Cisneros Secures Second IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Title
Cisneros to race for NGT Motorsport in GTC in 2012
BRASELTON, GA (October 2, 2011) -- NGT Motorsport’s Henrique Cisneros made it two-for-two in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama driver championships, following up his 2010 Gold Cup class title by securing the 2011 Platinum Cup class championship with a race weekend to spare – titles that will put him in good stead as he makes good on the series’ promise and graduates to the Grand Touring Challenge (GTC) class in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón in 2012.
Cisneros, 28, won the first two races of the season at Sebring, which put the championship in his sights – and the target squarely on his back. He fended off challenges from Tim McKenzie and Fernando Peña mid-season as his early lead dwindled, but a victory and a second place finish while his competitors endured on-track misfortunes in Monterey helped him to secure the title.
Cisneros’ performance and that of teammate Carlos Kauffmann also earned NGT Motorsport the Platinum Cup team championship. Cisneros added to his year-end hardware haul by taking home the 2011 BBS Pole Award and cheered brother Eduardo to a second-place finish in the Gold Cup class championship – on the same day that Andres Cisneros earned his first career podium. All in all, a good year for the Cisneros brothers.
Cisneros and Kauffmann competed in the ALMS endurance events this season, finishing third at Sebring and Road America alongside Brit Sean Edwards, and seventh at Monterey with Austrian Martin Ragginger. But while the GTC experience helped Cisneros in the GT3 car, the GT3 title was this season’s main focus.
“Sebring really set the tone for the season,” remembered Cisneros. “I was really going for the championship the whole time. Having the two wins at Sebring gave me some breathing room, to be able to back off enough that I wasn’t taking too many chances during the races. It’s been a smooth season – no big mishaps or anything scary. The team did a great job – I had a great car for every race.
“Winning the championship this year was even harder than last year - compared to last year, the competition was much stronger. The faster guys from last year weren’t always in the top five this year; it was a lot of the newcomers. Every year, there are new guys coming in that you don’t know, and you hope it will make the season interesting and make for good racing. You look at Sebring this year and right out of the box, everyone had a really fast pace and the times were all very close together. And the GTC experience helped, getting more track time and more understanding of the car – but my priority this year really was the GT3 championship.”
For Cisneros, the goal in racing is a little different than that of some of his competitors in the big show. IMSA GT3 drivers are often referred to as “gentlemen racers” as most of them own companies or have regular jobs, which mean racing is more of a hobby than a profession. It’s just a very, very serious hobby – and one Cisneros really enjoys being able to share with his two older brothers.
“It’s different for our class of racing – we’re here to have fun. It’s a hobby, it’s not a job, and you always want to keep it that way. My brothers and I are here to blow off a little steam, get away from work – and it’s a bonding experience for us that goes beyond racing. So regardless of what happens, if someone else is faster than you or not, it’s whether you have a smile on your face at the end of the day.
“There’s a big age difference between the three of us (Eduardo is 37, while Andres is 32), so it wasn’t until I got out of college and we were all working together that we’ve been trying to find different hobbies to do together, excuses to get away. Racing was a perfect activity to do together.”
The Cisneros brothers began their racing careers innocently enough, by attending driving schools in their personal cars. But their competitive nature opened the door to that most insidious of all viruses: the racing bug.
“We started out doing the driving events with our street cars. But we’re very competitive – we kept modifying our cars to make them faster. Before we knew it, we were driving to work in cars that had roll cages and racing seats that were really uncomfortable and we realized we couldn’t keep doing that, so we got Cup cars. We weren’t really going after the racing, we just wanted to get into a safer car, one that we could enjoy and felt that we could push.”
The brothers joined NGT Motorsport, the Miami-based team owned by Ramez Wahab, running local Porsche events before deciding to make the jump to the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama last year. The plan was to take it easy the first season, learn the cars and the series and take it from there.
But for Cisneros, the plan that started out so seemingly reasonable at the start of the 2010 season grew as the year progressed until winning the championship was not only possible, but quite probable.
“I never expected to be in the top 10 that first year. Going into the season, I was a rookie and had very little experience. Just improving my race craft and learning how to read other drivers – as the season goes on, you learn the other drivers’ styles and for me, that was most important in understanding how to be a good racer and how to be safe out there.”
Now that the season is over and the Platinum Cup championship is won, how far up will the ante go for Henrique Cisneros and his brothers? About as high as one would expect.
“Our plan is to do a complete GTC season next year and there are thoughts of doing Le Mans and some Porsche Supercup events in the future.
“And we want to keep getting better – as long as we’re having fun!”
The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama features semi-professional drivers racing head to head in the largest single-make series in North America. Powered by one of the world’s most successful race cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, the multi-class structure of the series teaches drivers essential skills for an eventual career in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
The series is divided into two classes; the Platinum Cup, featuring the more powerful 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, and the Gold Cup, which includes 2005½ - 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. Both classes race on environmentally-focused Yokohama ADVAN ENV-R2 racing tires.
The 2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama season will begin at the 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 14-17.For news and schedule information, visit http://www.imsachallenge.com/.