Johnston and Benitez, Jr. Victorious Again in GT3 Cup Challenge Competition at Petit Le Mans
Braselton, GA, Oct. 18, 2012--Wright Motorsports Championship driver Sean Johnston added to his list of wins today in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series at Petit Le Mans with a clean drive from fifth to first in Race 1.
Johnston may have wrapped up the Platinum Cup Championship for 2012 GT3 Cup Challenge competition prior to the Series landing at Road Atlanta, but his fellow competitors showed in qualifying that there is plenty left to fight for at the final event of the season.
Madison Snow, driving for Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports, snagged the pole from 19-year-old Miles Maroney in the final seconds of qualifying for Race 1 with a flying lap of 1:26.586.
Fernando Pena of Wright Motorsports and Sloan Urry of TruSpeed Motorsports eclipsed Sean Johnston for the third and fourth qualifying spots. Johnston settled for fifth with his quickest lap of 1:27.161 after having led most of the session.
Click to view Race 1 starting grid >>
BBS Pole Winner Madison Snow got a strong start off the grid and led the GT3 Cup field for the first 11 laps. His teammate Sean Johnston passed him for the lead on lap 12 however, and didn’t look back.
Fernando Pena, who also drives for Wright Motorsports, stayed with Johnston and Snow but settled for third when he couldn’t find the speed to challenge them for their positions.
The most exciting drive of the field in Race 1 came from Michael Mills of Effort Racing who started 16th and battled all the way up to fifth in his Platinum Cup car.
“We gambled in qualifying and planned for a dry track, so it bit us pretty good when conditions ended up being wet,” Mills said. “I was pretty irritated to be P16 on the start, but we were able to settle in and drive clean.”
Mills earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for his effort, and is looking forward to Race 2 tomorrow. He won Race 2 at Petit Le Mans in 2011 in his GT3 Cup Challenge debut in the Gold Cup class.
“We have pretty good luck here if you remember back to last year,” Mills said. “The great news is that we won the Yokohama Hard Charger Award today. The better news is that we start P2 tomorrow.”
Angel Benitez, Jr. of Ansa Motorsports claimed his 10th win in the Gold Cup Class of GT3 Cup Competition in Race 1. He was trailed in the Gold Cup Class by Competition Motorsports’ David Calvert-Jones.
“I was picking my way through the Platinum Cup cars slowly to catch up with Benitez Jr., which was really difficult because they are faster on the straights and its tough to get around them,” Calvert-Jones said. “When I finally got through them all and caught up to Angel we went yellow. I wish we had one or two more laps to take a crack at him.”
Calvert-Jones’ stalking of Benitez, Jr. was halted when the caution flag was thrown on lap 24 for contact between John Ellis, Carlos Gomez and John Baker. Track cleanup could not be finished before time ran out on the 45-minute timed race, and Race 1 finished under caution after 27 laps.
IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama will return to action at Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda on Friday, Oct. 19 for Race 2 at 12 p.m. ET for a 45-minute timed race.
What the Drivers are Saying:
Sean Johnston, Platinum Cup Provisional Champion, Race Winner, Wright Motorsports:
“It was an exciting race. I am just bummed that we didn’t get to race the entire way for the fans. We had some great battles going on. I think, honestly, the battle with Madison (Snow) was some of the best racing I’ve done this year. He was pushing me hard and it was all I could do to keep him behind me. Great job to Madison. Again the guys gave me a great car. I am just so appreciative of the opportunity to be out here. So, life is good and I hope we can do it again in the next race.”
Angel Benitez Jr., Provisional Gold Cup Champion, Race Winner, Ansa Motorsports:
“I think this was the race with the most yellow flags this entire year, but it was fun. I’m really glad we won. So I just really want to say thanks to my family and my girlfriend and my country. Thanks to all of them I am here racing today. And thanks to MOMO and Ansa and the Series because I think it’s an awesome Series. I think you can start in this Series and have a great chance to grow. I am very happy to be on the podium and we are going to win tomorrow and then I am going to try and win Petit with my GTC car! I am so excited!”
Madison Snow, Second Place Platinum, BBS Pole Winner, Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports:
“The race was good. I started on Pole. I had the gap on Sean (Johnston) and (Fernando) Pena. I was trying to keep that, but the traffic and the yellow came, so they caught me. Sean caught me a lot because I got stuck in traffic one time and then I got behind him and I was trying to keep up with him and chase him down. I think I was faster in the end, but there was just not enough time to pass him.”
Fernando Pena, Third Place Platinum, Wright Motorsports:
“It was a little crazy, but the car was good. I think we play fairly well together as a team. I fought very hard to keep up with them (Sean Johnston and Madison Snow). They have a really impressive pace and they don’t make mistakes. Once they pass, it is really difficult to catch up with them. I basically was just waiting for something to happen and nothing happened. I started third and finished third, so that’s fair and we’ll take it.”
Franck Silah, Third Place Gold Cup, MGM:
“It was a great day for me. I always learn so much about the Series, and from the other drivers when I race. This is my first year here, so I am very happy to have my second podium here at this track.”