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Benitez Holds Off Nielsen For Victory

porsche gt3 lime rock podAngel Benitez Jr. earned his third victory of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season in Round 5 on Saturday, May 24 at Lime Rock Park.

Round 6 of the season – also scheduled for Saturday – was abandoned due to unsuitable conditions on course caused by heavy rain in addition to a local curfew. IMSA will evaluate further consideration for replacement of this round.

Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, has earned all three of his victories this season from pole in the No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. He swept the season-opening rounds at Sebring International Raceway by 3.103 and 3.735 seconds, respectively.

But Benitez was pushed much harder in this race by series newcomer Christina Nielsen in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport Porsche.

Nielsen, from Aarhus, Denmark, earned her first podium finish in the series by finishing second, just .372 of a second behind, after pressuring Benitez for nearly the entire 45-minute race. She became just the second female driver to earn a podium position in the elite Platinum Cup class in the 10-year history of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

“It was a good race,” Benitez said. “She made me work the whole way.

“We’re really happy. We are the only car on the team. This is dedicated for the team, my dad, the family, Formula Motorsport, Avid Motorsport. It’s great to be racing for Porsche. I love their brand. Porsche works great with Yokohama.”

Sloan Urry, from Park City, Utah, finished third in the No. 20 JDX Racing entry for his third podium finish of the season. He won the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for climbing to third after starting sixth.

Nielsen, who started third, passed Michael Schein for second on the second lap and never lost that spot. She cut the gap to Benitez in the closing laps but also was forced to keep an equal eye on her mirrors at the hard-charging Urry and Michael Lewis.

The race for the last two podium spots was intense on the final lap. Nielsen, Urry and Lewis went three-wide into the fast Turn 1 on the narrow circuit, but all three made it through cleanly. Nielsen held off Urry for second by less than four-tenths of a second.

“I’m happy to have my first podium,” Nielsen said. “It was a close call on the last lap in the first corner.”

Nielsen earned a podium spot in just her fifth start in the series. She competed the last two seasons in Porsche GT3 championships in Europe and the Middle East after beginning her career in karting and junior open-wheel formulas.

“There are elements that I learned from the other tracks that I just put into place here, and it worked,” Nielsen said. “It’s more than I expected. I didn’t expect to be within the top that quickly.”

Lewis, from Laguna Beach, California, ended up fourth in the No. 98 Competition Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian Porsche, less than six-tenths of a second behind Urry.

The race was filled with hard racing and occasional side-by-side contact as drivers chased the limited space on the seven-turn, 1.5-mile circuit. Lewis and fellow young star Colin Thompson engaged in a fierce, full-contact duel for fourth late in the race before Lewis closed on Urry and Nielsen for a podium position.

Kasey Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, was the first Platinum Masters (age 45 and older) finisher in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports entry. It was the fourth consecutive race this season Kuhlman topped the division. Javier Quiros, from San Jose, Costa Rica, was second in Platinum Masters in the No. 27 NGT Motorsport Porsche. David Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, placed third in the No. 37 TPC Racing 911 GT3 Cup car.

Patrick-Otto Madsen, from Boca Raton, Florida, won the Gold Cup (2010-13 model cars) class for the second time this season in the No. 99 ANSA Motorsports Porsche. Michael Levitas, from Baltimore, was second in Gold and was the leading Gold Masters finisher in the No. 35 TPC Racing entry. Fred Poordad, from San Antonio, Texas, was third in Gold and second in Gold Masters in the No. 02 Competition Motorsports Porsche. Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, rounded out the Gold Masters podium in the No. 01 Topp Racing 911 GT3 Cup car less than an hour after he finished the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class race at Lime Rock.

The next two rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama will take place June 26-29 at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.

VIEW:  Race One Results | Point Standings

ANGEL BENITEZ JR. (No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport, winner): “It was a good race. She made me work the whole way. But it’s good. That means she’s improving. All of the people are improving in the category. That means the level of racing is hard. That’s going to tell people that when they come here, it’s not to just to come and win. It’s to come here, learn, work hard and then take the victory. We’re really happy. We are the only car on the team. This is dedicated for the team, my dad, the family, Formula Motorsport, Avid Motorsport. It’s great to be racing for Porsche. I love their brand. Porsche works great with Yokohama. We took the fastest lap on the second lap of the qualifying. That says a lot.”

CHRISTINA NIELSEN (No. 25 NGT Motorsport, second): “Basically what made this track difficult was the overlappers (lapped traffic). We were overtaking them a lot. I felt like I had good pointers out there. I had good speed. Angel (Benitez) wasn’t that much quicker than me. He might have had a few laps where he was a little bit quicker, but other than that, we were very equal. I was the most consistent driver throughout the race, time-wise, which is very important. I’m happy to have my first podium. It was a close call on the last lap in the first corner.” (What about this circuit suited your style?): “I don’t know, to be honest. There are elements that I learned from the other tracks that I just put into place here, and it worked. It’s more than I expected. I didn’t expect to be within the top that quickly. But already in the first practice, we were P3. I’ve been P3 the entire weekend, and now I finished P2. I had a good start. I knew I had a good chance in the beginning if I got a good start. Once I was on the inside of (Michael) Schein, I didn’t give anything away, and I took over that second position and I held it all the way home. I’m going to call my dad now!”

