A thrill flavored with a bit of accidents - the first race of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge at the Laguna Seca
Monterey, Calif., (May 10, 2013) - The first race of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama at the American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón got off to an exciting start this afternoon as the green flag dropped on the 24-car field, and incident on the first lap of competition immediately put a new "spin" on the action.
There was an immediate full course caution as the car No. 20 of Effort Racing's Sloan Urry apparently dropped two wheels off track exiting Turn 2 and made contact with the No. 45 TruSpeed Motorsports entry of Miles Maroney upon re-entering the track. While Maroney was spinning across track from the initial impact, he collected the NGT Motorsport entry of Angel Benitez Jr. along with the Kelly-Moss Motorsports No. 17 of Paul Barnhart, Jr., forcing them all to retire from competition.
For the race I started off just maintaining a good smooth rhythm and trying to maintain it.
Urry was able to repair his damage and continue on, but he was later penalized for avoidable contact, costing him valuable position on-track.
Once back to green flag action, Colin Thompson in the No. 14 entry of Thompson Racing and Effort Racing teammates Ashley Freiberg and Michael Mills took advantage of the gap created at the front of the field and moved up to take the third and fourth positions, respectively.
Freiberg, a former open wheel contender in the Star Mazda Series, proved she was able to quickly adapt to her 911 GT3 Cup car, and used all 11 turns of the 2.238-mile ranging road course to catch up to rival Thompson with only 10 minutes remaining in the race. She was able to manage her tires to make a solid pass on Thompson to capture second place on the podium.
Thompson was able to hold off Freiberg's teammate Mills in a fierce battle to ultimately take home third.
BBS Pole Winner Madison Snow of Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports stayed frosty but kept his pace hot as he stayed ahead of the opening lap mayhem, and steadily gained ground until he took the checkers with a gap of over four full seconds on the Platinum competition.
In Gold Class, it was a TPC Racing teammate sweep.
With a bit of the accordion effect, TPC's Michael Levitas was able to gain some ground on his teammate David Williams and pull away through the field to pick up seven positions and ultimate take home the Gold class victory. Not to be outdone, Williams began a steady hunt to find Levitas' rear bumper and made and an impressive jump from starting 22nd to finishing 16th overall and second in his class.
And while the two may have gained an impressive amount of ground within racing conditions today, it was John Baker and Wright Motorsports that took home the Yokohama Hard Charger Award in round three of series competition. Baker started in 17th position on the grid, and gained nine positions to finish eighth overall.
Madison Snow: Overall Race and Platinum Class Winner
"For the race I started off just maintaining a good smooth rhythm and trying to maintain it. I got a great gap in the beginning. The track was really greasy in the end, but I maintained a great gap. In the last two laps the track was terrible but I had the gap so I could use that to be safe. I held the lead by just trying to hold that gap the entire rest of the race."
Ashley Freiberg: Second Place Platinum Class
"Starting from eighth I had no idea that I would be up to third in the first turn, so I am pretty happy with that. Especially toward the end when tires started to fall off, and I tried to be really patient and use my tires nicely and that's how I got around Colin (Thompson). I was starting to catch Madison toward the end but he just had too much of a gap on me. But I am so pumped right now. I saw Michael in my mirrors all the way around and I think more than anything it gave me a little more fire because my teammates were pushing me from behind so I knew I had to do this!"
Colin Thompson: Third Place Platinum Class
"We started qualifying in the morning with high hopes because we did well in practice but we got into qualifying and our strategy was a little off because the fast times went down in the beginning of the session but we were able to get out and hold onto what ended up being 4th position on the grid. As the race went on, we were able to avoid the big one at the start which put us in second and we held a solid race to come out in third at the end."
John Baker: Yokohama Hard Charger Award
"The key was survival today. This track is about keeping your head down and making no mistakes. It's asymmetric, sometimes you lose more than you gain."
The field of 24 GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama competitors saw nothing but green flags in the qualifying session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Smooth qualifications allowed to rack up times to determine the starting positions for both races.
Two Utah natives led the Platinum Cup category as Madison Snow and Sloan Urry set the pace early. Both drivers posted their fastest times in just four laps, but it was ultimately Snow and Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports who claimed the pole.
Earning the top starting position at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is nothing new for the 17-year-old. Snow first started racing the cork screw three years ago in the Gold Cup category and has won the pole ever since.
"I guess I have had Pole here every time," he said. "At least my Dad said so! It was good run today. The car was great and I wasn't pushing super hard and I wasn't on edge the entire time, and I still had a super fast lap, so it was a perfect run."
Snow was the only driver to break 1:27 on the 11-turn facility and did so on his fastest and second-fastest lap times.
Just .283 behind Snow, Urry and Effort Racing finished P2 during the seamless qualifications. Without a single caution flag, only three seconds separated the top 20 Platinum drivers.
TruSpeed Motorsports' Miles Maroney weaved his way around the home course and hung with Snow and Urry for the majority of the session. The California native's fastest time was posted in the least number of laps, making only three trips around the track for a time of 1:28.412.
In the Gold Cup category, Michael Levitas had the fastest lap in the No. 36 car for TPC Racing. Teammate David Williams finished .534 behind Levitas to claim the second starting position in Gold.