With Championships Decided, Still Much on the Line at Road Atlanta
BRASELTON, GA (September 24, 2011) – After a thrilling season of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racing, Henrique Cisneros and Madison Snow clinched the Platinum and Gold Cup class championships in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama last weekend at Monterey. But both drivers – and nearly 40 of their closest competitors – still have two action-packed races and a lot on the line at Petit Le Mans this weekend.
Platinum Cup Class (2010 and 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars)
Henrique Cisneros, driving the #26 entry for Miami-based NGT Motorsport, led the Platinum Cup championship from day one, as the 2010 Gold Cup champion won both races at Sebring to take the lead in the title hunt. The closest full-season entrant after that first weekend was rookie Tim McKenzie, piloting the #92 Kelly-Moss Motorsports entry, who finished third in that first race only to crash out of the second.
After that first weekend, McKenzie cut into Cisneros’ lead by winning five of the next seven races - but chipping at the lead slowly, as Cisneros only dropped out of one of those events. But suddenly in the picture last month appeared a surging Fernando Peña (#38 Autometrics Motorsports/Colours Inc.) – also a first year driver, Peña won both races at Road America to pass McKenzie for second and make it a three-horse race that looked to go down to the wire.
But no one could have predicted the outcome of the two-race event at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California a week ago – Pena and McKenzie finished outside the top five in both events while Cisneros finished second in the first race and won the second to earn his second series title.
Winning the 2011 Platinum Cup championship capped off a dream year for Cisneros; not only did the NGT driver take last year’s Gold Cup title in his rookie year in the GT3 series, he, teammate Carlos Kauffmann and British GT3 standout Sean Edwards have formed NGT’s GTC team for the ALMS endurance races this year. The team earned podium finishes at Sebring and Road America, prompting Cisneros and Kauffman to plan for a full time move into GTC next season. But first, there’s unfinished business at Road Atlanta, where Cisneros clinched the Gold Cup title last year.
“Road Atlanta is similar to Sebring, in that you have lots of fans watching, so the energy when you’re here is fantastic,” said Cisneros. “The track is known for biting you in a couple of places, like the Esses and the last corner before the straight – it’s one of those corners that you wish wasn’t there! It’s the end of the year and emotions are high, so that makes for exciting racing.
“I won the Gold Cup title in the next to last race here last year, but I’m glad this year didn’t come down to that! It’s been an interesting championship; I was able to get a jump at Sebring, my home track – I know it like the back of my hand, so I was able to win both pole positions and both races, which set the momentum for the year. This will be my last race as a full time driver in the GT3 series, so I’d like to go out on top.”
Gold Cup Class (2005½ - 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars)
The Gold Cup title was decided at two events: Utah in May and Lime Rock in July. At his home track of Miller Motorsports Park, 15-year-old Madison Snow won the pair of races to close the distance to the championship leader, NGT Motorsport’s Eduardo Cisneros. Cisneros then missed the Lime Rock event, while Snow won both races to take a commanding lead in the title chase. But the two have kept it close on the track and in the standings, with each race coming down to Snow versus Cisneros, including some rather heated on-track exchanges. They tangled twice in Road America, with Cisneros exiting the first race with a damaged left rear, and the pair taking each other out of the second.
Snow entered the Monterey weekend with one plan in mind; just finish. He did that handily, finishing second in both races to clinch the title – the youngest Porsche one-make championship winner in history.
Given his success this season, it’s easy to forget that Snow is only 15 years old and still learning the tracks his family knows so well (Dad Martin finished second in the Platinum Cup championship as Mom Melanie was winning the Gold Cup title in 2009).
“I haven’t been to Road Atlanta, but we’ll do the school there before the race, so I can get to know the track,” said Snow. “We have Road Atlanta on the simulator at home, so that helps too, to learn the flow of the track. It doesn’t give you any braking or speed, but it helps you learn the corners so you can tell them where you are if you get in trouble!
“My plan going into the season was to focus on finishing all the races, but the second event was at my home track in Utah and since I know the track so well, I knew I’d do well there. We had the confidence, but to win was great – and it did change the way we went into the races after that. We started working hard at learning each new track and focused on winning. But going into Road Atlanta will be a different mindset now that I’ve clinched, I’ll be more relaxed and be up there battling.”
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 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama season will end with Rounds 14 and 15 at Petit Le Man this weekend. The series will have two 45-minute races at Road Atlanta – Thursday at 1:45pm and Friday at 11:30am EDT.For full results, live timing, news and schedule information, visit http://www.imsachallenge.com/.