Mercedes-AMG, Porsche, BMW claim GT4 America class wins in first Sebring race

The first of two races for Pirelli GT4 America at Sebring International Raceway finished with green flag racing from flag to flag, with a frantic four-wide start kicking off the race and close battles inside the top ten in the final moments.

The No. 35 Mercedes-AMG driven by Colin Mullan and Michai Stephens claimed victory at Sebring for Conquest Racing West, after Mullan passed Toby Grahovec in the second half of the race. The No. 35 Mercedes-AMG won overall as well as in the Silver Class, beating class rivals in the No. 72 Mercedes-AMG of Christian Szymczak and Kenny Murillo, and the No. 11 BMW M4 of Toby Grahovec and Stevan McAleer.

In Pro-Am, the No. 47 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CLUBSPORT MR driven by Matt Travis and Jason Hart finished where they started for NOLASPORT, second overall and first in class. They defeated the No. 54 Porsche of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tim Pappas in their Black Swan Racing Pro-Am entry, who finished second in class, and the No. 119 BMW M4 of Sean Quinlan and Gregory Liefooghe with Steven Cameron Racing.

The No. 98 BMW M4 of Al Carter and Paul Sparta snagged the Am class victory for Random Vandals Racing, ahead of the No. 16 Mercedes-AMG from Capstone Motorsports with Jon Berry and Kris Wilson behind the wheel and the No. 68 Toyota Supra GR of John Geesbrecht and Kevin Conway with Smooge Racing.

The opening lap of the 60-minute race featured a frantic four-wide dash to the first of Sebring International Raceway’s seventeen corners. The 20-car field completed the first lap without incident, with the No. 11 BMW of McAleer scooting away from the rest of the field. The No. 47 Porsche of Matt Travis and Michai Stephens in the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG set chase to the No. 11 BMW.

Deeper in the field, the No. 52 BMW M4 of Tom Capizzi fought with the No. 22 BMW of Tim Barber for 11th, while the No. 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Paul Terry drove forward nine spots in the opening laps before suffering an issue that would drop him to the rear of the field. Back at the front, the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG of Stephens passed the No. 47 NOLASPORT Porsche for 2nd prior to the pit sequence. With just minutes remaining until the pit window, the No. 36 BMW of James Clay, No. 16 Mercedes-AMG of Kris Wilson, and the No. 72 of Kenny Murillo fought nose-to-tail for 4th place.

After the pit window opened with 35 minutes remaining, the No. 46 Porsche of David Walker nosed into the tire barriers at turn 15, but was able to extract the car and return to pit lane to fix minor front end damage. The race leader, still the No. 11 of McAleer, pit with 30 minutes to go, returning to the track ahead of the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG and the No. 47 Porsche. But with 18 minutes to go, the No. 11 BMW, now driven by Toby Grahovec, lost the lead to the No. 35 (now driven by Colin Mullan) in turn 13, with a late dive on the brakes. The No. 47 Porsche, with Jason Hart behind the wheel, would go on to pass Grahovec as well, eventually placing second.

In the closing moments of the race, the No. 52 of John Capestro-Dubets made contact with the No. 619 of Robb Todd, driving for Stephen Cameron Racing. The contact drew a drive-through penalty for the No. 52 BMW, dropping Capestro-Dubets to 21st position.

Pirelli GT4 America Race 2 is Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and will air live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.