It was a great weekend of SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge and GT America racing at Sebring International Raceway in Florida as BMW teams scored wins and podium finishes in three of the four races between the two championships.

In Fanatec GT World Challenge America, the ST Racing team had a great weekend despite some penalties that they had to fight back from. In the first race on Saturday, Samantha Tan had a strong start to the race after qualifying third in the Pro-Am class to get the #38 M4 GT3 (shown above) up into second by the time she handed the car over to Neil Verhagen. Verhagen then put in a great drive to take the lead in class and make up for a 4.28-second time penalty that was allotted to the team for not being in the pits long enough (rules require a 79-second minimum pit time). Tan and Verhagen took the win and finished third overall, and were followed by the #29 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 that finished second in class and fourth overall for a BMW 1-2 finish in Pro-Am. “After the pit stop, I was chasing time at that point,” explained Verhagen. “Five seconds was the gap that I needed to fill, and I had Robby (Foley) behind me. I didn’t want him to close the gap too much. I think I took quite a bit out of the tire in the beginning, because towards the end it started to become more difficult. In general, I think we can be very happy with the result.”

BMW drivers (left to right) Robby Foley, Justin Rothberg, Neil Verhagen and Samantha Tan celebrate on the race one podium for GT World Challenge.

ST Racing also put a car on the podium in the Pro class, with Bill Auberlen and Varun Choksey third in class and sixth overall, with the Pro class win going to the RS1 Porsche.

ST Racing looked set to win the Pro-Am class again in race two, as Verhagen put the #38 car on pole and built a gap to Robby Foley in second place as the first half of the race went on. Unfortunately, Verhagen was given a drive-through penalty for slowing down too much as the cars formed up before the green flag flew, which put him second to last in class. The penalty for Verhagen put Foley in the Pro-Am lead in the #29 Turner car, and they kept the lead in class when Foley handed the car over to Justin Rothberg. Rothberg then put in a great drive for his entire stint in the second half of the race. He had tremendous pressure put on him by defending Pro-Am class champ George Kurz in a Mercedes. Foley held the lead and took the win for Turner Motorsport, which was his first win in the series in a car that he’s still getting familiar with. “We didn’t break yet!” said Rothberg. “Turner Motorsport and Laticrete Racing gave us a great car. They worked hard last night. Today we sat pretty in the corners, had Kurtz right behind me, and we just kept it on and pulled through.”

The ST Racing team also took what seemed to be a disastrous penalty and fought back to finish on the Pro-Am class podium in third. Verhagen reeled off fast laps as he stayed in the car after the penalty, and Samantha Tan then put in a great drive to get past cars and work her way up to third by the end. She was part of a three-way battle along with Rothberg and Kurtz that provided some great action in the closing laps. The ST Racing duo of Auberlen and Choksey also put in a solid drive to finish third in the Pro class and third overall behind two Porsches, repeating the same finishing order as race one.

Justin Rothberg also had a good weekend in the GT America series with the #29 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 (GT America is a sprint race series with single drivers and no pit stops). Rothberg finished fourth in the SR03 GT3 class in race one behind a pair of Mercedes and an Audi, but then drove to a third-place podium finish in race two behind a Mercedes and an Audi. In the GT4 class, Nicholas Shanny finished fourth in both races in the Carrus Callus Raceteam M4 GT4.

The Fanatec GT World Challenge and GT America series will compete next at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on the weekend of May 17th-19th.

—David Haueter

[Photos courtesy SRO]




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