Each time – in both races at Road America two weeks ago and on Saturday here at VIR – Robichon started from the pole and led every lap. However, it became clear within the first two minutes of Sunday’s 45-minute timed race that this time it would be much more difficult for the Canadian.
At the start of the second lap, Max Root got a good run in the No. 7 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine and darted to the inside of Robichon’s No. 19 Moorespeed Porsche to take the lead. At the end of that 3.27-mile lap, Root became the first driver other than Robichon to be scored the leader since Robichon started driving the No. 19 at Road America.
Root stayed out front for more than 20 minutes, albeit with Robichon filling his mirrors for most of that time. Finally, with 19-and-a-half minutes remaining, Robichon got a good run down the front stretch and took the lead going into Turn 1.
The race was far from over, though, as points leader Trenton Estep got past Root for second place with 14 minutes remaining. Driving the No. 3 JDX Racing Porsche, Estep immediately began to chase down Robichon.
With 11 minutes remaining, Robichon went slightly off course avoiding a lapped car, removing the front splitter and making the No. 19 Porsche much more difficult to drive. Estep was able to close up behind Robichon’s wounded car and in the closing minutes, briefly attempted a pass coming out of Turn 2, but it was not to be.
Robichon would not be challenged over the remaining distance and went on to win by 0.918 seconds over Estep. It was Robichon’s series leading fourth victory of the GT3 Cup Challenge USA b Yokohama season – coming in his fourth start of the season. Robichon also leads the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama championship heading into next weekend’s season-ending doubleheader at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“This one was a whole ‘nother game,” Robichon said. “Max had a wonderful start. I think I was too conservative on the first lap. The car was good, it was just on me. After I was behind him, just a little bit of dirty air makes it that much harder to follow and he just wasn’t making any mistakes. About five laps in, when the car came in, I started really trying to pressure him. Eventually, he made a mistake and I was able to get by.
“It was right at that point that our car usually comes in, about eight to 10 laps in, so the car was good at that point, and I think I would have been able to manage the gap to the cars behind me. Then, lapped traffic. I thought he saw me, obviously he didn’t, and I dropped a wheel and then the splitter came off. At that point, it’s just don’t quit. I had to work hard for that one.”
Estep held on for second for his 11th podium result in 12 races this season. He expanded his lead in the championship standings in the Platinum Cup class for 911 GT3 Cup cars built in 2017 or 2018 to 24 points over Roman De Angelis with four races left on the 2018 calendar.
Driving the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche, De Angelis finished third, getting the final podium spot on the last lap when Root had an off-course excursion. Anthony Imperato finished fourth in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports Porsche, while David Kolkmann completed the top five in the No. 71 Park Place Motorsports Porsche. Root wound up sixth.
In the Platinum Cup Masters class for drivers over the age of 45, Fred Poordad picked up his first victory since winning at Watkins Glen International in 2016. Driving the No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche, Poordad got around Alan Metni in the No. 99 AM Motorsports/Kelly-Moss Porsche midway through the race to get the win.
“First of all, I want to thank Wright Motorsports and my chief and engineers for putting the car together,” said Poordad, who sat out the entire 2017 season after an injury in the Bathurst 12 Hours. “The car was awesome. It was only on me to screw it up, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t do that. The race pace was pretty quick, a lot of good competition.
“It’s taken me more than half the season to finally feel like I’m back in the groove after taking a year off from this sport. I felt pretty good out there today and hopefully I can build on this. It was a really exciting race. It’s a great racetrack, I love racing here, and I’ve got to be honest, I’m glad it didn’t rain.”
Saturday’s Platinum Masters winner, Michael Levitas, came home second in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche, with David Baker completing the podium with a third-place run in the No. 56 Topp Racing machine.
Charlie Luck continues to lead the Platinum Masters championship standings after a difficult weekend in his home state. He finished sixth on Sunday in the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche despite two off-course excursions during the race. He leads Metni by 13 points, 358-345.
Victor Gomez IV strengthened his grip on the championship standings in the Gold Cup class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016 with a weekend sweep at VIR. He led every lap of the Gold Cup race in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport entry and beat Rob Ferriol in the No. 5 TPC Racing Porsche by 15.726 seconds to get the win.
Gomez now leads Ferriol in the Gold Cup standings by 43 points, 397-354, with four races left in the season.
“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier,” Gomez said. “I really needed this type of weekend. Two podiums in first place. I felt really, really good in the car. I was hitting my points. NGT gave me a super nice setup for the long run.
“I was fast. I think I was two seconds off the Platinums, which is right where we want to be, so I couldn’t be happier. We’re right on track for the championship and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
Greg Palmer came home third in Gold Cup in the No. 44 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche. He also earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for Race #2 at VIR as the Gold Cup driver to improve the most overall positions from start to finish in the race. Palmer started 19th and finished 16th overall.
Next up for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama is a pair of races at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend.