SONOMA >> For the second year in a row, Tiburon’s Memo Gidley took the lead with a daring outside pull into turn one and held the rest of the way to win a GT America race.
While the first version clinched victory on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., Saturday’s triumph came at Gidley’s home track with a sea of friends and family waiting to congratulate him at the Victory Circle.
The local knowledge paid off as Gidley held the outside line at Turn 1 after the TKO Motorsports start. No. 101 Pinenut Ranch Radical Northwest Mercedes AMG GT3.
“You have to take opportunities when you see them,” Gidley said, slurping on champagne. “The pole sitter did a great job. It’s just that you can ride side-by-side through Turn 1 at Sonoma Raceway, which is awesome. If you do that, it prepares you well for the Turn 2 interior.
“As long as you don’t get shoved into the marbles, you’re good,” he added. “The gentleman on pole gave me just enough space and I gave him enough space. It was great to get a clear lead up front. The car worked really well with new tires. It was hooked up and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just getting through this for a bit.’”
Gidley was able to pull away from Adam Adelson’s Porsche 911 GT3-R by not much more than a second throughout the 40-minute race. Gidley kept him at bay when and where he could, trying to go easy on his car.
“I worked pretty hard during the race. The car started to slide around,” Gidley said. “I had to drive back a little to save tires.”
When the two had to start working their way through lapped cars, things got more chaotic and risky. Exiting Turn 10 with just a few laps to go, Gidley had to pass a slower car on the outside while Adelson shot inside to make a three-pointer at 120mph.
But Gidley had the better line and cleaner braking zone in the hairpin of Turn 11 and restored his advantage. In the end, Gidley crossed the checkered flag with a lead of 0.265 seconds.
“It’s great to be here with everyone, family, podium. It’s a dream,” Gidley said with 2-year-old daughter Emie in his arms.
Team owner Dave Traitel was due to make his first professional race start in his Bentley Continental GT3 on Saturday, but an incident during a wet practice session on Friday ended his weekend.
Novato competitor Kevin Buckler, owner of The Racer’s Group, drove two cars that day. In the GT America race, Tim Savage finished ninth in class in the #009 Aston Martin Vantage GT4. In the Fanatec GT World Challenge America feature race, Derek DeBoer and Ross Gunn teamed up in the #007 Aston Martin Vantage V8 GT3 for a 7th place finish in the Pro/Am class.
All classes run again on Sunday and Gidley starts the GT America race at 8:55am on the inside of the second row.