The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series began winding up its 16-round season this weekend at Road Atlanta, in support of the 20th Motul Petit Le Mans headlined by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Platinum Masters and Gold Cup championships were still on the line, while Jake Eidson of Kelly-Moss Road and Race entered the weekend having already clinched the Platinum Cup title after Round 14 at Sonoma Raceway.
As he’s done on several occasions this season, Eidson captured another flag-to-flag win, increasing his Platinum Cup win count to eight this year. The 2017 Champion left the battles behind him in the field while cruising to victory. With championship positions tight in the Platinum Cup category, hard side-by-side racing ensued from the drop of the green flag.
In a fight for fourth position with the No. 3 of Trenton Estep and JDX Racing/Hertz on Lap 2, the No. 19 of Will Hardeman and Moorespeed/Continental Automotive Group found itself off the main straightaway and into the grass. A determined Hardeman kept the pedal down and held on to his Porsche GT3 Cup car in the grass the entire length of the front straight, getting back on course in Turn 1, but not before losing several positions. The off-course excursion ultimately led to Hardeman’s early retirement.
McKay Snow, who topped the initial practice charts, showed similar speed again in the No. 63 of Wright Motorsports/Snow Racing. Snow immediately jumped into the second spot at the start and held on to it throughout the race, while consistently challenging Eidson for position, to earn a second-place finish in his Platinum Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry.
Corey Fergus swapped spots with Snow at the start in his No. 00 Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports car, dropping to third from his second-place starting position. Fergus found himself in a race-long battle with Estep, but managed to hold him off as the race played out and grabbed third place and the final step on the podium.
The Platinum Masters points leader, David Baker, ran off track briefly in Turn 1 on Lap 2 to avoid Hardeman’s re-entry to the circuit. Baker lost several positions in his No. 56 TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation car, but kept his head down through the remainder of the race gaining ground as the race progressed. Baker made a late-race pass on Mark Kvamme’s No. 43 JDX Racing entry for the class lead to win Platinum Masters and clinch the class championship with only one race remaining.
The tightest battle coming into the weekend was in the Gold Cup class, where the top three drivers in points all were in contention for the category championship. Only eight points separated the trio at the race start.
The 2017 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Gold Cup Champion, Roman De Angelis, was only six points out of first in the No. 78 Mark Motors Racing entry. The sixteen-year-old may have been taken out of contention for a second series crown after hard contact with Andrew Longe’s Wright Motorsports/Trianon Hotels car. De Angelis slowed to a stop and his day was over after only two laps, leaving him with a 10th-place finish in Gold and a serious deficit in points.
Series veteran David Ducote returned to competition for the second time this season and was immediately quick in practice and qualifying. Showing no signs of loss of race craft, Ducote pushed his No. 6 for Kelly-Moss Road and Race, sponsored by Vulcan, swiftly through the field of newer Platinum Cup cars to capture his second win and third podium of the season in just three races. His performance was good enough for sixth overall in the 19-car event.
A series of restarts after three caution periods in the race gave Puerto Rico’s Victor Gomez IV the opportunity he needed to improve his position in the Gold Cup standings in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport/Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico car. His second-place finish in Gold also moved him into second place in the points battle, only four behind leader Fred Kaimer in the No. 23 NGT Motorsport/Race Deck entry. Kaimer finished fourth in class in the 25-lap event.
For each race weekend and for the season, the Yokohama Hard Charger Award is presented in Platinum Cup and Gold Cup for the drivers overtaking the most positions on track. Kvamme grabbed the honors in Platinum Cup Thursday for improving the most positions in his class. The Gold Cup drivers will get their shot at Hard Charger accolades in Race 2.
The 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Champion, Jake Eidson, was in championship form in the qualifying session, posting the fastest lap for the field of one minute, 23.673 seconds in the No. 24 of Kelly-Moss Road and Race Platinum Cup car. Trenton Estep held the top spot briefly in the No. 3 JDX Racing/Hertz car before Eidson clipped his time to take the pole for Race 1 of the weekend.
Hot on the heels of Eidson, Corey Fergus, from the Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports team, posted the second-fastest time of the day of 1:23.709 in his No. 00 Porsche GT3 Cup car. Fergus was second in points coming into the weekend.
David Baker was the fastest Platinum Masters qualifier with a time of 1:25.627 in his No. 56 TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation entry, good enough for 10th overall. Baker showed up at Road Atlanta with a 20-point lead in his class championship and looking to clinch early.
Roman De Angelis picked up his 13th Gold Cup pole for the No. 78 Mark Motors Racing team with a time of 1:25.214, good enough for eighth position overall. He entered the weekend trailing Fred Kaimer of NGT Motorsport/Race Deck by just six points in the Gold Cup championship.
Race 1 Driver Quotes:
Jake Eidson – No. 24, Kelly-Moss Road and Race – Platinum Winner
“I think all the restarts were really beneficial to everyone but me. I was really working hard to get the tire temps up because on the restarts the tire pressures and the temps were really low. I was able to get some good jumps in the last couple of corners but it was tough. Especially when you build a gap and it just gets closed like that. I am really happy for the Kelly-Moss team because they worked really hard all year and gave me a great car. I am also really happy for Racing For Children’s [Hospital] because they were able to come out here and watch and celebrate these wins with us, so it’s really rewarding.”
David Baker – No. 56, TOPP Racing – Platinum Masters Winner
“The splitter came off and Will [Hardeman] was the guy who went off track and came back on and we kind of got together and that put me off and I lost a splitter. So, when the full-course [caution flag] came out we were like ‘this is good, we can come in and change’ and I can go to the back where I already was. So, it worked out really well. I want to thank my sponsor Apex Capital Corporation for all their support throughout this entire race season.”
