It wasn’t all ALMS at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend with the Porsche GT3 Challenge also taking to the track. Jim Fonseca was there to check it out.
A little about the race weekend first, courtesy of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge
The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama participants rounded out the 2013 American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón event with an action-packed second race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With a cloudless sky and perfect track conditions, Madison Snow kept a clean lead from flag-to-flag after starting from the BBS Pole position. Behind him, there was never a dull moment in the field.
Snow finished 29 laps in 45:46.745 and gained nearly a four-second lead by lap five. The Lehi, Utah-native finished two full seconds ahead of his next competitor after starting from the Pole, his fourth consecutive at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. A restart on lap 18 brought the field tighter together, making Snow and Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports push for the last 12 minutes of the race.
“The start was a lot less chaotic than yesterday, so I got a good gap at the start,” Snow said. “I pulled away and was trying to stay consistent and ahead of everybody which was perfect. Then later the yellow came out and that put me back a little bit. We had to restart but I was nervous that they were behind me, but I pushed really hard for a couple laps and got away.”
As the name states, the Effort Racing team made a concerted effort indeed to catch Snow on the 11-turn circuit. Sloan Urry finished second in Platinum Cup, a position he held for all 29 laps. Urry ran the course in 45:49.122 with his fastest lap coming his fifth time around the track. His teammates Michael Mills and Ashley Freiberg made moves early on to keep the momentum at the front of the field. Freiberg jumped from fourth position to third in the first lap and by lap four Mills had gained two positions.
“There wasn’t a dull moment the whole race,” Urry said. “Madison (Snow) was really pushing it and I could see it. I was trying to keep up with him and any time I gained on him he responded immediately. He drove a great race and Effort gave me a great car to keep chasing him down lap after lap. I’m super stoked to bring home a podium finish for team Effort after the little bit of a mishap in race one.”
Teammates Urry and Ashley Freiberg stuck together from the start and posted faster times on lap 13 than the leader. Freiberg held onto third position until lap 24 when Angel Benitez Jr. snuck past her.
The NGT Motorsport driver’s run to the podium started on lap nine when he pushed from 10th position to eighth after jumping past Mills and his fellow NGT teammate Eduardo Cisneros. From there, Benitez Jr., continued to pick off his opponents – Colin Thompson on lap 10, Kasey Kuhlman on lap 13 and ultimately Freiberg with only five laps to go. The Venezuelan entered the race as second in the points standings and needed a podium spot after being unable to finish race one at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“I needed this,” Benitez exclaimed. “I was really fighting for second and it took me awhile to get into pace from the start of the race, and I didn’t want another crash like my first race.
But after the middle of the race I got up to speed and started passing people one-by-one and we got a podium! We started 10th and I’ll take third. I am not as happy as I should be. So I am going to just keep working.”
In the Gold Cup, Michael Levitas of TPC Racing claimed his second victory of the weekend after gaining four spots by lap seven, which earned him the Yokohama Hard Charger Award as well.
“Wow, what a race,” Levitas said. “I really had fun out there. My teammate David Williams had me pulling double duty. He really pushed me to do better. It was a long race. We had a blast. Very exciting, very fun, we had a great time.”
The course only saw one full caution after David Williams had a quick spin and ended up in the gravel on lap 18. However, despite the misfortune, Williams still finished second in the Gold Cup.
“Not the race I wanted at all but I survived it,” Williams said. “Much different track today, much greasier, just completely different race. But great experience I really enjoyed it, great facility, great venue.”
The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series is back in action June 28-30 at Watkins Glen International Raceway for the 100th IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama event – Sahlen’s Six Hours of Glen.
For race results, event information or to download a Spotter’s Guide, visit http://imsachallenge.com Live .race tweeting can be found on Twitter @GT3Challenge or on Facebook.
Photos by Jim Fonseca
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