St. PETERSBURG, Florida – Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing team Riley Motorsports and driver George Kurtz came home winners in their first SRO GT America powered by AWS race weekend together with a victory at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday. After a third place GT3 and overall finish in Friday’s opening race, Kurtz took control of Saturday’s second and final 40-minute sprint of the weekend from the start for a flag-to-flag victory on the 1.8-mile street and airport runway circuit. Kurtz’s victory anchored a successful weekend of season-opening SRO competition for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams that included a pair of Masters Class victories by David Askew in the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, five total podium finishes and a GT4 class pole in qualifying.
Kurtz’s Saturday win also led a Mercedes-AMG motorsport customer team one-two sweep with Scott Smithson crossing the finish line in the No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 just 4.755 seconds behind Kurtz.
In Friday’s race, Smithson held second from his outside front-row starting position from the drop of the green flag and staved off a persistent challenge from Kurtz throughout the race for a second-place finish.
Kurtz took Friday’s checkered flag in third but his fastest race lap in the 40-minute sprint put him on pole for Saturday’s finale. He took a lead he wouldn’t lose at the race start but the going wasn’t as easy for Smithson.
Just behind Kurtz and the other leaders heading into Turn1, Smithson planned to hug the inside of the corner but was forced to the outside when a multiple-car melee unfolded just in front. Smithson avoided contact but was in sixth place by the time he gathered his car up and got back up to speed.
Undeterred, Smithson spent the remainder of the race steadily climbing up the running order. He finally moved to second in the late stages but never had a chance to mount a challenge for the victory before time ran out.
Askew not only swept the Masters victories but also battled in the overall top five Friday and Saturday. He finished just behind Smithson and Kurtz in fourth overall on Friday and completed the overall top five in fifth place on Saturday.
The GT America GT4 class saw Chris Gumprecht break through for a career-best second-place finish in his No. 79 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 on Saturday. The runner-up showing was Gumprecht’s second career podium appearance after finishing third in a GT4 Sprint race in his SRO debut at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) in 2020.
The early GT4 pacesetter was Chris Cagnazzi in his No. 39 Stephen Cameron Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Cagnazzi won the GT4 pole for Friday’s opening round only to be eliminated in a contact incident in that day’s race just after taking the green flag. Cagnazzi was uninjured but his car sustained too much damage to continue and was retired for the weekend.
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams in the SRO GT America powered by AWS competition is Rounds 3 and 4 of the series at Sonoma Raceway, April 15 – 17. The Sonoma weekend also marks the season debut for both the SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS and Pirelli GT4 America SprintX series.
George Kurtz, Driver – No. 04 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “This is great. The Riley Motorsports guys did a great job and gave me a great car. We felt we had speed but qualifying didn’t go our way with some issues. Once we were in front today, we were able to extend the gap and drive away. It’s a testament to the team and the hard work we put in during the offseason. I’m very happy with coming away with a podium yesterday and the win today. I love the Mercedes-AMG GT3. It’s a great car for a multitude of tracks. It took us a few of sessions to just get the right setup, and we came into today with a couple of changes that made the difference. You could see the results as we were able to drive away and starting out front was critical. At St. Pete or any street course, it’s really difficult to pass. We were smart in traffic, we got out in the lead with a great start, and we never looked back.”
Scott Smithson, Driver – No. 08 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was kind of mayhem in the first corner Saturday. My vision was to pop to the inside, but there was carnage all around me and I ended up having to go outside. A bunch of cars, even some GT4 cars, got inside me. It was a lot of work to catch back up, but I finally got there. It was a hard-fought second today, but the Mercedes-AMG GT3 felt awesome, DXDT Racing is awesome – they are such a great group – and I love this series too. It’s a lot of fun. We got our car to where we needed it this weekend to the point, I am really comfortable with the balance. I am really looking forward to the season.”
David Askew, Driver – No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: “I love street racing and love a street race venue with all the access. It gets me energized to see all the fans and see all of their smiles. This year our watchword is ‘focus’ and we are a smaller, leaner and meaner group. We are focusing just on the performance of the cars and the drivers, and I think it showed at this event. We were fast out of the blocks, had good pace, had good cars and everything worked flawlessly. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a superior piece of machinery, and it is a pleasure running it. We have been running it for years and have a great relationship with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing. With all of the tremendous support they give us, I think we have a real good chance to take a championship this year and that’s what we are after.”
Chris Gumprecht, Driver – No. 79 RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4: “I really needed this. I had so many misses last year and never made it to the podium, but I feel I can do even better than this. I hope there is more of this to come. I want to take this as far as I can go. I love the Mercedes-AMG GT4. It is just incredible, I love the platform, love the car and love RENNtech. Everything was just fantastic. This was my first street course race, but I was here in 2020 when the stewards came around on Friday and told us to go home because of the onset of COVID-19. Just before today’s race, my number one mechanic said, ‘it’s good to see the crowds back’ and I said, ‘you took the words right out of my mouth.’ It’s great to be here, fantastic weekend and a huge learning experience.”