International GT Season Opening Thriller at Sebring

International GT Season Opening Thriller at Sebring

09.03.2019: As most of the country battled record frigid weather, International GT’s season opening race in Sebring, Florida experienced summer like temps. The great weather translated into fantastic racing on track too. There were very closely contested bat

As most of the country battled record frigid weather, International GT’s season opening race in Sebring, Florida experienced summer like temps. 

The great weather translated into fantastic racing on track too. There were very closely contested battles in every category however, a clean sweep, winning all three races of the weekend was seen in Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy 3.8 liter with 2017 season champion TOM PANK racing for Ultra Performance. 

MARK BODEN took home second in both sprint races, while Fall-Line Motorsports teammate TOM HERB would finish in third in sprint race 2. JEFFREY FREEMAN traveled from Washington to join the series and took home a third in sprint race 1.  Sunday’s enduro saw lots of great racing throughout the field and in the 3.8 liter category second went to first time International GT competitor CHARLES SMITHEE and the final podium position to series veteran ROBERT WISEN.


For the first time International GT hosted a GT4R category at Sebring, and taking up where they left off last year, ROB BLAKE and JUAN LOPEZ-SANTINI dominated the weekend!  However, there is a twist to the story as this year they were each in their own separate car instead of co-driving with each other. The two would split overall race win honors with Juan winning both sprint races and Rob teaming up with ELLIOTT SKEER to win the enduro overall.

In the GT4R category MATT JOFFE gave Blake and Lopez-Santini a great run rounding out the podium in all three races, including the enduro where he teamed with LONNIE PECHNIK.  Pechnik would pull double duty in the enduro where he also teamed with MARK GREENBERG to win the Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy 4 liter category!  Mark had a perfect weekend, winning not only the enduro but also both sprint races in the 4 liter class. 

Joffe and Greenberg were supported by a new team to IGT, Extreme Performance.  A competitor that we usually see each year at Mid Ohio, came out in a new car to Sebring this year.  JOHN HIGGINS, a past 12-Hour of Sebring winner, worked on learning the technology and handling of his 2017 4 liter car and found success finishing second to Greenberg in all three races on the weekend and sharing the enduro driving with teammate JIM FARLEY.

In the Mission Food GT3 Cup Trophy 3.6 liter category, BRAD WAITE had a great weekend scoring a pair of second place finishes in the two sprint races and taking the win in the enduro.  Brad would be sandwiched by the father and son team of JACK and PHIL GILSDORF in both sprint races. 

Son, Phil won both sprint races, while father, Jack rounded out the podium taking third in both sprints.  Based in the Atlanta area, both Jack and Phil are looking forward to the next round of the series when International GT will take the track at Road Atlanta, March 29-31, 2019.



The last time we saw ROB COHEN in International GT competition was at Sebring a couple years ago in a GT3 Cup car, however Rob rejoined the series for the season opener this year in a Cayman Clubsport winning both sprint races.  It was great to have Rob back and he’s already entered the next round at Road Atlanta!!


Maranello Cup competition saw their largest field in series history and also enjoyed great battles on track.  New to International GT and just 14-years-old (bringing the average age of IGT drivers down significantly) was racing phenom, GIANO TAURINO.  Driving in an F430, Giano took overall Maranello Cup wins in both sprint races. Giano was supported by new series sponsor TM Performance. In the F458 category, ROB METKA rejoined International GT competition, winning the first sprint race and Sunday’s enduro.

We’re used to seeing BEN JOHNSTON racing in a white Porsche with a psychedelic hood in the Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy category but for Sebring Ben brought out his new red 458 Ferrari and took home his first win ever in IGT competition, winning Maranello Cup sprint race 2. 

Congratulations Ben!!  The sole representative from Norwood Auto Italia this event, COLIN COHEN had a great weekend, taking home a pair of second place finishes in the two sprint races.  Another newcomer to International GT, joining us from his home in Canada, was NICK FERRARO who teamed up with his brother TONY FERRARO to take third in the enduro, while Nick also finished third in the second sprint race.  Although GREG GRIFFIN struggled with mechanical gremlins in his Ferrari, he co-drove with JOHN PATRICK MULLANEY to a thrilling second in the enduro. 


The race recap wouldn’t be complete without mentioning another newcomer to International GT competition,  ALEX WELCH.  However, the fact that Alex is new to the series is not the story here, it’s that Alex raced a very fast Audi R8.  He had a great time mixing it up with all the Porsches and Ferraris and gave Juan Lopez-Santini a strong run for overall honors in both sprint races.

Alex was scored as “exhibition” but it’s his hope (and ours) that he can entice other Audis to join him and create a new category for International GT competition.  His car was certainly the talk of the paddock with many coming over to check it out throughout the weekend.  


Next Up For International GT  Road Atlanta  on March 28-31



- Julie Bentley - photos Chuck Andereson, Robert Kerr


09.03.2019 / MaP

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