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Wins for Ely, McDonald in Spring Mountain USA West Opener

Porsche Sprint Challenge USA West by Yokohama season kicks off at Spring Mountain…

Photo: Porsche

In the season-opening weekend for Porsche Sprint Challenge USA West by Yokohama, elbows were out quickly as more than 20 drivers tackled challenging weather conditions and ambitious competition at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada.

The starting grid for Race 1 was shuffled after a red flag in qualifying on Saturday prevented flying laps by some of the series’ top contenders, and inclement weather shifted both races to Sunday.

Laura Ely in the No. 209 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup for Black Sheep Racing took advantage of the mixed lineup, starting on the second row and jumping to the lead in the opening minutes. 

She nearly cruised to the win but as the morning temperatures rose, her tire pressures did as well. Kyle Washington was able to close in for a last-lap battle with his fellow Masters competitor, but crossed the line just 0.278 seconds behind Ely for the runner-up result.

“There had been a lot of challenges with tires this weekend with the rain and cold temperatures, so I just wanted to make sure I had enough grip early in the race to get a good position,” said Ely. 

“We lucked out a little bit – we were P5 and moved up to P3 after some grid penalties that other drivers had, so we started on the inside of Row 2.

“I took advantage of that and made a pass on the first lap going into Turn 10, and took advantage of the grip. From then on, it was a pretty good track for the rest of the day. 

“Towards the end, my pressures came up a little too much and I started to get a little loose. Kyle Washington came up behind me and gave me a battle right at the end, but we prevailed and got P1 overall.”

In the 992 GT3 Cup Pro/Am class, Blake McDonald started on the back foot by taking the green flag last in Race 1 driving the No. 208 BR Racing Porsche.

However, he clawed his way through the field, and other competitors were dealt in-race penalties throughout the 35-minute, plus one-lap race. McDonald went on to claim the class victory, and with only three minutes left, he also sneaked onto the overall podium.

Starting Race 2 much more advantageously in second place, McDonald had a spirited battle with James Li as both drivers vied for the victory. The pair of 992 GT3 Cup Porsches swapped the top spot and fought side-by-side before Li withdrew to conserve his tires.

While Li went on to finish sixth in the Pro/Am category, Sam Parnagian and Casey Dennis rounded out the podium on Sunday afternoon.

“After the bad qualifying results that we had, it feels really good to put it together like this,” said McDonald after clinching the overall victory in Race 2.

“That’s what I wanted to do in the first race and I’m glad I got it done now. I want to say a massive thank you to BR Racing – they’re taking this as serious as a factory GT3 team and they’ve given me a Cup car at its absolute best. I can’t thank them enough.”

McDonald’s teammate, Kevin Woods, completed the Race 2 sweep for BR Racing by starting and finishing first in the 992 GT3 Cup Masters class. 

While Woods ran uncontested amongst the Pro/Am top-five, the fight for second and third in Masters was once again between Ely and Washington. Both drivers dashed around traffic in the final laps, but went on to finish second and third, respectively.

In the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport category, Michael Gaulke finished just car-lengths ahead of second-place Richard Kinsey for the Race 1 Masters class win. 

However in Race 2, Gaulke was caught up in a first-lap incident that thwarted his chance at a weekend sweep. Rodd Wagner went on to win the class that afternoon, while Eli Kogan claimed both trophies in the Cayman GT4 Clubsport Pro/Am category.

Porsche Sprint Challenge now has a month-long break until its next round for the North American championship on April 26-28 at Barber Motorsports Park. USA West is back on track two weeks later on May 10-12 at Utah Motorsports Campus.

Porsche Sprint Challenge race replays are available on the series’ YouTube channel.

RESULTS: Race 1/Race 2


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