A special text message from a friend motivated Elliott Skeer to forget about the math and clinch the Platinum Cup Drivers Championship in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama in the most powerful way possible.
Skeer, from Carlsbad, California, led by 25 points over Jesse Lazare entering the final two rounds of the season in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned single-make series this weekend during Porsche Rennsport Reunion V at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He only needed to lead by 21 points after Round 15 on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Instead, Skeer dominated the race, leading from start to finish in the No. 14 Wright Motorsports Porsche to pad his lead to 27 points over Lazare and clinch the Drivers Championship in his first year in the series.
“There were the talks of ‘Oh, just survive this,’ ‘You need to finish here,'” Skeer said. “Actually, I got a text from (Porsche factory driver) Patrick Long a couple hours ago, and he said, ‘Just go win.’ The simplicity of it all, and I said: ‘OK. I’ll just go see if I can win.’ That was the motto going into it, and it paid off.
“Wow. Just relief, happiness, excitement – just every happy, positive emotion you can really feel.”
Lazare, from Montreal, placed second after finishing 4.992 seconds behind Skeer in the No. 21 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche. Angel Benitez Jr., from Miami, completed the podium finishers in the No. 05 JDX Racing Porsche.
2014 Platinum Cup champion Colin Thompson, from Doylestown, Pa., finished fourth in his first start of the season in the series in the No. 05 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche. Lucas Catania, from Cazenovia, New York, rounded out the top five in the No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche.
David Ducote, from Houston, edged two-time and reigning Platinum Masters champion Kasey Kuhlman in his first start of 2015 in the class after racing this entire season in Gold Cup.
Newly crowned Gold Cup and Gold Masters champion Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, continued his dominance of those classes by winning both today on the circuit in Northern California that features the iconic “Corkscrew” turn complex.
Skeer, 21, pulled away from pole at the start and avoided all of the side-by-side contact that unfolded behind him in the tight first three corners of the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track. He built a 4.977-second lead over Lazare just 13 minutes into the race when the only full-course yellow of the race was triggered when Kurt Fazekas’ car was stuck in the gravel in Turn 3 after an incident.
Lazare, Benitez and Thompson lined up behind Skeer on the restart, hoping for an opening to drive through for the lead. Skeer never opened the door even a crack.
Skeer motored away on the restart and built a 2.552-second lead over Lazare with 20 minutes left in the 45-minute race. That lead inexorably grew over the closing laps, with Skeer in cruise control.
The victory was Skeer’s fifth of the season, tying him with Lazare and Benitez atop the Platinum Cup win list this season. But those statistics stood in the background for Skeer, who didn’t secure his drive in the championship until earning the IMSA Scholarship – an award also supported by Porsche and Yokohama – just a few weeks before the season started in March at Sebring International Raceway. Skeer’s road toward the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama started after he participated in the Porsche Young Driver Academy in October 2014.
“If you go back a year, I think it was 50 weeks ago this week, I think I still wasn’t sure what I was doing in 2015,” Skeer said. “There were still a lot of uncertainties, but it all came together.
“And if you had told me that a year later we would be at this point, I would be very, very surprised. Everything that has worked up to this point has all clicked, and I’m just so happy with it all, and there are so many people I have to thank. I’m humbled by the situation.”
Benitez faced pressure late in the race from 2014 Platinum Cup sparring partner Thompson, who raced in another Porsche GT3 Cup series this year. But he held his line and edged Thompson by .959 of a second at the finish.
Ducote returned to Platinum Masters for the first time since June 2014 at Watkins Glen, where his car was damaged in a heavy crash. He then switched to Gold Cup in August 2014 at Road America and has stayed in the class since then.
But his Gold Cup car was damaged during the last event, Sept. 16-18 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. So Ducote accepted the loan of a Platinum Cup car from Kelly-Moss Motorsports teammate Frank Selldorff and earned his first victory since capturing Gold Cup honors in Round 3 in mid-April at NOLA Motorsports Park.
“I figured I’d try it, and Kelly-Moss really prepared the car well, and I’m surprised at how well I have done,” Ducote said. “I’m happy with the result.
“It seems like I’m always in a battle with somebody. But Kasey is a great driver, and he raced clean.”
Ducote earned the victory after a race-long duel with Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, who clinched his second consecutive Platinum Masters championship last week at COTA. Ducote prevailed at the finish by just .301 of a second.
It was only the fifth time Kuhlman didn’t stand atop the Platinum Masters podium after a victory in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports Porsche. But he welcomed the competition from good friend Ducote.
“It was fun racing with David,” Kuhlman said. “I’ve begged him all year to get back into his 991 (Platinum Cup) car because I know he’s a fast driver. He’s a good friend of mine, and we want to have fun on the track. Congratulations to him for winning today. He drove really well.”
David Baker, from Colleyville, Texas, finished third in the No. 56 TOPP Racing Porsche. It was his fifth podium finish of the season.
