Jesse Lazare, 17 years old, from Montreal, completed a sweep of the opening two rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, winning Friday at Sebring International Raceway after being pushed to the limit in both races by Elliott Skeer, from Carlsbad, California.
Lazare started from pole and edged Skeer by .121 of a second in the No. 21 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car after a stirring final-lap duel between the two young stars. Lazare moved to Kelly-Moss Motorsports for his second season in the championship in 2015, opening his tenure with the reigning Platinum Cup Team Champions with two victories.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama enters its 11th season in 2015 as one of the largest 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 and 2015 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.
“This is what I was hoping for, and it came true,” Lazare said. “It was a great race. I worked hard, and it’s paying off.”
Reigning Platinum Masters champion Kasey Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, finished third overall in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports entry and also was the top Platinum Masters finisher.
Michael Schein, from New York, followed up his third-place finish Thursday by placing fourth in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports entry, helping Wright earn three of the top four spots in the results.
Series rookie Lucas Catania, from Cazenovia, New York, rounded out the top five in the No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Sebastian Landy, from Falls Church, Virginia, rebounded from an accident Thursday to win the Gold Cup class and finish eighth overall in the No. 49 Atlanta Motorsports Group car. Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, swept the Gold Masters class at this event and finished second in Gold Cup in the No. 01 TOPP Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Skeer, from Carlsbad, California, stayed within eight-tenths of a second of pole sitter Lazare during the first 32 minutes of the 45-minute race. But Lazare expanded that gap to 1.136 seconds with 12 minutes to go when Santiago Creel spun into the wall in Turn 3, triggering a full-course caution period.
The race resumed with just more than five minutes remaining, and Lazare kept the lead on the restart. But Skeer pulled his No. 14 Wright Motorsports Porsche to Lazare’s back bumper on the front straightaway with the white flag in the air, signifying one lap to go.
Skeer tried to dive under Lazare in Turn 3 on the final lap, with white tire smoke shooting from the front wheels of both cars as they were on the limit. But Lazare outbraked Skeer on the outside and held his line – and his lead – through the corner. He kept his cool and drove the final 14 turns to a thrilling victory.
“I had to fight a little bit,” Lazare said. “But it was a great learning experience, and I’ll be better for the next one. He had an inside run on me going into Turn 3. It was scary. I had to outbrake him on the outside. Thank God it worked great.”
Said Skeer: “It was good. We kept it clean. There was no contact between us. We both made it through. Props to Jesse for an amazing weekend. I’m happy to come out of here with second-place points, double seconds and no scratches on the car, so I’m very happy with the weekend.”
He fulfilled his goal of a clean race, earning redemption for Round 1 on Thursday.
“My job today was to make no mistakes,” Kuhlman said. “No mistakes, hit my marks. I didn’t have the pace for the front two guys, and I knew that. So my job was to go just as fast as I could go. I’m really happy with the car; Wright Motorsports is awesome. And I’m so happy to be on the overall podium.”
David Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, scored his second Platinum Masters podium finish of the event in the No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche. He finished third Thursday.
Jay Patel, from Crown Point, Indiana, overcame a painful broken foot suffered in an accident in testing three weeks ago at NOLA Motorsports Park to finish third. It was his first Platinum Masters podium of the season in the No. 00 Kelly-Moss Motorsports entry.
Gold Cup/Gold Masters
Landy held off Mosing in a pressure-packed final lap to earn his first career Gold Cup victory. Landy, 19, held a steady lead over Mosing until the caution period. Mosing then poured on the pressure on the restart.
But Landy was able to hold off Mosing by .116 of a second at the finish, atoning for failing to finish Thursday.
“It was a great race the whole time,” Landy said. “I was lucky to get a pretty good start and found a good rhythm after that. Got some good space. The yellow wasn’t what we were looking for, but Jeff definitely did a great job after the restart. He made me earn every bit of it. Hat’s off to him for a great run.”
Michael Levitas, from Baltimore, finished third in Gold Cup and second in Gold Masters for his first podium finishes of the season in the No. 36 TPC Racing entry.
Paul Barnhart Jr., from Houston, finished third in Gold Masters in the No. 17 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche. He also earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award after finishing 13th overall despite starting 28th.