David Ducote – No. 6, Kelly-Moss Road and Race – Gold Cup Winner
“I really didn’t expect to do this well. I haven’t been in a car in months and I was hospitalized for a while just before this so I said I was just going to use this as a catalyst for motivation and it seemed to work. I am really pleased with the result. Kelly-Moss gave me a great car and hit an error free run. There was a lot going on and a lot to be aware of so I just tried to drive heads up and drive smart and it seemed to work out.”
Mark Kvamme – No. 43, JDX Racing – Yokohama Hard Charger Award Winner
“I really wanted to beat [David] Baker. I really wanted to beat him, but he got me on the last lap. We had fun out there. There was a lot of stuff going on and the track was a little bit slipperier than I thought, but we just plugged away one after the other. The car was great and the JDX Racing team did a great job.”
RACE 2 SUMMARY
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama lined up for the season finale Friday as part of the Motul Petit Le Mans, in support of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Two Champions had already been previously crowned – Jake Eidson wrapped up the Overall and Platinum Cup Championships at the previous event at Sonoma Raceway in the No. 24 Kelly-Moss Road and Race entry and David Baker sealed his Platinum Masters Championship bid in Thursday’s round with a win in the No. 56 TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation car.
Eidson started from pole, but was quickly passed by a charging Trenton Estep in the No. 3 JDX Racing/Hertz 911 GT3 Cup car. Estep never looked back, keeping Eidson at bay for the 29-lap season-ender to take his second win of the season. Eidson settled in for his second-place podium spot, his 14th podium in a season where he has collected eight wins.
Chasing the Estep-Eidson duo from a few car lengths back, McKay Snow had the mirrors of his No. 63 Wright Motorsports/Snow Racing car full of the No. 00 of Corey Fergus from the Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports team. Snow successfully defended his position and several pass attempts from Fergus throughout the race. Fergus made his final assault on the last lap with a bold move coming out of the final turn to nip Snow at the start-finish line. His third-place finish was Fergus’ 10th podium. He also bagged three wins this season.
Platinum Masters Champion Baker pedaled hard to another victory in class to wrap up his eight-win, 15-podium season. Baker was followed to victory lane by Mark Kvamme in the No. 43 for JDX Racing. Kvamme posted two wins and 15 podiums this year.
But all eyes were on Gold today – the Gold Cup class that is. It was the only championship still up for grabs and it was a tight three-way contest for the top spot. The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Gold Cup Champion Roman De Angelis dashed his hopes in Thursday’s contest with a hard crash that rendered his No. 78 Mark Motors Racing car unable to start Friday’s event.
That left the challenge between NGT Motorsport teammates Fred Kaimer in the No. 23 Race Deck entry and the No. 25 of Victor Gomez IV for Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico. Kaimer started the day just four points ahead of Gomez – a mere two positions in class on the race track.
Starting second in class with Kaimer starting sixth, Gomez had two choices. He could choose to worry about where Kaimer would end up behind him or focus on passing David Ducote’s No. 6 from the Kelly-Moss Road and Race/Vulcan team.
Picking the latter option, Gomez quickly discovered that the wily Ducote was no easy choice. Returning for just his second weekend this season, the series veteran defended his top spot in class, lap after lap against Gomez. Meanwhile, Kaimer made his way up through the field and set sights on the rear bumper of Gomez. A mid-race duel ensued between the contenders, who swapped the championship on a pair of occasions during the race.
Ducote kept the fight going with Gomez and didn’t give up ground, taking his second win of the weekend and his third in four races this season. Gomez settled for second and will take his second-place championship trophy home, along with a plane load of supplies, to his battered home country of Puerto Rico.
Kaimer backed off from the leaders and chased down a third-place finish to capture his first Gold Cup Championship. It was Kaimer’s first full season in the series, where he posted 11 podiums on his way to the title.
Race 2 Driver Quotes
Trenton Estep – No. 3, JDX Racing/Hertz Racing – Platinum Cup Winner
“The guys at JDX Racing gave me a super, super reliable car. I was just able to use that to my advantage and go down on the inside of Jake [Eidson] at the start and was able to maintain the lead throughout the race. Jake definitely gave me a run for my money, but the JDX crew gave me a great car to be able to maintain the lead.”
David Baker – No. 56, TOPP Racing – Platinum Masters Winner
“Great race. There was some action at the front at the start and that allowed me to get a couple of spots. I got ahead of [David] Ducote and he kept me honest the whole dog gone race. Guys at TOPP Racing have just been awesome all season long. Hats off to them for making all this possible. They are just great.”
David Ducote – No. 6, Kelly-Moss Road and Race – Gold Cup Winner
“My rear tires were starting to degrade and I was having trouble getting out of Turn 5 and getting back to power, so he [Victor Gomez IV] would clean up on me there but I was quick at the faster things but overall I was just walking that line of pushing a little too hard and having something go wrong and being a little defensive there at the end because I knew he was going to be right on me. It worked out and I am thankful for the result we got.”
Fred Kaimer – No. 23, NGT Motorsport/Race Deck – Yokohama Hard Charger Award Winner
“I did not think that was going to happen. But fortunately my teammate and my Roman [De Angelis] ran abbreviated schedules this weekend, so I sort of backed into it, but hey, I will take it anyway I can get it. I will take the one’s I can get no matter how I get them. My car started to go away at the end and Charlie Luck always runs really well here and I could just barely stay ahead of him and manage to hold him off.”
Victor Gomez IV – No. 25, NGT Motorsport/Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico – Gold Cup Second Place
“It was super fun. At the beginning of the season I would have never thought I would be here battling for the championship only four points out. Especially with my eventful first race in Sebring. But we worked hard all year and NGT gave me a great car. We never had any problems in any race and I am happy that Fred [Kaimer] and NGT won the chamipionship.”
Source. LST Marketing