SLOAN URRY (No. 20 JDX Racing, third; Yokohama Hard Charger Award winner):“It was a tough race. The car started out a little unpredictable. It wasn’t what I was used to throughout the weekend. But the car started coming to us as the race went on, and with traffic and everything, we were able to maneuver around the guys and stay out of trouble. I kind of knew it was going to be an attrition race, especially where I was in the field. So I just let the guys in front of me make some mistakes and was able to capitalize, luckily. JDX did an awesome job. The car really came to me toward the end. Definitely could have used a couple more laps. It would have been fun. But at the same time, it was nice to finish on the podium and secure third place.”

KASEY KUHLMAN (No. 15 Wright Motorsports, first, Platinum Masters): “Tough race, tough track. This place is very physically demanding. I just had to hit my marks, keep it clean and bring it home, and that’s what I did. I was at the tail end of the lead pack, so I decided to stay there and wait for those guys to make a mistake. I had a little side-by-side action with my teammate mid-race that was more dramatic than I hoped for, but we both got through clean. After that, I didn’t have the pace for the leaders other than to stay with them and wait for a mistake. And they didn’t make it.”

JAVIER QUIROS (No. 27 NGT Motorsport, second, Platinum Masters): “It was a great race. I started 11th. When I saw the pack, I thought in the first lap, ‘It’s going to be a mess.’ But I think everybody is getting much better in this race; people are getting more conscience that this is real racing. It’s hard to pass. So I tried to catch up as much as I can. The yellow flag helped me. When there was the green flag (restart), a pack of five cars ran away, and I got stuck with two or three or cars in the back. I’m very happy with second place in Platinum. (Kasey) Kuhlman is very fast. I’ve got to find a turbo or something to put on my car to catch this guy.”

DAVID WILLIAMS (No. 37 TPC Racing, third, Platinum Masters): “This was a great race. It was a dogfight out there. I started second and finished third, so I can’t be mad about it. There were a lot of passes back and forth and lot of hard racing. With everything going on you have to stay looking forward and not in your mirrors, and it’s a focus track; you have to stay focused. I love this place. It’s a great rhythm track.”

PATRICK-OTTO MADSEN (No. 99 ANSA Motorsports, winner, Gold Cup): “It was tough out there. Since I was on pole, I just wanted to make sure I kept that gap between the Gold cars. I knew I just had to keep it consistent, and at the end, my fuel reserve (light) came on. At that point, you have to do a lot more to conserve that remaining fuel, and it’s tough to do and tough on your body. I knew I had to maintain it, and I was able to do that. I’m really happy about that and to be on podium. And, as always, thanks to ANSA for a great car.”

MICHAEL LEVITAS (No. 35 TPC Racing, second, Gold Cup; first, Gold Masters): “I got to tell you that was one of the best races I’ve ever been in. I don’t know if it was a race or a bullfight. There were no mirrors. I noticed halfway through that from running over the gators my mirrors were facing down. At that point, I’m just thinking: ‘Who needs it? It doesn’t matter.’ It was really tight, and everyone had some really great racing. We worked really hard this weekend on the setup. It was a little tight, but tight was working for us because it let us get really good lap times at the end. IMSA did a fantastic job with that race, and that was just classic Lime Rock action.”

FRED POORDAD (No. 02 Competition Motorsports, third, Gold Cup; second, Gold Masters): “I had a rough start. Actually got passed by a few cars before the start-finish and had to make up some ground. I had to make my way through after finding myself at the back of the pack. The car was fast at the beginning of the race. At the end of the race, though, I was losing grip and lost power in the fourth gear, so it was a tough challenge. But Competition Motorsports did a great job, had a great car underneath me. My crew chief, engineer, team principal, can’t thank them enough.”

JEFF MOSING (No. 01 Topp Racing third, Gold Masters): “As always, these Porsche GT3 Cup cars are a blast to drive. For this race, I had just gotten off another race with Conti (Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge), and thankfully the car was ready to go. I had a little bit of an issue in the beginning with fuel and had to end up backpedaling in the end with the fuel pump. The car was setup really nice. I kept my head up. I saw a couple of guys in front of me get in to shenanigans, and I tried to keep clear of that. It’s tempting to try and take advantage of that on the first lap, but the line is really narrow here and the marbles tend to build up. You have to keep your eye out for trouble, especially on the hill. We haven’t had any incidents so far there, but it’s pretty crazy and I’m starting to really like it. The whole mentality of the first race is to get through it with the car in one piece.”

Source. Grand Solutions


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