TR3 Racing’s Kenton Koch and Daniel Morad were able to hold off a charge from Bill Auberlen to win Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Race No. 1 Saturday (June 17) at VIRginia International Raceway. It is the team’s first win of the season.
“I was looking forward to an easy race. Kenton [Koch] had a 10-second lead, then he made me sweat,” Morad told SRO America’s Amanda Busick after the race. “While the race was a little…adversity-filled, we were able to deliver the first win of the year [for TR3 Racing].”
Koch and Morad’s margin of victory was .753 seconds over Auberlen and Chandler Hull. Crowdstrike Racing with Riley Motorsports’ Colin Braun and George Kurtz where third, followed by MDK Motorsports’ Trenton Estep and Seth Lucas. ST Racing’s Samantha Tan and Neil Verhagen were fifth.
In the Pro class, Koch and Morad defeated Auberlen and Hull. Estep and Lucas were third, then Conquest Racing’s Alessandro Balzan and Manny Franco. Rennsport One’s Eric Filguerias and Stevan McAleer were fifth.
It should be noted that the TR3 Racing Mercedes does not normally race in the Pro class. Regular driver Ziad Ghandour had a conflict that forced him to miss the weekend. Hiring Koch to replace him resulted in the team moving up to the Pro class just for the weekend.
Koch started from pole in his Mercedes and drove well early on to hold off Kurtz. The goal for Koch was to try to drive away from the pack as much as possible ahead of the mid-race pit stops.
Further back, there was some trouble to be had. Turner Motorsport’s Vin Barletta, making his series debut, spun in turn 5 in the opening laps. Later on, Wright Motorsports’ Charlie Luck spun and hit the tires in the Oak Tree turn. Both drivers were able to continue.
Twenty minutes into the race, Koch had a 10-second lead. However, once Hull was able to get past Kurtz, he began to cut into Koch’s advantage. The lead dropped to seven seconds before Hull’s tires dropped off, allowing Koch to expand his lead again.
Koch pitted with an eight-second lead, but stopped in the wrong pit box at first. As a result, when Morad came out of the pits, he had Auberlen all but on his tail.
Half a lap after leaving the pits, Morad went off-course in the Oak Tree turn. That allowed Auberlen to take the lead.
Auberlen may be the King of BMWs, but he’s not infallible. A couple of laps later, Auberlen caught the curb in turn 5 and shot off the road. That allowed Morad to re-take the lead.
After the excursions, Morad settled into a small lead over Auberlen. Pro-Am leader Colin Braun was able to run down the leaders to make it a three-man duel.
Morad was able to stabilize a small advantage over Auberlen with 15 minutes to go. He was able to hold onto that gap to take the win.
In Pro-Am, Kurtz started from the pole in class and tried to keep up early with Koch. That didn’t exactly work out, but it did give him a decent lead over Adam Adelson.
Kurtz did have to deal with Hull. Fresh off of Le Mans, Hull raced Kurtz hard for second overall. After a couple of laps, Hull was able to get past.
Right as Hull took the spot away, Adelson cut his left rear tire and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop. That moved Tan up to second, but more than 17 seconds behind. Justin Wetherill and Jeff Burton gave chase, but Burton fell back after a spin a few minutes before the mid-race pit stops.
Once Braun got in the Crowdstrike Mercedes, all he had to do was maintain the advantage over series debutant Verhagen in the ST Racing BMW.
Morad and Kurtz were easily able to hold on for the win. The margin of victory was 19.202 seconds over Tan and Verhagen. Triarsi Competizione’s Wetherill and Ryan Dalziel were third in their Ferrari, then The Racers Group’s Derek DeBoer and Valentin Hasse-Clot. RealTime Racing’s Adam Christodoulou and Anthony Bartone were fifth.
Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Race No. 2 from VIR is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon on the GT World YouTube channel. Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley will start from the overall pole.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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