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Sprint Challenge Kicks Off Season at Sebring

2024 Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama season begins at Sebring International Raceway…

Photo: Porsche

Drivers across all classes in last weekend’s Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama season opener emerged as ones to watch as the year goes on, with Jared Thomas and Ian Porter leading the way.

At Sebring International Raceway, Thomas bested the field of Porsche GT3 Cup cars – featuring 992 GT3 Cup Pro/Am and Masters classes, plus a class of 991 GT3 Cup cars – in both races, driving the No. 296 Porsche for JTR Motorsports Engineering.

Thomas dipped his toe into Sprint Challenge last year, winning both races in his lone outing at Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course, and has now kickstarted his first full-season campaign in the series by doing the same at Sebring.

While Race 1 ended under a full-course yellow – but nearly saw a final lap of action to threaten Thomas’ lead – Race 2 on Sunday ran the full duration for him to showcase his strengths.

“We went back to the drawing board last night, figuring out what we did right and what we did wrong,” said Thomas, a two-time Mazda MX-5 champion, on Sunday.

“We made some adjustments that I think helped us out today. I’m super happy to have run the full distance there and not get hampered by a Safety Car; that’s obviously the last thing I wanted to have happen.

“I’ve got to thank my team, JTR, and the guys back at the shop, and I’m excited to start this season off great.”

Three strong contenders for 2024, and champions in their own right, battled for the remaining 992 GT3 Cup Pro/Am podium positions – 2023 Cayman GT4 Clubsport Pro/Am champion Paul Bocuse, 2023 991 GT3 Cup champion Ashley Freiberg, and 2023 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Global Am champion Anthony McIntosh. Orlando native Bocuse finished third in Race 1 behind Freiberg and second in Race 2 ahead of McIntosh.

Rob Walker and Niels Meissner mirrored Thomas’ results in the 992 GT3 Cup Masters and 991 GT3 Cup classes, respectively.

Walker quietly inherited the Race 1 lead after two frontrunners tangled midway through the contest and withstood a constant presence from Scott Blind in Race 2 for the second win. Meissner sailed to the 991 GT3 Cup victory in both races, finishing top 10 overall amongst GT3 Cup competitors as well.

In the Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport category, three-time Call of Duty World Champion Ian Porter traded his game controller for a steering wheel, achieving the same success in the Pro/Am category. Entering his first professional race weekend, Porter started from the pole position in both races and endured a last-lap shootout in Race 2 to clinch both victories.

Porter’s victories came in the first-ever stand-alone race for the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport – the 4.0 liter powered car racing in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama for the first time.

“The lights went out on the Safety Car, and I asked Alec (Udell, driving coach), ‘Hey, does this mean we’re starting again?’ and he said, ‘Yep, get ready to go,’” described Porter. “I thought, oh, here we go. But that’s how I want to win a race, just like that.

“Shoutout to the entire gaming community. It doesn’t matter what title you play. I’m just out here, touching grass, doing things in real life. I want to thank my wife, Dana, for putting up with me and all of this.

“It’s been a tough nine months or so trying to learn everything I can about this. I want to thank my family, my friends, but the biggest one of all is the Rafa Racing Team by JDX.

“I never would have done this if it wasn’t for their opportunity and also to Grid Finder – we’ve got the coolest looking car on the grid, for sure.”

Porter’s Rafa Racing by JDX teammate and Rafa Racing Female Driver Shootout winner Caroline Candas scored two runner-up finishes in her PSCNA debut, while Tillman Schmid finished third-in-class in both rounds but improved by finishing sixth overall in Race 1 to third overall in Race 2.

Matt Joffe and Jeffrey Majkrzak split wins in the Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport Masters class, with the former landing on the overall podium in Race 1 and the latter taking his victory on Sunday after a runner-up finish the day prior. Alain Scalzo, Michael Clark, and William Peluchiwski also tallied podium finishes in the Masters class at Sebring.

With the first weekend of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America in the books, its counterpart series, Porsche Sprint Challenge USA West, will follow suit for its season opener at Spring Mountain.

The Nevada-based circuit will host the series on March 29-31, while PSCNA returns to action next at Barber Motorsports Park on April 26-28.

RESULTS: Race 1/Race 2 (Porsche GT3 Cup)
RESULTS: Race 1/Race 2
(Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport)

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