Before the 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season started, one of the big targets for driver Will Hardeman was to win his first race in the series.
The driver of the No. 19 Moorespeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup had come close to winning a few different times over the past three seasons, but missed out for one reason or another.
However, Moorespeed President David Moore had a feeling that 2018 could bring something different.
“I think this could be his year,” said Moore in a February pre-season interview. During the same interview, Moore pointed out a change in Hardeman’s approach coming into the season.
“He converted himself to left-foot braking back in January,” Moore said. “I think he sees the benefit of it, he’s adjusting to it, but I think it’s another tool in his toolbox to help him challenge for the win. We’ll take it one race at a time and see where it came out.”
Where it came out in last week’s season opener at Sebring was with Hardeman standing atop the victory podium following the week’s second race on Friday morning.
In Thursday’s first race, Hardeman finished fourth and earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award in the Platinum Cup class for most positions gained from start – he rolled off the grid from 12th – to finish.
Hardeman also came out of the first event of season second in Platinum Cup points, just four points behind leader Trenton Estep, 67-63, heading into next month’s doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park.
But the victory was clearly the highlight of the weekend, and likely Hardeman’s racing career to date.
“It is just this feeling of elation just washing over me,” said the Texan in Sebring’s Victory Lane. “It’s incredible. I have worked so hard to get to this level of driving in this series. It’s just so amazing.
“All the hard work we’ve been putting in, my team, my family, all the sacrifices, it’s just that much sweeter that we get to do this now after all the work.”
Without Leading a Full Lap, Robichon Wins Twice, Leads GT3 Cup Canada Points
Zach Robichon’s sweep of the two Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama races at Sebring last weekend proved a key lesson in racing: sometimes statistics like starting position and number of laps led don’t matter so much. It’s all about the final result.
And by the time Robichon claimed his second Porsche GT3 Cup Canada win in as many days in the No. 98 Mark Motors Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, the Ottawa native hadn’t even led one full lap around the 3.74-mile track. Maybe not even half a lap.
But he led when it mattered.
In Race 1, Robichon snuck past teammate Roman De Angelis in the No. 78 in Turn 16 on the last lap for the win.
In Race 2, De Angelis and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama driver Trenton Estep tangled heading to the checkered flag, spinning in the final corner and allowing Robichon to sneak by for the victory.
Robichon now holds a 12-point advantage over Remo Ruscitti in second place.
“Two wins to start the year sounds like a dominating weekend,” Robichon reflected. “Although that was far from the case for us, we were strong enough to capitalize on any opportunities that were presented. In both races we had the late race speed to win and that’s exactly what happened.
“Lucky for us the points are given for the last lap and not all the laps before! Lady Luck was definitely on our side last week, but a lot of moves were made to be in that position.”
After finishing runner-up in the 2017 Platinum Cup standings, however, Robichon is well aware that the season has only just begun.
With 10 additional 45-minute sprint races scheduled over the upcoming months, the name of the game will be consistency for the No. 98.
“It is still very early in the season, but we are in a strong position in the championship,” said Robichon. “If this first weekend is anything to go by, we know there will be a ton of action to come and our job is to consistently finish near the front of the field to stay at the top. There is still lots of racing to come!”