The SRO GT4 America and TC America championships opened their 2023 seasons at Sonoma Raceway in California on the same weekend as Fanatec GT World Challenge America. Among them, the various series under SRO sanction provide great variety for sportscar racing fans and for BMW fans in particular. The GT World Challenge championship features M4 GT3 entries, while the GT4 America series has no less than nine M4 GT4 entries from a variety of teams, competing against six other brands. In TC America, there are five M2 CS Cup entries in the TCX class, along with five MINI entries competing in the TC and TCA classes.
Every one of the BMW teams competing in GT4 America this season is using the new G82 generation M4 GT4, and it was great to see so many of them in the opening rounds at Sonoma. They provide an interesting contrast to the F87-generation M2 CS. Many of the teams racing the new M4 GT4 had little time to test them before the Sonoma races, but they still had some success. In the first race at Sonoma (SRO holds two races per race weekend), Random Vandals Racing drivers Kevin Boehm and Kenton Koch finished second in the Silver class, while defending champs James Clay and Charlie Postins finished third in the Am class in their BimmerWorld entry. The best finishing BMW in the crowded Pro-Am class was the BimmerWorld entry of James Walker, Jr. and Tyler McQuarrie.
In GT4 America race two, Auto Technic Racing drivers John Capestro-Dubets and Zac Anderson finished second in the Silver class after some wrecks and attrition from other competitors, while the STR38 Motorsports duo of Jon Miller and Chandler Hull finished third. The STR38 Motorsports team also put a car on the podium in the Am class, with drivers Robert Mau and Chris Allen finishing second. The BimmerWorld duo of Walker, Jr. and McQuarrie was once again the best finishing BMW in the Pro-Am class with a sixth-place finish. It was a solid weekend all around for the M4 GT4 debut in the series, especially considering Sonoma Raceway is not well-suited to the strengths of the BMW.
In the previous two years, the M2 CS Cup was the only model entered in the TCX class of the SRO TC America championship, but the BMWs have some competition this year from Honda, as there were two Civic Type-R entries in the class at Sonoma along with five BMWs. Defending TCX class champ Jacob Ruud is not back in the championship this year, but runner-up Colin Garrett is. Garrett won the first round at Sonoma in his Rooster Hall Racing entry and was followed in second by Lucas Catania in his Rigid Speed Company M2 CS. Garrett would likely have finished second if Daijiro Yoshihara hadn’t broken a drive shaft in his Honda. He had the lead with a large gap to Garrett under that happened and was not able to get the car fixed in time for race two.
The strength of the Honda was evident in race two, as Kyle Loh won handily from the pole in his Honda and was joined on the podium by Catania in second and Garrett in third. The SRO may need to make some balance of performance adjustments to either the Honda or the BMW to bring them closer together, as Loh’s fastest lap in the Honda was a full second quicker than the fastest BMW lap set by Catania. The series may wait and see how the two cars compare in the next round at NOLA Motorsports Park, as Sonoma may have been better suited to the Honda than the BMW.
In the TC class, Clay Williams continued his success from last season, finishing second in both races in his MINI JCW Pro car. He was followed by teammate Christian Perocarpi in third in race one. Jeff Ricca easily won both TC class races in his Hyundai Elantra N, and was setting lap times that were not too car off the TCX class times. In the TCA class, the best-finishing MINI was P.J. Groenke in fourth in both races.
[Photos by SRO]