ROUND 2 POST-RACE QUOTES:
JESSE LAZARE (No. 21 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, winner): “The race was great. The first half of the race, before the restart, the car was 100 percent perfect. The team did a great job. I didn’t make too many mistakes, keeping the tires nice and fresh. The restart came around, and I didn’t put enough heat into my tires for the restart, and it came unexpected. I had to fight a little bit. But it was a great learning experience, and I’ll be better for the next one. He had an inside run on me going into Turn 3. It was scary. I had to out-brake him on the outside. Thank God it worked great.” (About opening season with new team with two victories): “This is what I was hoping for, and it came true. I worked hard, and it’s paying off.”
ELLIOTT SKEER (No. 14 Wright Motorsports, second): “Through the whole race, the changes that we made from yesterday to today really helped the car. Everyone at Wright really made the car tip-top today. I was comfortable in it. Second day, the first-day nerves are gone. We got the restart, it was like: ‘OK, it’s go time. Green-white-checkered coming up.’ He defended in (Turn) 1, and I tried it the first time. I’m thinking, ‘Maybe the last lap I might be able to try this.’ I got a good run out of (Turn) 17, tried him there, crossed it over, and we both go as deep as we can into there. It was good. We kept it clean. There was no contact between us. We both made it through. Props to Jesse (Lazare) for an amazing weekend. I’m happy to come out of here with second-place points, double seconds and no scratches on the car, so I’m very happy with the weekend.”
KASEY KUHLMAN (No. 15 Wright Motorsports, third, first Platinum Masters): “My job today was to make no mistakes. No mistakes, hit my marks. I didn’t have the pace for the front two guys, and I knew that. So my job was to go just as fast as I could go. I’m really happy with the car; Wright Motorsports is awesome. And I’m so happy to be on the overall podium. It was a great weekend and a great day today.”
DAVID WILLIAMS (No. 37 TPC Racing, second Platinum Masters): “It feels great. The car was fantastic. The team did a great job. I actually love this track; it’s my favorite track. I made some good progress this weekend. I stayed totally clean. It was great.”
JAY PATEL (No. 00 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, third Platinum Masters): “The race went really good compared to yesterday, when I had brake lockup going in the first lap. I changed some things in my technique and adjusted the bias a bit in the beginning of the race and adjusted the bias a little bit toward the rear in the middle of the race. The heat was a factor, but not so much. It was mainly my (broken) foot. I had an incident (in testing) a couple of weeks ago. Every single bump was shooting pain through my foot. You’re bouncing all around the car, so it all balances out. I just tried to keep it consistent and stay focused on what I had to do, lap by lap. I owe it to Kelly-Moss Motorsports and my wife. My wife, she’s the one who got me here. She told me I had to get back on the horse, or else. It was a great race.”
SEBASTIAN LANDY (No. 49 Atlanta Motorsports Group, winner Gold Cup): “It was a great race the whole time. I was lucky to get a pretty good start and found a good rhythm after that. Got some good space. The yellow wasn’t what we were looking for, but Jeff (Mosing) definitely did a great job after the restart. He made me earn every bit of it. Hat’s off to him for a great run.”
JEFF MOSING (No. 01 TOPP Racing, second Gold Cup, first Gold Masters): “When I first raced here in this series last year, it wasn’t a great start. I ended up catching a guy under the bridge, and we came together. And that’s not how I wanted to race the season. This second round was much more interesting, to say the least. The time in the car went by fast because I had work to do. (Sebastian) Landy, he schooled me quite a bit. He was lapping probably three to five tenths (quicker) at some periods, and I was able to close the gap at times. The yellow was definitely what I needed to start hounding him a bit. I gave him at least two or three cars to look at in the rear-view mirror. He just wouldn’t snap. Hat’s off to Todd Opperman and TOPP Racing; he gives me a great car every time. The Yokohama tires held really well during the session.”
MICHAEL LEVITAS (No. 36 TPC Racing, third Gold Cup, second Gold Masters): “It was a heck of a race. A lot of fun. We had a great restart. We had some real drama out there. I tried to keep it clean after Race 1. And my daughter called me up and told me just to kick ass, Dad, and I owe this one to my daughter, Erin Michelle. I really tried to keep my nose down and keep the leaders’ times in mind and stay in the right place, and it paid off in the end. TPC did just an amazing job of setting up the car for me. I had a good car, and it was a great race. My setup seemed to favor this track today.”