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Qualifying and Race Lap Records Set in Day One of Competition
Elkhart Lake, WI, August 17, 2012--Sports car racing in Elkhart Lake, Wis., dates back to 1950, where the first of several races was held on public roads surrounding the picturesque lake. Racing later moved to the now famous Road America circuit when it opened in 1955 after engineer Cliff Tufte carved a 14-turn road course out of over 500 acres of Wisconsin farmland.
Porsche has a long history of racing here, dating back to the 356 and 550 Spyder models that raced here in the early days of Road America. However, this weekend, it was the roar of the iconic Porsche 911 that was heard from the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series at the 4.048-mile circuit where vintage racers once rumbled.
That Porsche history at the famed circuit continued today as records fell in both Platinum Cup and Gold Cup qualifying, as Sean Johnston of Wright Motorsports set a new mark in Platinum to take home the BBS Pole Award. Ansa Motorsports’ Angel Benitez, Jr. wrote his name in the books in Gold.
The record-setters took the green flag in today’s first of two races for the weekend, only to encounter a full-course-caution midway through the first lap after separate incidents in Turns 1 and 3 involving a number of cars. IMSA officials worked swiftly and efficiently to clear the track, but the cleanup ultimately required nearly 20 minutes before racing action resumed.
Once underway, leader Sean Johnston would slowly stretch his lead throughout the remaining 25 minutes of competition. En route to a Platinum Cup win, Johnston established a race lap record on a day when track conditions were near perfect.
“This was just absolutely an incredible day, from the qualifying sessions all the way up to the race,” said Johnston. “The team gave me such a great car and it's been such gorgeous weather today at Road America. You couldn’t ask for better weather for a race and it was just smooth sailing. I just got the car out front and kept it there and managed the gap and it was actually a really interesting experience with the sun setting. The sun was in my eyes and it was hard to pick up some of your reference points visually so it took me a little bit to establish some new reference points through the corners. Especially through Turn 3 and the Carousel where the sun is right in your eyes the entire time. But it was a really fun experience and I just couldn’t ask for a better result.”
Johnston was briefly pursued by his stable mate and second-place finisher Madison Snow from Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports, but Snow would come up short in his hunt.
“It was a good race,” said Snow. “I had a good start and I tried to stay by Sean [Johnston] for awhile, then he ended up checking out. I just kept trying to keep Fernando [Pena] behind me and keep my pace.“
Rounding out the podium with a third-place finish was yet another Wright Motorsports steed, Fernado Pena, whose preparation and homework paid dividends towards protecting his position of second in Championship points.
“Today was a calculated effort,” said Pena. “The car had an evolution as we had anticipated based on the set-up. Toward the end it was just a matter of calculating the lap times and so forth and it worked out well, since we had a pass under yellow—which was something I didn’t expect to take place. But it happened and thankfully the officials have done their job and we are on the podium and it’s a fantastic thing for Wright Motorsports.”
In Gold Cup competition, Pole-winning Benitez, Jr. had no trouble holding off the challengers behind him and pulled ahead to take the win in class.
“I am really happy with my race,” said Benitez, Jr. “It’s been a great day. I was fourth in qualifying today in the [ALMS] GTC Car and then I won the GT3 Cup Race, so I am like way happy right now.”
Battling behind Benitez, Jr. near the end of the race were follow Gold drivers Scott Tucker of Level 5 Motorsports and David Calvert-Jones from Competition Motorsports. Tucker had gotten around Calvert-Jones earlier to put himself second in class, but a pass under local yellow in Turn 14 near the end of the race cost Tucker a two-position penalty. He would trade places on the podium with Calvert-Jones, who took home the second-place trophy.
“I am very happy to be on the podium in my Norton Mobile Porsche,” said Calvert-Jones. “It ran really well thanks to Bob and the guys at Competition Motorsports. It was a bit frustrating today. We were racing hard in the Gold class and some of the Platinum traffic got in our way and mucked up our race a bit. But I am on the podium and we are taking the points and moving on for tomorrow!”
Taking home the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for the day was Dan Weyland, who competed in his first IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama race today.
“It was absolutely perfect,” said the award winner. “It’s the first race I have ever done in this series. I am also racing in the Prototype Lites series, so it’s been a long day, but I have had more fun out there. Driving was clean and you always have someone to race with and it was a lot of fun.”
Racing will resume at the legendary track for Round 11 in the Series Championship, Saturday, Aug, 18 for Race 2 (45-minutes) at 11:35 a.m.