Twenty years ago, Porsche Cars North America moved its U.S. headquarters from Reno, Nevada, to Atlanta, Georgia. When the drivers and teams participate in the season-ending doubleheader for the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Oct. 4 through 7 at Road Atlanta, they know they’ll be performing before a contingent of Porsche executives and employees.
And it’s not like they need more pressure. Just racing on the complex, hard-to-master 2.54-mile natural-terrain Road Atlanta track is more than enough to require everyone’s top efforts. Add in that the hard-fought season championships in the Platinum and Gold classes are on the line, as well as the title in Masters, a sub-class in the Platinum division for drivers aged 45 and up.
With 14 races in the books since the season began in March at Sebring International Raceway in Florida – including events as far west as California, as far south as Texas and as far north as Wisconsin and New York – it all comes down to Road Atlanta, where the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge joins the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda to make up the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend. Porsches will contend for championships within the WeatherTech and Continental Tire series, too, helping cement a connection between Porsche and Road Atlanta that dates back to the track’s opening in 1970, when Tony Dean won the inaugural 300-kilometer Can-Am event, driving a Porsche 908/02. Porsche roots run deep in the red Georgia soil.
There has been some powerful talent on the roster of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA for the 2017 season, driving the all-new-for-2017 Porsche GT3 Cup car that debuted this season. Everyone has been chasing Jake Eidson, the Littleton, Colorado driver of the No. 24 Kelly-Moss Road and Race entry. Eidson was the first recipient of the annual IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship, named for the legendary Porsche driver and backed by Porsche, IMSA and Yokohama, which awarded Eidson supplemental funding for a season’s worth of racing. Eidson chose the veteran Kelly-Moss team, and it was a wise selection.
Eidson has won half the races in 2017 and recently clinched the Platinum Cup championship at Sonoma, but he’s obviously beatable – just ask drivers Trenton Estep, Corey Fergus, Sebastian Landy and Canadian racer Scott Hargrove, who came down from British Columbia to win the first GT3 Cup Challenge USA race at Sebring in March. Hargrove, incidentally, has already wrapped up the championship in the IMSA Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama back home.
Estep, the San Antonio, Texas driver of the No. 3 JDX Racing/Hertz entry, and Fergus, the Columbus, Ohio pilot of the No. 00 Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports car, have been running up front all year, both chipping away at Eidson’s dominance. Landy, the Great Falls, Virginia driver of the No. 49 Forto Strong Coffee entry, moved up to the Platinum class for 2017 from the Gold class, which races GT3 Cup cars from 2014-2016. He has been improving all year, and it came together at the doubleheader on his home track of VIRgina International Raceway, where he swept the weekend. It doesn’t hurt that he competes for Alex Job Racing, one of the most experienced and successful teams in Porsche racing history. Fergus is second in points behind Eidson, followed by Estep and Landy.
It’s likely no one will be racing harder than Will Hardeman, driver of the No. 19 Moorespeed/Continental Automotive Group car, and Anthony Imperato, who is behind the wheel of the No. 91 Wright Motorsport/Henry Repeating Arms car – they are tied at 147 points in the Platinum standings, just behind Landy. And just two points behind them is McKay Snow, driver of the No. 63, a Wright Motorsports/Snow Racing teammate to Imperato.
There’s also a close battle underway for the Platinum Masters drivers, who compete with the other Platinum drivers but also gather points separately for their own championship. David Baker, the Colleyville, Texas driver of the No. 56 TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation car, has a 20-point advantage over Columbus, Ohio’s Mark Kvamme, driver of the No. 43 JDX Racing entry, with Jeff Mosing of Austin, Texas, in third, in the TOPP Racing No. 01.
In the Gold Cup class, Fred Kaimer of Austin, driver of the No. 23 NGT Motorsport/Race Deck entry, has been in a fight with Roman De Angelis of Belle River, Ontario, driver of the No. 78 Mark Motors Racing car. In fact, teenager De Angelis has made so many racing trips south of the border that he could win the Gold championship in both the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada – he already has that one in the bag – and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA. Kaimer has only a six-point advantage over De Angelis coming into Atlanta.
Victor Gomez IV, driver of the No. 25 for NGT Motorsports and Mapfre, is only eight points out the lead; he would love to take the title back home – he’s from San Juan in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Regardless of the race and championship winners, it’s been a stellar season in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and what happens at Road Atlanta will only build on a Porsche heritage that began 47 years ago there.
The IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama practices Wednesday and Thursday, and qualifies Thursday 1:05 p.m.-1:25 p.m. ET. Race one takes place at 5:45-6:30 p.m. ET. Race two is scheduled for Friday at 10:35-11:20 a.m. ET.
Schedule (All Times ET):
Practice: 4:30-5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, and 8:55-9:35 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
Qualifying: 1:05-1:25 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
Race 1: 5:45-6:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
Race 2: 10:35-11:20 a.m., Friday, Oct. 6