Wright Motorsports’ Johnston, Pena and Snow Take the Top Three Spots in Canada
After getting his first IMSA GT3 Cup victory under his belt on May 11, it didn’t take Wright Motorsports driver Sean Johnston long to climb to the top of the podium again. The 21-year-old was victorious in Round 7 of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama last Sunday as the series supported the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Finishing second overall was one of his Wright Motorsports teammates, as Fernando Peña made it a one-two finish overall for the Batavia, Ohio-based super team.
Canadian Kyle Marcelli placed third overall but he was competing as a guest driver in this race, which combined both the American and Canadian series in one 30-minute contest. Wright Motorsports actually swept all three podium positions in the top class of the American series when Madison Snow finished fourth overall and nailed down the third-place points in the U.S. series in the process.
Johnston led every lap of the non-stop, 15-lap contest on the 14-turn, 2.71-mile track after getting his first career BBS pole on Saturday with a new track record of 1.42.394 (95.279 miles per hour). Johnston, of Mt. Shasta, Calif., drives a 2012 Porsche 997 sponsored by Driscoll’s Berries.
Peña, of Minneapolis, started third in a similar Porsche sponsored by Colours, Inc., but he vaulted into second on the first lap after the driver who started second, Marcelli, spun in Turn 1 and slipped to seventh.
Peña chased Johnston the rest of the way. He was 1.570 seconds behind Johnston at the drop of the checkered flag while fighting off Marcelli’s advances in the process.
The fact that Johnston was able to stay ahead of both Peña and Marcelli was impressive since they both recorded faster race laps than the winner did. Johnston did a great job of saving his Yokohama tires. He ran the third-fastest race lap on lap 14, the white-flag lap, with a 1:42.206. Marcelli set the fastest race lap on lap 12 with a 1:41.250. Peña set the second-fastest race lap on lap 11 with a 1:41.965. Due to Marcelli’s status in the event Peña’s time is the one that goes down as a new race lap record, giving him yet another accomplishment for his racing bio.
Snow, 16, of Lehi, Utah, started fifth and fought Michael Mills to nail down the fourth-place honors overall and third in the American Platinum Class with his Universal Industrial Sales No. 62. Snow, who has three victories so far this year, got by Mills with nine laps down.
Kasey Kuhlman of Cincinnati started 12th but clawed his way up to eighth overall and sixth in the American Platinum Class standings in the 32-car field with his Wright Motorsports No. 15. It carries the colors of Kuhlsport and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati. He was tenth overall on lap 10 with about 8 minutes remaining in the race, but he vaulted to eighth on lap 11 when Bryce Miller spun and Sloan Urry dipped into the pits.
A fifth Wright Motorsports Porsche 997 driven by John Baker of New York City started 16th and finished 12th overall and ninth in the American Platinum Class standings.
Two slightly older Porsche 997s fielded by Wright Motorsports were on the podium on Sunday too. Snow’s mother, Melanie Snow of Pleasant Grove, Utah, finished second in the Gold Cup division with her No. 56 sponsored by Universal Industrial Sales. Mitch Landry of Lake Charles, La., placed third in that class with the VersaCrane car. They also qualified second and third in the Gold Cup class, respectively, to the division’s polesitter and race winner, Angel Benitez Jr.
After an open test at VIRginia International Raceway yesterday and today, the series’ next event is scheduled for July 19-22 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly known as Mosport International Raceway) in Bowmanville, Ontario. The complete schedule of the 15-race series can be found on the series’ Web site at imsachallenge.com.
Additional information is on the team’s Web site at wrightmotorsports.com and its Facebook page.
Post-event quotes follow:
Sean Johnston: “I can barely believe it! It’s been such an incredible weekend! From my first wet driving experience in a Cup car on Friday, and my first career pole position on Saturday, to my first flag-to-flag victory in my life today, it's been an absolutely remarkable weekend!
“It was a tough challenge having only three short sessions on track, but Wright Motorsports gave me a great, competitive car to work with from session one and I couldn't be happier with the end result. The crowd at this event was awesome as well! I could hear the crowd cheering from inside my car on the cool-down lap after the checkered flag; it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life! Overall, great weekend, stoked on it, can't wait for our next race up in Mosport!”
Fernando Peña: “It was a very special weekend! Montreal was challenging because of the limited track time, but also a delight because of the F1 crowd. Wright Motorsports had another Platinum podium sweep. I am extremely happy for the team and especially for John Wright. He continues putting on an amazing show in the way he prepares our cars.
“My race was determined in qualifying. I made some mistakes even though I had the speed, as I proved in the race with the fastest race lap for our series. The top four leading cars had a bit of an issue in Turn 1 at the start. I was worried Sean was going to T-bone me, and that plus a mistake of mine at the exit of Turn 7 gave him a sizable gap. From that point on I hunted him down but at the end I ran out of time. I felt very good after my race. The car was perfect; no issues whatsoever. We continue pulling away from the competition in the points standing and there is still half a season left. It is exciting!”
Madison Snow: “We had limited track time this weekend so I had to get in the groove fast. Adding to the limited track time was rain in our only practice session.
“We were able to use new tires in the race, so I spent the entire time in qualifying trying to learn the track as well as get a clean lap with no traffic. My only clean lap was my last lap and so that put me fifth overall for the start.
“When the race came I had cold tires so I was very cautious on the start and got to watch many people make mistakes, like a few cars ahead of me in Turn 1 dropping wheels and Bryce Miller spinning by himself in Turn 10. I stayed at a good pace and was behind Michael Mills most the race. Late in the race I decided to make my move, and we were back and forth a lot on one lap. I kept setting him up for the next corner and it worked out, as he would fall for it and I would come out ahead and then he would try again. After I passed him I got a good gap quickly and maintained that for a few laps until the race ended.”
Kasey Kuhlman: “I didn't get up to speed as fast as my teammates did this weekend after spending half of the only practice session stuck in a gravel trap. That lost track time cost me big when it came time for qualifying. Starting P9 is never a good thing in this series. I had a fun race with lots of action and I was able to pick up several spots for a P6 finish in class; P8 overall. It is certainly a unique experience to race on a Formula 1 track! I am looking forward to moving on now to the tracks I know best. The second half of this season's schedule will be really fun!
Melanie Snow: “The weekend was very tricky. It is fun running as a support race for F1 but it means we get very little track time. Our first session was half wet and half dry. We then went straight into qualifying on Saturday and I wasn't able to find myself a clear lap and qualified second in class but down in the overall field. So my strategy for the race was to just run clean and hope I could get a chance to battle with the other guys in my class.
“After the first lap, avoiding any incidents, I found myself right behind my competitor. I did all I could to chase him down but I also had Mitch Landry [my teammate] in my rear-view mirror. My Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports car was great; I just didn't have enough to get into first so I took an exciting second-place finish.
“I was just thrilled to get to stand on the F1 podium. It was even more of a thrill to be able to stand on the podium with all my Wright Motorsports teammates. They did a combined podium for the two classes so Madison and I stood up there together. It's probably the only time you could say a mom spraying her son with champagne was a good thing! It was a good weekend and I am so proud of all our crew and drivers!”
Mitch Landry: “I had a good race, finishing third. I was staying pretty close to Melanie with about 10 minutes to go. I ended up losing my brakes into the hairpin and spun the car, flat-spotting my tires. I was lucky to get it going and hold onto third overall in Gold. The car was great, and I would like to thank all of the Wright Motorsports team.”