Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Sonoma Raceway Saturday Notebook
Saturday, September 16, 2017

As the 18-car field of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama competitors wound their way around the rolling hills of Sonoma Raceway Saturday afternoon, it was a picturesque vignette, setting the muscle and power of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars against a refined backdrop of vineyards and cultivated landscapes in the first of two 45-minute sprint races.

The technical 2.385-mile road course in Sonoma, California, provided plenty of challenge to series competitors as they made their debut on the 12-turn course, with over half the field turning laps here for the first time.

Platinum Cup points leader Jake Eidson is no stranger to this circuit however, having run here in the past in open-wheel competition. That proved to be a strong advantage as the IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship winner and race pole sitter led the field flag-to-flag in his No. 24 entry for Kelly-Moss Road and Race, setting the class circuit record with a lap of one minute, 38.104 seconds on just his second lap out of the gate.

His class victory edges him one step closer to potentially clinching the series championship this weekend depending on his results in Race 2, which will be run Sunday afternoon in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship race.

Finishing in second in Platinum Cup was the No. 91 of Anthony Imperato of Wright Motorsports/Henry Repeating Arms. The Brooklyn, New York, driver started in third position on the grid, but made his move on the No. 00 of Corey Fergus running for Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports as soon as the green flag dropped, taking advantage of the first lap rush to move up to second, and he never looked back thereafter. Imperato earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for his efforts, gaining the most positions in Platinum Cup.

And while Fergus settled into third place in class, it was certainly not a dull Saturday drive in California as the No. 63 of McKay Snow for Wright Motorsports/Snow Racing followed Imperato’s lead and pushed up from his starting position of fifth to fourth around the No. 3 of Trenton Estep for JDX Racing/Hertz to fill Fergus’ mirrors for the rest of the race. Fergus and Snow ran in lockstep throughout the race, creating an exciting battle for position, but young Snow didn’t have quite enough pace to catch Fergus in the end, giving Fergus the last step on the class podium.

The Platinum Masters Classmen received a round of applause from the fans crowded around victory podium Saturday as the duo of David Baker and Mark Kvamme roused the crowd with their celebratory antics, proving the championship for drivers aged 45 years of age or older is only a state of mind if you are young at heart.

For Baker in the No. 56 entry for TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation, it was smooth sailing as he remained consistent and managed tire wear throughout the caution-free 28-lap race to earn his fifth win of the season and stretch out his dominating points lead. His friend and rival Kvamme suffered braking issues throughout the sprint in his No. 43 entry for JDX Racing, dropping him two positions from his starting point to finish 16th overall and second in the podium. Kvamme is only 18 points behind Baker in the class championship, keeping the battle tight in the second-to-last race of the season.

And if that were considered a narrow margin in a championship, the Gold Cup class takes the cake. At the conclusion of Saturday’s race, Roman De Angelis and Fred Kaimer are now separated by only one point in the Championship.

De Angelis, in the No. 78 entry for Mark Motors Racing has already earned the Gold Cup Championship in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, which concluded just a few weeks ago, and he is pushing his pace to see if he can make history in North America and claim a second series championship in the U.S.

The 16-year-old captured the pole and stayed ahead of his challengers, mixing it up with Platinum Cup contenders to take his eighth series victory, pushing him ahead of Kaimer to take the points lead.

De Angelis shared podium honors with series newcomer Mark Nelson running in the No. 32 for Kelly-Moss Road and Race and Competition Motorsports. This was Nelson’s first race in the series and in Gold Cup competition for GT3 Cup model years 2014 to 2016 and his strong debut earned him second place in class and 10th overall. He has previously been competing in the west coast GT3 Cup Trophy USA series.

Rounding out the top three in Gold was the No. 25 of Victor Gomez IV running for NGT Motorsport/Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico. The young driver has 10 podiums and three wins this season to his credit.

His teammate Kaimer in the No. 23 for NGT Motorsport/Race Deck ultimately finished in fourth, but still collected enough points to remain in the championship hunt against De Angelis.

Qualifying:

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama revved up the day first with an early-morning qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway Saturday. With championships on the line, every session is critical, especially with qualifying points on the line.

The Platinum Cup competitors gave a worthy performance, with six drivers trading the top spot on the time sheets in the 20-minute session. Ultimately, championship points leader Jake Eidson grabbed the pole for the final time near the end of the session, ensuring the No. 24 a front-row starting spot for Round 13 Saturday. Eidson’s fastest lap of one minute, 36.571 seconds was good enough for an eighth pole this season for his Kelly-Moss Road and Race team.

Corey Fergus posted the second-fastest time during the session in the No. 00 Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports entry. Fergus lies second in points to Eidson and is making a bid to keep his championship hopes alive with only four rounds of competition remaining. Fergus has three poles and three wins to his credit this season.

Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Gold Cup Champion Roman De Angelis captured his 11th pole on the year in the Gold Cup class. De Angelis has started from pole in every USA race he’s entered this season in the No. 78 for Mark Motors Racing, having missed two rounds of competition at Circuit of The Americas earlier this year.

For more information about Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, visit www.imsa.com, and follow hashtags #GT3USA and @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

Schedule (all times Pacific time zone):

Race 2 (45 minutes): 12:25-1:10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, (Streamed Live)

Race Coverage:

Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA app for iOS, Android and Windows.

Live streaming: Race 2 will be streamed live on IMSA.TV

TV: Delayed television coverage will be provided on major network affiliates in numerous U.S. markets by Sinclair Broadcast Group Oct. 14, 2017, and the broadcast will be available on YouTube 24 hours after it airs on television.

Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive

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