Smooge Racing, BimmerWorld, and The Heart of Racing Team Claim Race 1 Wins at Sonoma Raceway

Smooge Racing, BimmerWorld, and The Heart of Racing Team Claim Race 1 Wins at Sonoma Raceway
  • Smooge Racing Solidifies Silver and Overall Victory
  • BimmerWorld On the Top Step in Pro-Am
  • The Heart of Racing Team Clinch Am Class Win
  • Final Results

The Pirelli GT4 America Race 1 concluded Sonoma Raceway Protected by CrowdStrike’s first day of racing. The impressive field of 28 cars across three classes took the start of the race late in the afternoon. 

2023 Toyota GR Cup Champion Tyler Gonzalez and teammate John Geesbreght co-commanded the No. 68 Smooge Racing Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Supra GT4 EVO to the overall and Silver Class win in what was an action-packed race. The Pro-Am Class win was clinched by the No. 82 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4 of Tyle McQuarrie and James Walker Jr. Hannah Grisham and Hannah Greenemeier had a stellar race, putting their No. 26 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 in first place in the Am Class with only a few minutes to go in the race. 

Silver Class

The Silver Class had no shortage of action, with highly intense battles unfolding for each and every position from the moment the green flag waved. It was an all-Nissan front row start, but it was John Geesbreght who took advantage in his No. 68 Smooge Racing Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Supra GT4 EVO to further gain a position and slot himself into second early on as the No. 23 TechSport Racing Nissan Z NISMO GT4 of Jonathan Neudorf ran wide. 

The battle continued to heat up even more as the pit window opened, with over half the field opting to complete their driver changes at the first opportunity. As the pit cycles were completed, it was Tyler Gonzalez who emerged in the lead. 

However, he was not alone, as Kenton Koch and Zac Anderson were hot on his tail in the No. 97 Random Vandals Racing and No. 51 AutoTechnic Racing BMW M4 GT4. They were separated by the finest of margins, at times going three-wide into corners in search of any possible way to pass. Despite the surmounting pressure, Gonzalez remained calm and collected, unfazed by the threats closing in from behind. 

He went on to clinch the win in his first-ever race in the series, with Kenton Koch in the No. 97 car and Michai Stephens aboard the No. 23 machine completing the podium. 

“There's so many people that have helped me get here,” exclaimed Tyler Gonzalez. “I just can't thank all of them enough. Obviously Smooge Racing, my teammate John, Toyota, TRD, TD2, all these programs that have made me a driver today. We're here for the championship, so hopefully we can get it done. We’re off to a pretty good start!” 

Gonzalez had pressure from Kenton Koch, who was breathing down his neck during the race; “The benchmarkers definitely played a role, but I just kept cool. I mean, this Toyota Supra was on rails all day, I knew I had the car to do it.” 

“So many things went right today,” added John Geesbreght. “Tyler drove his tail off. Toyota, Smooge Racing, everybody helped us get here. I honestly didn't think we'd be going in for the win today, but opportunities kept presenting themselves, and we kept taking them. Our team executed, and we did a good job, so congratulations to everyone as we head on to more wins.” 

Additionally, Jake Cowden and Demi Chalkias earned the Super Fuel Hard Charger Award after gaining a total of 12 positions in the No. 34 JMF Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4. 

Pro-Am Class

The fight for the Pro-Am Class lead was unrelenting, starting off with James Walker Jr. in the top spot on board the No. 82 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4, defending from Michael Auriemma in the No. 89 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 and Gray Newell in the No. 24 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4. 

Auriemma soon found himself immersed in a tight battle with Matt Bell in the No. 43 P1 Groupe Mercedes-AMG GT4, exchanging positions often before the pit window opened. 

There was no room for error between them all, keeping each other honest lap after lap before handing over their machines to their teammates, who picked up right where they left off. 

It was Roman De Angelis who was the first to strike, waiting for the perfect opportunity to further gain a position as he moved up to second in his Heart of Racing Team car ahead of Matheus Leist in the No. 89 Mercedes. With just over 10 minutes remaining, he then set his sights on Tyler McQuarrie just ahead. 

The two were separated by less than a second as the time ticked away, but McQuarrie crossed the finish line to clinch the Race 1 win for BimmerWorld. De Angelis finished just behind in second place, with Leist securing the final spot on the podium, in addition to picking up the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap Award. 

“We lost the championship last year by one point, so we're on a mission,” explained Tyler McQuarrie. “This is an amazing start and it got us in a really good position. This is my home track, this is where I grew up. I remember sitting on the hill up there and thinking ‘you have got to make this work and be a driver.’ So it’s always good to win here, and to start the season like this, when we needed some redemption.” 

“Last year, we knew we were so close,” echoed James Walker Jr. “We knew we had the package under us. We picked up right where we left off. We are ready for this season.” 

Am Class

The action never stopped in the Am Class, building up to a nail-biter of a finish between three different teams. 

The No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4 had the early advantage, but Hannah Grisham had her sights set on the top spot. As she edged closer and closer in her No. 26 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4, she gradually began to apply more pressure on James Clay sitting just ahead. 

As the final minutes of the race approached, she pressured Clay heading into Turn 9, completing the overtake to move into the class lead before going on to extend a larger gap in the last remaining laps. Meanwhile, Kris Wilson also took advantage of the situation, moving his No. 98 Random Vandals Racing BMW M4 GT4 up into second position on the final lap, relegating Clay to third.  

“I think we gel really nicely together,” expressed Hannah Greenemeier. “We both want to win a lot. Hannah (Grisham) has been pushing me and helping me so much and I can't thank her enough. She made an amazing pass at the end. I just want to thank everybody at the Heart of Racing Team for all their hard work.” 

Referring to her on-track battle with James Clay, Hannah Grisham added; “He did not make it easy on me! I was trying to plan out where I wanted to make the pass and that's where I thought I would try to put it in there. So, it worked out well. Hannah (Greenemeier) did amazing. This is only her second-ever sports car race and she did phenomenally well. I'm really excited to see what kind of progress we can make this year. There’s not much farther up we can go from here, but I want to keep this momentum into the rest of the season and hopefully win a championship.”

Let’s Get Racing

The Pirelli GT4 America field will return for Race 2 on Sunday, April 7th at 10:55 AM PDT. 

If you can’t make it to Sonoma, be sure to tune-in to SRO’s free livestreams all weekend long on YouTube (GTWorld) and Twitch (SROMotorsports) and follow all the action through our social media channels and the event hashtag #GTSonoma.