Sebring International Raceway provided the perfect backdrop for the first Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama weekend of 2023 and gave an exciting glimpse of what to expect throughout the season. The historically bumpy, 3.74-mile racetrack hosted four races – two for Porsche GT3 Cup competitors and two for Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport competitors – to conclude three consecutive weekends of sports car racing action in Central Florida.
Porsche GT3 Cup:
Canadian Zachary Vanier dominated the 992 GT3 Cup Pro/Am class, winning both races and upping his statistics to three wins in four starts since his series debut in late 2022. Vanier qualified 0.091 seconds behind newcomer and WeatherTech Pole Position Award Winner Madeline Stewart to start second for Race 1, but capitalized at the drop of the green flag to lead by the end of the first lap. The Kiwi – only the second woman in a North American single-make series to win an overall pole position – kept Vanier in her sights early on, but finished third after losing a position on a late restart to last year’s Cayman GT4 Clubsport champion, Aidan Kenny. The results were duplicated in Race 2 on Sunday.
“I’m super happy with the performance,” said Vanier. “A huge thank you to the MDK Motorsports team for all their efforts.“My first time in the car was Friday for Practice 1, and it was a huge weekend of learning and understanding the car and the track with the heat and what the tire degradation would be like.
“Sweeping the weekend is a huge positive, but we’re just going to keep working and keep learning. It’s a long championship ahead with 14 rounds left, so it’s anyone game at this point.” The GT3 Cup Am class battle was not far behind the overall lead, as Christian Hodneland of JDX Racing and David Williams of TPC Racing swapped wins this weekend at Sebring.
In Race 1, Hodneland was aggressive on a late restart to jump ahead for the win while in Race 2, Williams kept his rivals at bay. Both drivers were within two seconds of Vanier on Saturday to finish on the overall podium, while Hodneland was just .342 seconds from Williams at the checkered flag on Sunday.
Ashley Freiberg – the only woman before Stewart to win an overall pole position in a North American single-make series – made her triumphant return to racing with two wins this weekend in the 991 GT3 Cup class. Vanier’s MDK Motorsports teammate, Freiberg had spirited battles with Robert Tutino in both races but came out on top after her program with the team was only announced earlier in the week.
“I haven’t been racing very much lately, so to be honest I was just focused on my own performance and doing the best job I could behind the wheel,” said Freiberg. “I have to give a huge thank you to Yokohama Tire, Shift Up Now and MDK Motorsports for giving me this opportunity. I’m so grateful for being back behind the wheel.”
Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport:
In his series debut, 17-year-old Nickolas Maloy made a quick first impression at Sebring – being the WeatherTech Pole Position Award Winner with Tatum Racing for both Cayman GT4 Clubsport races – but it was John Jodoin who stole the show in the Pro/Am class. During Race 1, Jodoin overtook Maloy on the first lap and went on to pace the field during a lengthy full-course yellow and the 15 minutes of green flag action that followed.But while Jodoin sailed to Saturday’s victory, he faced a tougher battle versus Maloy on Sunday.The youngster held on to the top spot for several laps before relinquishing the lead, but loomed large in Jodoin’s mirrors throughout the race. In the closing minutes, the pair battled door-to-door a handful of times before Maloy ultimately finished runner-up by just 0.286 seconds.
“I’ve never driven this car before,” said 24-year-old Jodoin after his Race 1 win with Fall-Line Motorsports.
“It was the first weekend and the first time with the team. I just felt at home with it and felt really good. Once I got the start at the beginning, I was off it a little bit to keep the tires good. I had them super warm when we were going yellow, so the car was ready to go.”
Sweeping the victories in the Am class was RS1’s Tom Kopczynski, or “Tom K.,” who mixed it up with the Pro/Am competitors and finished on the overall podium in both races. In Race 1, dueling Am drivers Alain Scalzo and Jason Golan nearly got tangled on track, but the battle upset Scalzo’s car enough to send his Porsche spinning. After the full-course yellow, Golan dropped back in the pack and Tom K. snuck by to finish second overall. With Scalzo’s car unable to return for Race 2, Tom K. started first in the Am class and was uncontested to the checkered flag, finishing third overall.
“I definitely allowed prudence to be the better part of valor this time,” said Tom K after Race 2. “I didn’t want to screw up all by myself and make a big error to let Joe in or Jason. Slow and steady, it sounds stupid, wins the race and that’s what I did.” Golan wound up second in Race 1 and third in Race 2, while Kathryn Mead and Joseph Rizzo also collected Am class podium trophies this weekend.
With Sprint Challenge’s North American championship now underway, the series heads to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada to kick off the 2023 USA West circuit, featuring six events that geographically align for teams based in the Central and Western United States.
PSCUW’s first visit to Spring Mountain is scheduled for April 21-23, while PSCNA will return to Barber Motorsports Park one week later as part of the IndyCar Series Grand Prix weekend in Alabama.