SONOMA, California (April 3, 2023) – Following a successful GT America powered by AWS debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, RealTime Racing added a Fanatec GT World Challenge America program to its docket. After four races at Sonoma Raceway last weekend, RealTime came away with three first-place trophies.
With the addition of the GT World Challenge America program, RealTime pared down its GT America effort to one car for Anthony Bartone and used its second Mercedes AMG GT3 for Bartone and Andy Pilgrim to share in the endurance format of GT World Challenge.
Now the sole GT America entry for RealTime, Bartone qualified well for both races, but for Race 1 on Saturday, the team changed tires on the pre-grid, which forced the No. 427 Mercedes to start from the back of the GT3 field.
In the 40-minute race, Bartone was able to climb to a fifth-place finish without the aid of any full-course caution periods.
“I would say that Saturday, when I had to let the whole field by (on the formation lap), I was in the marbles and everybody was getting time to scrub and get heat in the tires and brakes,” Bartone said. “I think because of that I was on the back foot the whole time.”
That was not the case for Sunday’s GT America race, where Bartone was in attack mode from the drop of the green flag.
Starting fifth, Bartone had a trio of more experienced drivers in Mercedes ahead of him: Jason Daskalos, Memo Gidley and George Kurtz. After 15 minutes, Daskalos was in his rear-view mirrors. Five minutes later, he dispatched Gidley.
Defending champion Kurtz proved to be a much tougher opponent. Bartone took several looks but couldn’t quite make anything stick. With less than seven minutes remaining in the race, a car in a different class made contact with the tires and came to a stop. Knowing the safety car would soon be deployed, Bartone made his move on Kurtz just before the full-course yellow was issued. It was expert timing, as the race would ultimately end under yellow.
Though he crossed the finish line second, the first-place car did not pass post-race technical inspection and Bartone’s runner-up finish became an outright victory.
“Yesterday I think the penalty set me back a bit and I was trying to move up the field but at a certain point I didn’t feel like I was capable of catching the front of the field 30 seconds ahead,” said Bartone. “We made some adjustments overnight and the car felt better underneath me through the whole race. I would say that the pace came from an overall team effort and the car felt great throughout the whole stint.
“In the first 15 minutes I was behind Jason [Daskalos] and he was doing a really good job,” Bartone said. “I didn’t know if I could get him, but then I started to feel like his car wasn’t as underneath him as mine was. That’s just a testament to the team and the engineers that we had a car that could go the distance. Once I made that pass, I thought ‘okay, next one up,’ and eventually I caught Memo [Gidley]. We just seemed more hooked up than everybody. I thought ‘we can do this,’ and I kept moving up.”
It is Bartone’s first victory in GT3 equipment in only his fourth race.
In the pair of 90-minute GT World Challenge America races, Bartone and Pilgrim scored the Am-category win driving RealTime’s No. 43 Mercedes. This brought the win total to three on the weekend.
“It was a solid weekend, no doubt about it,” Pilgrim said. “An excellent weekend. Anthony did a superb job, I must say. He’s like a sponge. These young drivers, you tell them something once and they figure it out very quickly. He’s been doing a tremendous amount of simulator work and he’s learning so fast.”
With two race weekends in the books, RealTime leads the AM-category points in GT World Challenge America and is third in the GT America point standings.
“Sonoma was another fantastic event for RealTime,” team owner Peter Cunningham said. “We’re thrilled to help Anthony get his first GT3 win and I’m sure there are more to come. Plus, our familiarity with the longer GT World Challenge format made adding that program a seamless task and will give Anthony important endurance racing experience.”
Next up for RealTime is NOLA Motorsports Park, April 28 – 30.