But Sebring is also a place of history for Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama driver Mark Llano. The track, only 106 miles northwest of his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida, is where the four-year series veteran began his racing career.
“Sebring is where it all started,” Llano said. “It’s where the car was delivered, where I practiced and where I tested before ever taking the track for a race. I have so much pain and suffering from Sebring but also some big triumphs.
“Sebring is so historic. When you think about the history and legends that have raced here, it’s epic. This is where we train; this is my backyard. This is where I first got in the car and spun in just about every turn. I have a story for every turn, one through 17. I’ve been to a lot of the tracks now, and there is just something about this place. It really is legendary.”
Sebring was the first race of Llano’s racing career, in 2013. He is reminded of that fact every time he has started subsequent seasons at the track.
Over the last three seasons, Llano, 47, has continually progressed. His hard work culminated in 2015 with a second-place finish in both the Gold Cup and Gold Cup Masters Driver Championships. It was a season of consistency. Llano never finished outside of the top seven.
Last year, United States Marine Corps veteran Llano started his strong season with a second-place finish in the season opener at Sebring in front of family and friends.
“It’s a special place for me,” Llano said. “Last year we had the whole family out here, all four kids and great sponsors. We had so many veterans here waving the flag at Turn 10. So it means so much to get on the podium here when you can raise the trophy in front of them.”
Llano picked up where the 2015 season ended this week at the Sebring Open Test. He posting the second-quickest time in the Gold Cup class through all three practice sessions.
“This week we’ve just been trying to improve our lap times from last year,” Llano said. “We’re finding deeper braking points and carrying more speed through the turns. We’re trying to find the mistakes from last year and hopefully we can improve and get that first place.”
He is the top returning Gold Cup driver in the series, with 2015 champion Jeff Mosing moving to the Platinum Cup. Llano, a successful businessman, is also the veteran leader on the NGT Motorsport team.
“Last year motivated me, for sure, being that close and having great finishes,” Llano said. “But this year I’m even more motivated. Last year it was a lot of fun battling with Jeff Mosing. So to come to this season, I’m really looking forward to some big wins.
“I have a great team around me, great support. And we have a lot of big programs going on for our military and their families, so I’m excited to get started and light up the Gold class this year.”
Llano started racing with NGT Motorsport in 2013. But he started competing in motorsports for more than the adrenaline rush. Llano is passionate about the U.S. military and veterans, and he wanted a platform to raise awareness and funds for veteran charities, making the flag wavers in Turn 10 even more special.
“We race for change at Serket Racing,” Llano said. “Every race is more than just a single race for us. We race for the podium and to get the win, but every time we get out there it’s to honor those that have sacrificed so much.”
Serket Racing, with support from partners and sponsors, donated more than $6 million in scholarships to wives and children of veterans in 2015. It’s a program the team plans to continue in 2016 with Kaplan University and Boot Campaign, in addition to expanding to other programs.
“We’re going to try and do a few more Faces of Our Freedom campaigns at the tracks,” Llano said. “We want to get other drivers involved, have them get their boots on and support Boot Campaign and our veterans.”
Wednesday Testing: Three-time reigning Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Platinum Cup champion Marco Cirone posted the top time in the rainy practice Wednesday with a top time of 2 minutes, 27.597-seconds in the No. 88 Mark Motors Racing Porsche. Lucas Catania led both test days overall with a top time of 2:06.319 set in the dry first practice session Tuesday in the No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche. He was followed by McKay Snow in the No. 63 Wright Motorsports car at 2:06.319, also during the Tuesday morning session. Snow’s teammate and series veteran, Fred Poordad, led the Platinum Masters Cup with a top time of 2:07.874 in the No. 20 Porsche. Philip Bloom led the Gold Cup competitors overall with a time of 2:10.204 in the No. 11 Wright Motorsports car.
About Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama enters its 12th season in 2016 as one of Porsche’s 20 single-make Cup Challenge series in the world. The series produces intense, exciting competition for semi-professional and aspiring professional drivers in the world’s most produced and iconic race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Racing is divided into two classes – Platinum Cup, featuring the 2014-2016 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, which is based on the current seventh, and current, generation of the street car, and Gold Cup, which is comprised of the previous iteration (model years 2010-2013) of the race car. A Masters Championship also is conducted in Platinum and Gold classes. Each class is awarded with its own podium at the end of every race and individual champion at the end of every season. Points are awarded by finish in class.
Source. Grand Solutions