podium in race two though Ruud won the second race with Garrett in second and Catania again in third.
There aren’t many M240i’s racing in the series any longer, but Matthew Ibrahim finished on the podium in third in race one in his #06 DRS & Garagistic M240i behind two Honda Civic Type R’s. In race two, Clay Williams took victory in the TC class in his #60 MINI JCW Pro that he drives for the MINI JCW TEAM, after getting past Jeff Ricca in his Hyundai Veloster N. “I think it was on the restart,” Williams said of how he was able to get the jump on Ricca. “When that came about, I knew I had to get around him. Ricca dove on the inside there, I was not expecting that, so it was a little bit dicey. But I couldn’t be more happy.”
The SRO America series next races at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of June 17th-19th. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy SRO Motorsports Group]