Newport Beach resident James Sofronas nearly took the crown at this year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach by finishing second in the Pirelli World Challenge, the last race of the event.
His second-place finish was his third consecutive podium visit for Sofronas who finished second and third in the season’s previous races in Florida.
Sofronas has four career World Challenge victories which came at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2008, followed by the Long Beach Grand Prix and Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Ca, in 2009 and Mid-Ohio in 2010. For the championship, he finished fourth in 2008, second in 2009, and third in 2010.
Sofronas won the event in Long Beach last year in what he called a “hometown win” and had high hopes this year, but was very satisfied with his second place finish. He was fourth fastest during his practices before the race and his Global Motorsports Group had five cars entered in the World Challenge premier GT class.
Despite an early setback in the recent Long Beach race, Sofronas got back on track to nearly edge out Huntington Beach’s Brandon Davis.
During the first lap, the Global Motorsports Group owner lost control of his GMG Porsche 911 GT3 and exited the course on the final corner, the eleventh. The near 2-mile course threw everything it had at Sofronas and he dropped all the way to eighth from his starting position of fifth before eventually climbing his way back to take second.
He made it heartbreakingly close towards the end as he was only 2.7 seconds behind Davis when he took over second place and closed the gap to just under 0.4 seconds in two laps but he failed to get any closer the rest of the way. Davis eventually won by 2.4 seconds, but had Sofronas in his rearview for quite a while.
Oddly enough, Sofronas had no idea he was challenging Davis for the lead during the 31-lap race since he had no radio contact with his team but said he couldn’t have driven any harder than he did. He managed to gain 113 points and the second place finish also cemented his position in second in the GT Championship trailing leader Patrick Long 417-346. The 2011 championship season got started back on March 26-27 in St. Petersburg, Fla, where Long won both races there and jumped out to an early lead in the championship.
Another Newport Beach driver, 25-year resident Brent Holden, also a member of Sofronas’ GMG team, ompleted six laps but dropped out early with a wheel failure, finishing 16th in the GT and 34th overall.