With the champions in each of the three Pirelli GT4 America driver categories moving on to other things, Silver, Pro-Am and Am will all have new champions for the 2022 season that kicks off at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. With the number of heavy hitters on the pro side of the equation, Silver and Pro-Am could feature some stellar battles.
For those not familiar with the driver categories for the 60-minute, two-driver races, they are based on FIA driver ratings, which, in descending order, are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, Platinum drivers aren’t allowed in GT4 America, leaving the other ratings. Silver is for a pair of Silver-rated drivers. Pro-Am is a Gold or Silver pro driver paired with a Bronze-rated driver, and Am is for a pair of Bronze drivers.
Last year’s Silver champs, Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak, won’t be returning, leaving the category wide open. In the latter half of last season, Conquest West with Michai Stephens and Colin Mullan were near unstoppable in the races they contested. Conquest Racing/JMF Motorsports is coming back with Stephens, now joined by Canadian Gavin Sanders in a Mercedes-AMG. Eric Bachelart’s outfit fields good cars, and Stephens is a proven winner, so this could be a formidable partnership. Conquest Racing will be fielding another Mercedes for Silver pair Josh Hurley and Manny Franco.
They’ll be joined in the Silver category by last year’s Am champions, John Geesbreght and Kevin Conway in the Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 — one of six Supras entered for Sonoma — along with Auto Technic’s Austen Smith and Zack Anderson in a BMW M4 GT4.
The Pro-Am category will once again make up the bulk of the GT4 America field, 23 of the 41 cars entered for Sonoma. Matt Travis won’t be returning to the seat of the NOLASPORT Porsche he shared with Jason Hart, but Hart will be doing his best to defend the title with Scott Noble. Of the teams returning intact, it would be hard to ignore Bryan Putt and Kenton Koch, who finished second in the championship in 2021 in the BSport Aston Martin Vantage.
“Bryan made pretty big leaps and bounds and our team, we’ve made leaps and bounds as a program from one year to the next,” says Koch, who does double duty as team manager and is also racing in Europe this season. “The second half of last year, Bryan really kind of picked it up and started to be a bit more consistent, have the pace — and it showed when we won at VIR. Bryan’s going to get even more seat time this year by doing GT America, so I think we will at least be in the hunt.”
As for which teams will make it difficult for Koch and Putt, there are many. In fact, GT4 America Pro-Am just might be a handicapper’s worst nightmare. Stevan McAleer and Eric Filgueras, who won GS in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona in January, are teaming up in an RS1 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport — the latest version of the Cayman GT4 which has looked indeed formidable. Guy Cosmo joins Chris Cagnazzi in a Cameron Racing Mercedes-AMG. Rapha Matos with Tim Horrell in a Fast Track BMW M4 … these are a few of the names that jump out at first glance.
So, to break it down by ride, in alphabetical order … There is still one lone Audi R8 LMS GT4, with Tom Dyer making his SRO America return to partner Mark Siegel in a CarBahn with Peregrine Racing entry. Joining Putt and Koch in Aston Martins are Andy Lee and Elias Sabo, moving to the marque and to Flying Lizard. Ian James and Gray
Newell return for Heart of Racing, and Andrew Davis and Justin Bell continue in a GMG entry. Ross Chouest and Aaron Povoledo move to Aston as well.
In the BMW camp, former Pro-Am champ Gregory Liefooghe is teaming up with Damon Surzyshyn in a Fast Track car, an effort that will be documented on Surzyshyn’s “Going Pro SRO America” series. Auto Technic is bringing a car for each class, with Tom Capizzi and John Capestro-Dubets the Pro-Am pairing. James Walker Jr., a winner last season with Bill Auberlen, now has Devin Jones partnering him in a Bimmerworld entry.
It appears only a single McLaren will be in for the season, with Thomas Surgent partnering with British racer Michael O’Brien in a 570S. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 remains a popular choice, no surprise as it was the mount of choice for last year’s Silver champions. Cole Ciraulo is moving to Capstone Motorsports’ car with Kris Wilson under the Snow Brothers Racing banner, and this could be a formidable pairing; but so will Kyle Marcelli joining Chris Gumprecht in the RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG.
Porsche updated its Cayman GT4 with the introduction of the RS street model, and the RS Clubsport looks to be even better than the already capable and race-winning Clubsport MR. Very quick Porsche test driver Lars Kern is partnering with newcomer Anderson Tanoto; the Indonesian businessman has been competing in GT World Challenge Asia for a couple of years under the Absolute Racing banner. Adam Adelson is partnering with Elliott Skeer in a Premier Racing Clubsport MR.
The Toyota Supra presence will triple from 2021. Smooge Racing brings a second entry for Todd Coleman and Aaron Telitz, the former open-wheel standout and now one of the pilots in Lexus’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD program. Justin Piscitell, a former MX-5 Cup champ, is driving with Moisey Uretsky in an Accelerating Performance entry, and Dexter Racing switches to the Toyota, with Ryan Dexter joined by Dominic Starkweather, a quick club racer moving into GT4 after a couple of entries last year.
In the Am category, there’s a few drivers of the “Wait, he’s a Bronze?” category that stand out, starting with Thomas Merrill, a winner in Trans-Am TA2, partnering with Alain Stad in new NOLASPORT Cayman GT4 RS. Then there’s Terry Borcheller making his return, joining Nick Shanny in an Accelerating Performance Supra, not to mention former Touring Car champ Johan Schwartz teaming with Todd Brown in the return of Rooster Hall Racing.
There are a couple of other Am entries of note, the first being a new Ginetta G56 fielded by Dexter Racing for Matt Rivard and Ben Anderson. Derek DeBoer is re-teaming with Jason Alexandridis in The Racer’s Group Cayman GT4 RS that will feature an unmissable livery by artist Robert Williams. Finally, there’s the team with the best logo and sense of humor in the paddock, Paul Sparta’s Random Vandals Racing, once again with co-driver Al Carter in a BMW M4.
Like other SRO Motorsports America series, All Pirelli GT4 America races will be live-streamed on both YouTube (GTWorld) and Twitch (SROMotorsports). The season kicks off this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, with a race at 4:55 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, followed by Race 2 on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.