Most drivers will say it takes a little bit of luck to win at Sebring International Raceway, and that was exactly the case for Zach Robichon on Friday afternoon.
The Canadian stole the victory in a thrilling finish during the second Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race of the week, featuring drivers from both the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
While Robichon consistently ran in the top five throughout the 45-minute race in his No. 98 Mark Motors Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, he was never able to get past the revolving 1-2 combination of Roman De Angelis and yesterday’s overall race winner and Porsche GT3 Cup USA competitor Trenton Estep.
That is, until the last lap.
Heading into the final and iconic Turn 17, De Angelis in the No. 1 Kelly Moss Road and Race Porsche battled alongside Estep in the No. 3 JDX Racing Porsche heading to the checkered flag.
The two cars made contact and spun, opening the door for Robichon to sneak past for the overall and GT3 Cup Challenge Canada victory ahead of second-place in the Canadian Platinum Cup class, Nelson Mason in the No. 35 Policaro Motorsport/SportsCarBoutique machine.
“It was sort of written in the wall for the last two laps what was going to happen with those two guys,” said Robichon, who also claimed the Canadian series victory yesterday with an overall finish of second.
“You never want to see a race end like that. They’re both my friends and it’s kind of awkward for me to be happy about it, but we’ll take it and it’s great for the championship. We’re sorry to take it this way but a win’s a win, right?”
De Angelis, collecting points this weekend in both the Porsche GT3 Cup Canada and USA championships, finished 10th in USA and seventh in the Canada series after the collision.
Mason, who fell victim to a left front tire puncture in yesterday’s race that took him out of contention, was overcome with relief at closing out the weekend with a solid finish.
“The guys worked overnight to get the car back together and did an absolutely stunner job because I’d say this was the best the car has been all weekend,” Mason said.
“It was a real pleasure to drive… To be honest, I was going for the podium, but I was just trying to bring the car home for the guys. They’ve been working so hard, a new team. This is really their first result, so I knew how important it would be to even get a fourth or a fifth.”
Rounding out the podium was Marco Cirone, driver of the No. 88 Mark Motors Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, who also added his second Porsche GT3 Cup Canada Masters class win of the weekend to his resume.
He snuck into the third position as a result of De Angelis’ and Estep’s collision after running throughout the top ten all race.
“Not just the Canadian guys, but the American guys,” said Cirone about the tough competition. “Everybody is so talented. I think I started in eighth position and the seven guys ahead of me, they were just keeping an incredible pace.
Our car, we were having some issues in the beginning so I just figured, let me stay out of trouble and let me just be here in case something happens.”
The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama returns for Rounds 3 and 4 on May 19-20, as part of the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Hardeman Scores First GT3 Cup Challenge USA Win in Wild Finish at Sebring
Will Hardeman led less than 30 seconds of the race race, but that’s all it took for the driver from Austin, Texas to score his first career victory in the series in the No. 19 Moorespeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine.
Hardeman was third in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA Platinum Cup class when the final lap of the race began, and he remained in that position heading into the 17th and final turn on the 3.74-mile circuit.
That’s when the drivers running first and second – Trenton Estep in the No. 3 JDX Racing entry and Roman De Angelis in the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche – tangled and spun.
The incident handed the overall race victory to Zach Robichon in the No. 98 Mark Motors entry in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama – competing in its second and final combined event with the USA series this season – and gave Hardeman the USA victory.
“I’ve been in this territory so often in the last few years and in position,” Hardeman said. “When these things happen in front of you – I mean, I was as incredulous as anyone to see what unfolded in front of me when the leaders took each other out in the final corner and I was the beneficiary of that – it was just amazing. You know, if you’re in that position long enough, and eventually you’ll get there.”
Estep, who originally took the lead from polesitter De Angelis on a restart with five-and-a-half minutes remaining, recovered from the spin to come home second, 6.549 seconds behind Hardeman.
Estep also won Thursday afternoon’s season opener and finished the weekend with a pair of podium results.
“I think JDX and Hertz are really happy with the weekend,” Estep said. “We got really, really strong points, so I think it’ll be good. It’s a good start to the rest of the year.”
Anthony Imperato completed the GT3 Cup Challenge USA Platinum Cup podium, taking third in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports machine.
Another Wright Motorsports entry, Charlie Luck, came home fourth overall and claimed an emotional first Platinum Cup Masters victory in the No. 45 Porsche.
“First off, this is my first,” Luck said. “I’ve never won. I started last year, this is my second podium, first win in Masters. It’s been so much work. I’ve been out of the seat for 30 years, and to get back in racing shape and to compete with these guys takes a helluva lot of work.
“Awesome work from our team, Wright Motorsports, and I just can’t thank my wife enough and the whole team. It’s just so competitive. There’s no room for mistakes.”
In GT3 Cup Challenge USA Gold Cup action for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars built between 2014 and 2016, Victor Gomez IV swept the weekend with his second victory in as many days aboard the No. 25 NGT Motorsport entry.
“Just starting the season with the sweep, it couldn’t have started better,” Gomez said. “Having my family and my friends here to support, the car was in tip-top shape. Thank you NGT for that.
“Today was definitely more of an eventful race, more yellow flags. I got to play a little with the Platinum cars at the beginning, but then the Mentos car started to catch on, and I got to fight hard with the Mentos car for the last three laps, so that was good.”
As Gomez mentioned, it was a much closer battle on Friday. That “Mentos car” was the No. 26 driven by Egidio Perfetti, his NGT Motorsport teammate.
After winning by more than 14 seconds on Thursday, Gomez’s margin of victory Friday morning was just 1.177 seconds. Perfetti also won the Yokohama Hard Charger Award in the Gold Cup class.
Rob Ferriol was third in Gold Cup, his second podium result in as many days.
RESULTS: Race 2