It wasn’t without adventure, but Canadian driver Zacharie Robichon claimed his sixth Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama victory in seven starts this season in Thursday’s penultimate round of the 2018 season.
Driving the No. 19 Moorespeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car that he qualified on the pole position earlier in the day, Robichon got off to a slow start at the drop of the green flag in the 45-minute race, enabling Max Root in the No. 7 Wright Motorsports machine to take the lead and Roman De Angelis to take second in the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche.
While Robichon managed to get the spot back from De Angelis shortly thereafter, Root remained at the head of the field for the next 15 minutes. Robichon finally caught and passed him in Turn 10 with slightly more than 28 minutes remaining. Shortly thereafter, the race’s first of two full-course cautions came out – this one to retrieve the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche of Charlie Luck from the Turn 10 gravel trap.
The green flag flew again with 20 minutes remaining but was followed by another full-course caution a minute later when Jason Lee skidded into the Turn 6 tire barrier in the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Porsche. The race was restarted for the final time with seven and a half minutes to go, at which point Robichon pulled away. He went on to win by 2.837 seconds over Root.
“I think at the start, they give us a start zone and most races, as the leader you kind of go before the green flag comes out,” Robichon said. “In this case, the green flag came out before I went. To be completely honest, I just wasn’t looking at the green flag and the other guys got a jump. Unfortunately, from the pole, you never want that to happen. I’ll take the blame for that one. I kind of screwed that one up.
“It made the race a little bit more exciting than I wanted. We were able to get by Roman relatively quickly and then kind of track down Max. He put in a good race up front. There were a couple places where he was quicker, and because of that, it set him up nicely for the passing zone, so I had to wait for him to make a mistake. I was able to get by him in Turn 10, and then I think we had just a little bit more car at that point.”
Root matched his previous best result of second, which he also achieved at Watkins Glen and VIRginia International Raceway. It was his fifth podium result of the season. Canadian driver Roman De Angelis completed the podium with a third-place performance in the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche.
It was De Angelis’ ninth podium of the season and allowed him to reduce the gap between himself and Trenton Estep in the Platinum Cup point standings for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built in 2017 and 2018. Estep – who finished fifth in Thursday’s race in the No. 3 JDX Racing machine behind Anthony Imperato in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports machine – leads by 27 points, 469-442, heading into tomorrow morning’s season finale at Road Atlanta.
The lead for the Platinum Masters championship for drivers over the age of 45 changed hands in the penultimate round. Alan Metni drove his No. 99 AM Motorsports/Kelly-Moss Porsche to his fourth victory of the season. That result, coupled with an eighth-place class result for erstwhile Platinum Masters points leader Luck moved Metni into the class lead by five points, 443-438, going into Friday’s finale.
“It’s important,” Metni said. “Every one of these races is equally important for the championship. I look forward to tomorrow. I’m going to go out and have fun, race hard, and hopefully we’ll win.”
Michael Levitas finished second in Platinum Masters in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche, with David Baker completing the class podium with a third-place run in the No. 56 Topp Racing machine. Baker also earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for the Platinum Cup car that improved the most positions from start to finish in the race. Baker started 14th on the overall starting grid and came home 10th overall.
In the Gold Cup class for GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016, Jonathon Ziegelman drove his No. 72 JZ Motorsports Porsche to the class victory. Ziegelman’s car is carrying a special livery as a tribute for former Champion Racing owner Dave Maraj, who died earlier this summer.
“It’s one last one for Mr. Maraj,” Ziegelman said. “This win’s for Champion Motorsport and everyone at JZ Motorsport. I basically have the entire ex-personnel from Champion that’s assisting with the car. It’s a home win for us. This is almost our home track. Everyone has their own little championship out there and I was trying to stay out of everybody’s way, but also managing the tires and just trying to stay clean. I can’t be any happier than coming home with the win.”
David Ducote came home second in Gold Cup in the No. 6 Kelly-Moss Road and Race machine ahead of Victor Gomez IV in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport Porsche. It was Gomez’s 13th podium result in 15 races this season and enabled him to clinch the Gold Cup title.
“It’s super-special, super-emotional for me and for my family and for Puerto Rico, which has been supporting me since Day 1 when I started in the backs of the grids,” Gomez said. “It’s a really emotional time for us. I’ve worked really hard with (team owner) Ramez (Wahab) and the whole NGT group.
“They gave me a superb car all season, great setups. The car was a bullet all season. I couldn’t be here without my sponsors from back home. I’m really, really happy right now. I couldn’t have asked for a better season and better people to spend it with.”
Friday’s final race of the season goes off at 10:10 am ET. The 45-minute race will be streamed live on IMSA.tv and on the IMSA Facebook page.