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Global Tuner Grand Prix

A decade of dreaming is finally realized

Les Bidrawn
Feb 9, 2011
Photographers: Karl Funke, Peter Wu

I’ve known Fabryce Kutyba of GMG for more than a decade now. Long enough for us to both make fun of the other as our once virile bodies fall apart. Fabryce helped European Car realize a few of its Challenge Series, events that squared off Audi S4s, Porsche 911 turbos and Volkswagen GTIs in the hope of finding the best of the best.

Epcp_1103_01_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+porsches Photo 2/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

As much as we enjoyed the ec Challenge Series, they were limited in scope, a bit too specialized for the average reader. Why would a GTI fanatic care about a 911 running mid-10s in the quarter-mile? The answer is he wouldn’t. Unless you owned that particular brand of car there was no compelling reason to read bout it. This made our editorial staff very, very sad. Moreover, the logistics needed to run such an event are daunting. And we’re only talking about 10-12 cars per Challenge. A proper Tuner Grand Prix would contain more than 100 cars of different makes, models and temperaments. The very thought of putting on a Global Tuner Grand Prix nearly gave me a stroke. Hell, I nearly broke into tears when the catering truck guy got in a fight with the track owner.

Although tuner shootouts in Europe and Asia are common (e.g., Tuner GP at Hockenheim and the Super Lap Battle event at Japan’s Suzuka), North America hasn’t seen anything like it. It would take a better man than me to organize such an event.

Epcp_1103_02_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+porsches Photo 3/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

Enter Fabryce Kutyba.

I always knew Fabryce was a bit of a lunatic. I never realized he was flippin’ mad. In less than six months’ time, Fabryce and the crew at GMG had booked the world-famous Laguna Seca Raceway, devised a series of run groups and rules and managed to get the info disseminated onto the Internet all by himself. That Fabryce managed to do this with such limited resources is astounding. Even Laguna Seca officials were impressed and placed the GTGP on their schedule for the next five years.

The Global Tuner Grand Prix (GTGP) presented by Mobil 1 was the season finale for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With intermittent rain throughout the weekend and adverse track conditions, the action kept drivers and fans on the edge of their seats. The diversity of the tuning culture was displayed and represented by more than a dozen manufacturers. Racers from various backgrounds set out on track at the same time as the GTGP welcomed a mix of professional racing drivers and amateur club and time-trial drivers, incorporating makes and models from every corner of the globe.

Epcp_1103_03_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+porsche Photo 4/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

We had an amazing weekend and would like to thank all our sponsors for their support, says GTGP co-founder Fabryce Kutyba. Mobil 1, Stoptech, Porsche Motorsport North America, Mazda, BBS, Michelin, Pirelli, and Hoosier. There is no doubt that the Global Tuner Grand Prix is an event that will only grow in the years to come.

Epcp_1103_04_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+ferrari Photo 5/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

The main event on Sunday was the GTGP time-trial competition, consisting of three different classes: Tuner, Street and Unlimited. Andy Pilgrim claimed the fastest time overall in the Unlimited class, running the K-PAX Volvo S60R, with a 1-minute, 28.517-second lap time.

I was really amazed to see so many fans despite the weather conditions, says Pilgrim. There were people in the grandstands and tons of people at The Corkscrew, even during monsoon conditions; great to see. One point I do want to highlight: I can honestly say the on-track respect and discipline of the drivers at this event was some of the best I have ever seen.

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Garry Grant took the fastest time and victory in the Tuner class with a 1:37.604 in a Dodge Viper ACR, while the overall Street class winner was T.C. Kline in a Porsche Boxster Spyder, putting down a 1:42.780.

The main Challenge Race took place Sunday and was blessed with the absence of rain. The front row consisted of Porsche and Volvo, with James Sofronas and Pilgrim lining up side by side, respectively. These two drivers ended up lapping the entire field during the 50-minute sprint to checker, and the winners ended up finishing as they started, with Sofronas winning overall and Pilgrim placing Second. John Trefethan finished Third. Sofronas also recorded the fastest time during the weekend with a 1:26.549 on Saturday to set the quickest time overall for the inaugural running of this event.

The weekend also attracted the attention of professional racing driver Darren Law. I really enjoyed being involved in the Global Tuner Grand Prix this year, says Law. They have really put together a first-class program. It was hosted at one of America’s premier racetracks; it had a good turnout of competitors and was well organized. This is also a great time of year. They made it available to both competitors and spectators alike. I really think they have something here and look forward to being a part of it again next season.

Epcp_1103_06_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+grand_prix_enthusiast Photo 7/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

That Fabryce managed to do this with such limited resources is astounding. Even Laguna Seca officials were impressed.

Challenge Race: Day 3 Final

Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap Class
14 James Sofronas Porsche WC-997 GT3 Cup GMG / Stoptech / BBS 1:26.549 GT1
8 Andy Pilgrim Volvo S60R K-Pax Racing / Volvo 1:27.539 GT1
99 John Trefethan Porsche 996 GT3 Cup N/A 1:34.635 GT3
47 Greg Ross Porsche 996 GT3 Cup N/A 1:35.331 GT3
22 Darren Rushin Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 911 Design 1:33.751 GT1
28 Mark Anderson Porsche 928 GTR 928 International 1:33.427 GT1
15 Brad Sofronas Porsche 996 GT3 GBR / GMG 1:37.684 GT4
19 Mark Kibort N/A N/A 1:36.135 GT4
46 Guy Dreier Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Dreier Design / 911 Design 1:34.480 GT2
56 Mike Courtney Porsche 964 Cup N/A 1:41.424 GT4
55 Fernando Pena Porsche 996 Cup N/A 1:41.550 GT3
71 Dan Davis Porsche 911 Turbo 911 Design 1:55.129 GT1
54 Chris Finn BMW M3 BMW CCA 2:00.614 GT4
4 Dino Crescentini Porsche WC-997 GT3 Cup GMG Racing DNS GT1
44 Brent Holden Porsche 997 GT3 Cup GMG Racing DNS GT2
N/A Peter LeSarfe Porsche 997 GT3 Cup FusionTrade DNS GT2
N/A Dan Aspesi Porsche 997 Turbo Speed Gallery DNS GT2

Tuner Class: Day 3 Time Trials

Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
29 G. Grant Dodge Viper ACR Grant Racing 1:37.604
30 J. Menczer Porsche 997 GT3 Menczer Racing 1:37.764
86 S. Eguina Porsche 996 GT2 Fairveiw Mortgage 1:38.312
24 S. Mobine Porsche 997S Renntrack / Shilo 1:38.464
59 R. Todd BMW 135i BR Racing 1:38.492
25 J. Sussman Porsche 997S Renntrack / Shilo 1:39.976
70 J. Holloway N/A Mothers Racing 1:40.461
57 J. Buck Porsche 911 Cape Auto 1:41.825
73 C. Wagner Ferrari Scuderia NOVITEC Rosso USA 1:42.679
27 P. Hitesman Porsche 997 GT3 RS Renntrack / Shilo 1:43.284
42 J. Cocker VW Jetta Revo Technik 1:43.842
26 Emile Bouret Mitsubishi EVO 10 Sparco USA 1:45.225
34 B. Newcomer Corvette Z06 PCA 1:47.963
32 E. Monroe Porsche 993 Monroe Consulting 1:49.955

Unlimited Class: Day 3 Time Trials

Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
3 A. Pilgrim Volvo S60R K-Pax 3R / Volvo 1:28.517
35 C. Miller Audi A4 034Motorsport 1:31.221
21 P. Ward Subaru STi GT Garage 1:39.394
15 B. Sofronas Porsche 996 GT3 GBR / GMG Racing 1:41.797
77 E. Nakato BMW M3 HorsePowerFreaks 1:46.229

Street Class: Day 3 Time Trials

Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
12 T.C. Kline Porsche Boxter Spyder TC Kline Racing 1:42.780
23 B. Todd BR Racing Porsche 997 GT3 1:44.201
36 C. Bertuzzi Nissan 350Z Specialty Car Crafe / Precision Z Service 1:45.596
40 L. Potts Porsche Cayman S BR Racing 1:46.560
41 H. Ortiz N/A Griffen 1:51.973
37 S. Mitani N/A N/A 1:52.759
38 C. Newcomer Porsche Cayman S BC Racing / PCA OCR 1:58.477
39 B. Delgado Porsche Boxster PCA OCR 1:59.634
81 M. Suaabaah N/A Wonderbread 2:06.380

Jim Haughey

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Team owner of K-PAX Racing on the GTGP

ec: What prompted K-Pax to enter the Global Tuner event as a last-minute entry?

JH: A number of things led us to Laguna Seca and the GTGP. First, the Volvo is really a tuner on steroids racing in the World Challenge GT Series, and racing in the GTGP gave us a chance to race on a great trackLaguna Secaunrestricted by weight, rpm, tires, boost limits, ride heights and aerodynamics. We’ve always been focused on the World Challenge Series and the rules associated therein. The GTGP gave us a chance to break free of the scrutinizers, see what we had, and compare what we had against some of the time attack cars out there. I really like the time attack format; very similar to a qualifying session.

ec: What promotional goals could come out of an event like the GTGP as opposed to the World Challenge, showing how strong and relevant Volvo really is ?

JH: We get so focused on WC that sometimes we forget to look and participate in other events. It’s always interesting to see what others are doing, especially the time attack cars. The guys building these cars can be very inventive and very fast so it is always educational. We are working on a performance package for the Volvo C30 and S60. The packages will only be available through Volvo dealers starting in 2011. We are also building two C30s for the 2011 World Challenge Touring Class. We wanted to start showcasing our cars and performance capabilities at other venues.

ec: What did you and the K-Pax team take away from the event and what was your overall impression?

Epcp_1103_19_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+volvo Photo 20/20   |   Global Tuner Grand Prix

JH: The GTGP taught us a lot about the capabilities of the tuners out there. It was fun for the crew and drivers as a year-end event with no restrictions on the car. We got humbled a bit by the performance of the others, they are that good. It rained on and off during the event, so we learned a tremendous amount about our racecars in the rain. We had never raced these cars in the wet and learned we have issues in the rain with the AWD system. We ran on Pirelli slicks (these will be the World Challenge tires for 2011), learned a lot about the tires and how they affect our brakes. We have issues there also. It was an inaugural event, with huge potential that can draw both from the professional and tuner fields with the different classes. They had front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive classes and then three classes within each class, Unlimited, Tuner and Street. We ran in the Unlimited AWD class for the time-trial event. We took two cars. We set one up for the time-trial and set one up for the 50-minute races. Andy Pilgrim won the Unlimited AWD time-trial event. He had the best time of all the classes.

- Kerry Morse

By Les Bidrawn
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