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Sebring: Porsche race report

Rivera's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Wins in World Challenge GT Debut at Sebring SEBRING, Fla. (March 20, 2009) - Tony Rivera, of Missouri City, Texas, became the first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT driver to win in his series debut in five...

Rivera's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Wins in World Challenge GT Debut at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla. (March 20, 2009) - Tony Rivera, of Missouri City, Texas, became the first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT driver to win in his series debut in five years, taking the season opener at Sebring International Raceway, part of the 57th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Starting third in the No. 97 Tax Masters/Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racer, Rivera moved to second behind polesitter Dino Crescentini's No. 4 Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup on the standing start. By the end of the first lap, Eric Curran was in second in his No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette. The trio ran in that order until Curran made his move on Crescentini in Tune One on lap four. Rivera followed suit a lap later around the outside of Crescentini in Turn 15 with Brandon Davis putting his No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang into third two corners later.

Curran's lead ranged from one car length to as much as two seconds over the next dozen laps, with Rivera closing in to within 0.8-second when a lap-14 caution came out to retrieve debris in Turn Seven.

For the first time in series' history, the new double-file restart was implemented on lap 16, with Rivera and Curran drag-racing side-by-side into Turn One. Rivera kept his orange Porsche on the outside and as the pair exited the high-speed corner, he edged ahead of the Corvette in the run to Turn Three. The move earned Rivera the AutoWeek Move of the Race.

"I think the reason I got by Eric on the restart was because he stayed on the rev limiter too long," Rivera said. "I was able to get just enough to be alongside of him at turn in. It was nice to be able to run alongside people. One of the series I ran in last year, you got alongside people and they'd just drive right into you. I went side-by-side with Brandon [Davis] on the start. I did the same thing with Eric [Curran] on the restart. I was out there holding on, trusting that he wouldn't plow into my door."

From there, Rivera slowly pulled out an advantage to the checkered flag of the 20-lap, 74-mile contest, beating Curran to the finish line by 2.049 seconds, averaging 93.488 mph. Rivera also set the race's fastest lap while in second place, a 2:11.589 (101.224 mph).

"I haven't done standing starts before except in my old SCCA ProSolo days," Rivera added. "I'm really tired right now and it's probably because of all the adrenalin I had in my left foot at the start.

"We did a lot of testing in the off season, putting this team together. We had really high hopes in the beginning of this week. But, we're a new team and we were trying new things and we ended up fighting the car all week. I was thinking 'this can't be happening.' Luckily, our Kelly-Moss Racing and Brass Monkey Racing guys write things down and we were able to go back to the good setup and qualify third."

It was a surreal day for Rivera, who dreamed for years of one day making it to World Challenge after running SCCA Solo and Club Racing events for years. Last year, he was the Gold Cup champion in IMSA's GT3 Cup Challenge in a similar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, but the competition of this professional series is much tougher. On a day when he captured his first major road racing win, he was at a loss for words.

"I don't think winning a World Challenge race has sunk in yet to tell you the truth," Rivera reflected. "I don't think you ever feel like you've really achieved your goals. I got my first race under my belt and was hoping for a top 10. Probably about midnight tonight it'll hit me: I've made it. I don't really know what to say about it. I've learned so much about the racing business and now it's just an honor to be able to do this no matter what level you're at. It feels really good though. I never thought I would finally get here.

"Right now, I'm dumbfounded."

Rivera's sponsor, Tax Masters, made its first presentation of $5,000 to the United States Olympic Archery team Friday as well, something it intends to do at each race Rivera reaches the podium in 2009.

The win was the first in World Challenge GT competition for a driver making his series debut since Wolf Henzler won at Infineon Raceway in 2004 in his Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Henzler's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR is on the GT2 pole for tomorrow's 12 Hours of Sebring

Rivera leaves Sebring with a two-point lead over Curran in the Drivers' Championship, 124 to 122. Davis is third, with 95, followed by Sofronas (86) and Gaples (85). Porsche leads the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine with 10 points to Ford's five.

The series next travels to Long Beach for the ACS World Challenge at Long Beach Presented by Lala Motorsports April 17-19.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Eric Curran , Tony Rivera , Dino Crescentini , Brandon Davis , Wolf Henzler