Team News: Wright Motorsports to Field Four Porsches In IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama
BATAVIA, Ohio, March 15 — Wright Motorsports will field four Porsches in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama series this year said John Wright, president of the well-respected racing team based in Batavia, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati.
The team’s IMSA GT3 drivers for 2011 include two from Cincinnati — Rene Robichaud and Kasey Kuhlman — as well as John Ellis Jr. of Charlottesville, Va., and Mitch Landry of Lake Charles, La.
Wright Motorsports will also provide support for Policastro Motorsports’ two Porsches in the same series. They will be driven by Joe and Jay Policastro of Latrobe, Pa.
The season begins with a doubleheader that is part of the 59th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., this week. The series will stage two 45-minute races during that event at 5:05 p.m. on Thursday and 4:20 p.m. on Friday.
Subsequent races will be held at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah (April 29-May 1); the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec (June 10-12); Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. (July 8-9); Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario (July 22-24); Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Aug. 18-21); Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif. (Sept. 15-18) and Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. (Sept. 28-Oct. 1). Two 45-minute races will be staged at all of the events except Montreal will have just one race and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will host a 45-minute race on Saturday plus a 75-minute endurance race on Sunday.
Wright Motorsports’ four entries at Sebring are part of a field of 40 at press time consisting of 30 cars in the Platinum Cup class and 10 cars in the Gold Cup class. It’s the second-biggest field in the event’s history. The Platinum Cup features 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911
GT3 Cup cars, while the Gold Cup consists of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars manufactured from the second half of 2005 through 2009.
Robichaud, Kuhlman and Ellis will compete in the Platinum Cup class while Landry will be among the Gold Cup competitors. Robichaud, 52, will be in car 99, a Porsche that carries the colors of the Motorsports County Club of Cincinnati and RJR Racing Group. Kuhlman, 44, will drive the No. 15 that will also advertise the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati as well as Kuhlsport. Both Robichaud and Kuhlman are members of the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, a unique country club that is centered around a kart track.
Ellis, 45, is entered in the SageWater No. 8, since he’s also the chief executive officer of SageWater, the nation’s pipe replacement specialist. Landry, 53, will be behind the wheel of the No. 54. It advertises VersaCrane and Deep South Crane & Rigging, as Landry is the president of the latter.
Although all four drivers are rookies in the semi-pro IMSA GT3 Challenge series, they all have had success in amateur Porsche Club of America (PCA) events. Robichaud, who has driven in more than 70 races, was the 2009 PCA champion in the GTA2 class. Both Robichaud and Kuhlman have also driven Porsches in Grand-Am events in the past.
Kuhlman has a career record of 14 class victories and 29 class podiums in PCA events. He competed in the IMSA GT3 Challenge Cup race at Mid-Ohio last year and finished third in the first race.
“Although we’re going up against other top teams with drivers that have several seasons of IMSA GT3 Cup competition under their belts, I think we’ll hold our own,” said the team owner, Wright, who has served as a crew chief in this series since its inception and has fielded podium-finishing cars in the series each year with drivers such as Kuhlman, Joe and Jay Policastro and Larry Schumacher. Wright is a two-time winner of IMSA’s prestigious Technician of the Year award, a crew chief who was instrumental in achieving four driver championships in World Challenge, IMSA and Grand-Am, and the owner of a GT podium-finishing team at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona just three years ago.
"The new 2011 Porsche is a fantastic piece of machinery,” Wright said.
“We had a good test at Sebring in early February, and our crew has been working hard.
"Paul Nicely will be Kuhlman’s crew chief, while Rick Curtain will be the crew chief for Robichaud’s car,” Wright added. “Rob Gambrill will be Mitch Landry’s crew chief, and I’ll be John Ellis’s crew chief as well as oversee everything.
“Bob Viglioni will be the crew chief on Jay Policastro’s car, and Mike Davis will be Joe Policastro’s crew chief,” Wright noted. “B.J.
Zacharias will serve as our driver coach for most of the events this year.”
The drivers are all optimistic and ready to see how much they can learn this season.
“My goal is to improve my racing skills this year,” said Robichaud.
“The GT3 Cup series will do that in three ways: everyone has virtually the same car, the racing is closer, and the quality of drivers is higher than in the amateur series.
“We plan on attending all of the U.S. events this year,” Robichaud continued. “Our primary sponsor is the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, the country's leading karting club.
“Our 2011 car arrived days before the opening PCA club race at Sebring,” he added. “We tested it during that event and it ran well right out of the wrapper. John Wright made plenty of set-up changes so that by Sunday I ran a 2:09 lap in the warm-up before traffic hit.
These cars are terrific; they’re very predictable. I’m looking forward to competing in the GT3 Cup series this year.”
"My goal for 2011 is to compete for podium finishes in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama,” said Kuhlman. “I have entered a new 2011 Porsche Cup car for the full season in this series after driving the past three years in Porsche Club of America events. I look forward to a heightened level of competition this year and learning to become a better and faster driver. Qualifying is critical in these sprint races since all the cars are equal. I will focus much more energy on my qualifying efforts than in past amateur races.”
There are two test sessions today and one test session and one practice session on Wednesday before Sebring’s qualifying session at
12:15 p.m. on Thursday, just a few hours before the first race. Ross Smith of Maxwell Paper Racing set a new track record in qualifying at Sebring last year with a lap in 2:07.109 (104.792 miles per hour) for the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course, and then he went on to win both of the races.
The starting line-up for the second race at Sebring on Friday will be established by each driver’s fastest lap recorded during the first race on Thursday.
Ellis is anxious to get going.
“I was a late-comer to the series, so my Porsche did not arrive until after the winter tests,” he said. “But thanks to my sponsor, SageWater, I finally drove the new 2011 GT3 Cup car on Feb. 21. What an incredible car! It virtually drives itself at a nine-tenths level.
“I have had the privilege of driving Porsche GT2 race cars for the last decade and they are fantastic, but Porsche’s newest race car just blows my mind,” Ellis added. “I can’t wait to drive one of their new road cars.”
Landry is focused on learning as much as possible as quickly as possible.
“I’m looking forward to moving up to the next level in racing,” he said. “Knowing that the competition will be on a different level, I look forward to learning how to be a better racer. Good competition will make you improve. After three years in auto racing I still learn every time that I go on the track! My goal is to race the full season and to have a respectable weekend each time out.”
For more information, see the team’s Web site at wrightmotorsports.com. Live timing and scoring and other information are available on the series’ Web site at imsachallenge.com.