Team News: Wright Motorsports’ Drivers Finish Successful Season At Road Atlanta
BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 1 — Mitch Landry got a top-five finish in class, Kasey Kuhlman accomplished his goal of qualifying better and John Ellis got valuable experience as Wright Motorsports’ rookies completed the last doubleheader of the season in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Thursday and Friday at Road Atlanta.
Landry, of Lake Charles, La., finished fourth in the Gold Cup division in Thursday’s race and ended up third in the class’s final point standings. He earned the same number of points as the class runner-up but placed third when the tiebreaker was applied. The tiebreak was the total number of class victories. Landry’s car, the No. 54 2009 Porsche 997 sponsored by VersaCrane and Deep South Crane & Rigging, finished second at Lime Rock, Conn., and had 11 top fives in the 15 races, but Eduardo Cisneros had four class victories so he finished second to the champion, Madison Snow.
Kasey Kuhlman of Cincinnati finished seventh unofficially for the year in the top class, Platinum Cup. He placed eighth in Thursday’s race but like Landry he was out early in Friday’s 45-minute event.
Kuhlman, who drives the No. 15 2011 Porsche 997 advertising Kuhlsport and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati, was determined to improve his qualifying results at this event and he certainly got that accomplished. He was second in the first practice session, he topped the charts in the second practice session and he qualified third with a lap that was under the previous track record and only 0.065 of a second off the pole.
Ellis, of Charlottesville, Va., driver of the No. 8 2011 Porsche 997 sponsored by SageWater, finished 13th in the Platinum Cup class on Thursday and improved that by two positions on Friday.
Landry qualified sixth for Thursday’s race and finished fourth, right behind the class champion. The top four class finishers — Michael Mills, Cisneros, Snow and Landry — were 12th through 15th overall.
Landry set the second-fastest lap of the race for the class on Thursday, which gave him the second starting spot in class for Friday’s race. Unfortunately he was out early in that race due to contact.
“The first race went pretty well, as we got to third for awhile,” Landry said afterwards. “Madison passed me with a couple of laps left when I bobbled on the exit of Turn 5.
“In the second race I was P2 and had Eduardo behind me on the start. He was one point in front of me for second in the points. On the start there was an accident in front that caused a chain reaction and I hit the 77 car, damaging my radiator. Eduardo also had problems, as he wrecked on the start and that took him out.
“It was a great year; we finished third for the season,” Landry added. “I want to thank my family and John Wright and all of the guys at Wright Motorsports for their support!”
Kuhlman started third on Thursday and ran comfortably in that position for about a third of the race until he spun in Turn 7 on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. He regrouped to finish eighth.
He started seventh on Friday but he was out early with radiator damage when the field checked up and he hit the car in front of him as the competitors prepared to take the green flag.
“I had an awesome qualifying session that put me P3 on the grid,” Kuhlman said later. “We were only 0.07 of a second off of pole. It was certainly my best effort of the season and a result of the preparation and mock qualifying runs we did during the practice sessions.
“I was running comfortably in P3 10 laps into Thursday’s race with no pressure behind. I went back to power in Turn 7 just a tick early, spun the rear wheels and looped it. I quickly rejoined the field, but five cars slipped by while I was gathering it back up.
“This track is very fast and any small mistake can suddenly become a major incident,” Kuhlman noted. “I had a couple of dramatic moments so I was pleased to bring home a top-10 finish and some good points.
“On Friday I broke my front-center radiator when the field checked up coming to the green flag,” he said. “My race was over before it even started. I limped around to the pits and that was the end of our day. It was a bummer because we thought the car was going to be good with the changes we made overnight.
“It was a disappointing way to end the season, but all in all it was a great first year of experience to carry into 2012,” Kuhlman summarized. “I learned a ton. I am already working hard on the details for our 2012 campaign and can't wait to put my experience gained this season to work for me next year.”
Ellis started 15th in class on Thursday and finished 13th. He started 15th in class on Friday but moved to 11th when some of top-runners, including Kuhlman, had problems early.
He was still in 11th, 2.009 seconds behind Angel Benitez and 0.453 of a second ahead of Jim Norman on lap 12 of the 25-lap race when Norman spun behind him in Turn 3 but kept going. That must have given Norman a shot of adrenalin, because he passed Ellis on the next lap to drop Ellis to 12th in class.
Scott Tucker and Benitez got together in front of him in Turn 5 on lap 14 but he missed becoming involved. With about 10 minutes to go he regained 11th place on lap 19 when Carlos Gomez dropped out, and that’s where he finished. He set his fastest race lap on lap 20 of the 25-lap event.
“Although I did not get to compete in as many races as I wanted to, this season was very valuable to me as a driver,” Ellis said. “The 2011 Porsche GT3 Cup is a fantastic car, but as with any racecar it takes a bit of seat time to get accustomed to it. Wright Motorsports did a great job of supporting me, and I’m looking forward to another season next year with John and the guys.”
The podium finishers on Thursday were Carlos Kauffmann, Henrique Cisneros and John Potter in the Platinum class and Michael Mills, Eduardo Cisneros and Snow in Gold Cup. Kauffman and Henrique Cisneros finished first and second on Friday too, with Rob Walton third. Snow, Mills and Andres Cisneros were the Gold Cup podium finishers on Friday.
When the 2012 schedule is announced it will be posted on imsachallenge.com. Additional information is available on the team’s Web site at wrightmotorsports.com and the team’s Facebook page.