GT World Challenge America: Round 1 Sonoma in Pictures
SRO's GT World Challenge series came to picturesque Sonoma Raceway and provided spectacular multi-class racing of all your favorite cars.
With this coming weekend's race at the Circuit of the Americas, it's a good time to revisit the prior round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America at the scenic Sonoma Raceway for a quick series prep and why you should watch it (psst: all races are streamed on Youtube for FREE, links at the end).
Sporting organizer SRO runs some of the best GT racing on the planet. With the formerly known and amazing Blancpain GT Series evolving into the GT World Challenge Europe, SRO now has multiple spinoff series running simultaneously in America, Asia, and Australia. Featuring GT3 machinery in the premier classes, it's a global spectacle of all your favorite cars in racing form. GT3 racing itself developed from the FIA GT3 Championship of the late 2000s, itself the understudy of the GT1 and GT2 cars of yesteryear, but now with more manufacturer involvement than either of the former classes ever saw, GT3 has become a leader in diversity and talent behind the wheel. GT3 has come so far as to even replace GTLM in the IMSA WeatherTech Series starting next year with a new Pro class for GT3 cars.
For your viewing pleasure, I've attached over 100 of my favorite shots in this article from this most fabulous weekend of motorsport.
This spring, I was lucky enough to attend and photograph the first race of the year for the GT World Challenge America series at Sonoma Raceway (also still widely called Sears Point or Infineon Raceway) for my first taste of the series. But, it's not only just GT3 racing here in the states as there are several support series filling the paddock each race weekend. Along with the headlining series, there's also the newer GT America, featuring a shorter sprint format with a single driver and fields both GT3 and GT4 cars. GT4 America is a format for only GT4 cars and has two drivers in each entry for a one hour race distance. The racing is rather intense as the field is huge and the balance of performance ensures any car can take top honors. Typical cars include Aston Martin Vantages, McLaren 570S, Audi R8s, Porsche Caymans, BMW M4s, and Toyota Supras. GT4 cars have far less aggressive aero compared to their big-brother GT3 counterparts and make less power as well and closely resemble the road-going vehicles they're based on.
The TC America class runs cars built to TCR spec, or the same as in the FIA World Touring Car Cup. Also a sprint race with single drivers, cars are much more similar to what you see on the road everyday, with Honda Civics, BMW 2-series, Toyota 86s, and even a couple Nissan 370Zs. Skip Barber's Formula 4 series also follows along with their own series to bring open-wheel single seaters into the mix. Each series has two races per weekend, with one on Saturday and the second coming Sunday.
And then of course the headliner, GT World Challenge America: all GT3 cars with two drivers each and a one hour race distance. All the present racing leagues attract a wonderful crop of current sports car racing drivers, with legends like Bill Auberlen competing in a BMW GT4 car, Bathurst 12-hour winner Jordan Pepper and Blancpain Series champion Andrea Caldarelli teaming up in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, IMSA champion Colin Braun and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Ryan Dalziel each in Mercedes AMG GT3s, and Le Mans and Nurburgring 24 winner Jeroen Bleekemolen in a Porsche Cayman. That's just a taste of some of the talent that these race weekends attract.
After such a long and weird 2020 that saw most racing delayed to summer or later, it's refreshing to have track action back on a regular schedule in 2021. The thrill of standing only mere feet from angry, snarling racing cars carries an emotion that I had not forgotten; Not much else comes close to the rush! While Sonoma Raceway is a venue I've frequented at least dozen times in my life, I've never been to the rolling hills of wine country in the spring, and it made me wish spring could last all year here in Northern California. Instead of the dead and brown grass, dirt, and heat of summer when Nascar runs here, Sonoma in the spring is greeted by beautiful green grass and daisies more reminiscent of a track in a far different time zone. As a photographer, it allowed me the chance to create some of my favorite and most artistic shots ever in my short career as a racing photographer. Also, the morning and late afternoon light was amazing to play with and utilize, making for epic and dramatic shots of backlit racing cars with the tarmac seemingly glowing like silver and gold.
My favorite cars from any series here? It has to be the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, made particularly exciting by the lime green livery of the K-Pax racing entry that would go on to win both rounds of the World Challenge America. The look of a Lamborghini with even more outrageous bodywork plus a big wing is hard to resist. Oh, and the diabolical V10 scream has to be heard to be believed. If you think seeing one go by you on the motorway in normal life is an event, it doesn't compare to one at full-chat blazing by at over 100 MPH and only a few feet from you. More of that, please! The Porsche GT3R is quite epic, too, with the howling flat six rattling ear drums all across the track.
While the Sonoma race is already relatively old, occuring last month, each series described and pictured here is racing again this coming weekend, April 30-May 2 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, home of the current United States Formula 1 Grand Prix. You can stream live and also watch all past races here https://www.youtube.com/gtworld/featured and for FREE. And here is a link to all sessions from Sonoma https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnnFwnhryIkQKI1JSRd_PoKjiWus7aHrC.
Perhaps the biggest victory of SRO is in the accessibility of the racing by bringing it to the entire world on YouTube, whereas many others require costly subscriptions. Thank you SRO for bringing the exciting world of GT racing to the states and putting on another great show for race fans all over.
Have a favorite photo(s)? DM me if you'd like to purchase full-resolution downloads.