John Goetz, from Weston, Connecticut, earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award. He finished 15th overall after starting 18th in the No. 18 Wright Motorsports Porsche.
Gold Cup/Gold Masters
Mosing pulled away from the Gold Cup pole to earn his eighth Gold Cup and 11th Gold Masters victory in a season of domination.
Series veteran Mosing never has finished lower than second in either class through the first 15 rounds this season.
“I really like this track a lot,” Mosing said. “It’s a lot of fun, and there are a lot of elevation changes and the track really is demanding as far as working our crew chiefs over and trying to figure out a setup. We’re going to work on the setup for tomorrow and try to be a little bit more consistent, but even so, they gave me a good enough car to stay out front.
“Again, the big thing was just to avoid anything in the first lap of the race. We were able to do that and then just put our heads down and put some laps in.”
Mark Llano, from Wellington, Florida, finished second in both classes to continue his strongest season in the No. 22 NGT Motorsport Porsche. Llano padded his lead over Joe Catania for second place in Gold Cup and Gold Masters standings with his seventh Gold Cup and seventh Gold Masters podium finish of the season.
Catania, from Cazenovia, New York, finished third in both classes in the No. 24 NGT Motorsport Porsche. It was his third Gold Cup and sixth Gold Masters podium finish of the season.
“At this point of the year, the same guys, we always seem to be the same speed,” Catania said. “We know how to race together; we know how to play together. So we had a great race. A lot of challenging, but also a lot of respect.”
Round 16 will start at 11:30 a.m. (PT) Sunday, the final race of the season. The race is 45 minutes.
ROUND 15 POST-RACE QUOTES:
ELLIOTT SKEER (No. 14 Wright Motorsports, winner, 2015 Platinum Cup champion): “Wow. Just relief, happiness, excitement – just every happy, positive emotion you can really feel. If you go back a year, I think it was 50 weeks ago this week, I think I still wasn’t sure what I was doing in 2015. There were still a lot of uncertainties, but it all came together. And if you had told me that a year later we would be at this point, I would be very, very surprised. Everyone from John Wright to Bobby (Viglione) at Wright Motorsports, they’ve put in so much for this year. Porsche Motorsport North America have put in a huge amount putting me through the Young Driver program and helping me get to this step this year. Thanks to Yokohama, too. Everything that has worked up to this point has all clicked, and I’m just so happy with it all, and there are so many people I have to thank. I’m humbled by the situation.” (What did it mean to win title with dominant victory in this race?): “Obviously, the pressure isn’t as high as what it could have been given the points spread. There were the talks of ‘Oh, just survive this,’ ‘You need to finish here.’ Actually, I got a text from (Porsche factory driver) Patrick Long a couple hours ago, and he said, ‘Just go win.’ The simplicity of it all, and I said: ‘OK. I’ll just go see if I can win.’ That was the motto going into it, and it paid off.”
JESSE LAZARE (No. 21 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, second): “The car was great. I guess this was his (Elliott Skeer) home track, and he drove amazing and was hard to catch him. Unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted, but we are never going to stop pushing and see what happens tomorrow. I want to thank Kelly-Moss for everything and all my sponsors. We just have to keep pushing.”
ANGEL BENITEZ JR. (No. 05 JDX Racing, third): “You have a lot of pressure on you when you are racing in front of all of these people and everyone from Porsche, from the factory and all the Porsche fans. We did as much as we could. Elliott (Skeer) drove a great race. I think I passed them both, Colin (Thompson) and (Jesse) Lazare in Turn 2, and Lazare just gave me a little hook out of the track and so I just had to come back. But I still kept third, and this track is very tough to pass. If you make a mistake, it’s very tough to get around somebody. We are happy with the third place, and we are just keeping our record of podiums, and we are hoping we can do a better start for the second race.”
DAVID DUCOTE (No. 6 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, first Platinum Masters): (Did you return to Platinum Masters this weekend because of damage to your Gold Cup car last weekend at Austin?): “Yes. There were no Gold cars available, so a teammate (Frank Selldorff) was kind enough to loan me a Platinum car. After 18 months, I haven’t been in one. I figured I’d try it, and Kelly-Moss really prepared the car well, and I’m surprised at how well I have done. I’m happy with the result.” (What was it like to race again with your friend Kasey Kuhlman, especially in such a close duel?): “It seems like I’m always in a battle with somebody. But Kasey is a great driver, and he raced clean. Mike Schein gave me a lot of pressure early on in the race. It was a race where I had to stay focused the whole time. Lucas (Catania) was just in front of me. I was reeling him in a bit now and again, so I was just trying to be conservative, not make any mistakes and ensure that I got across that finish line today.”
KASEY KUHLMAN (No. 15 Wright Motorsports, second Platinum Masters): “It was fun racing with David (Ducote). I’ve begged him all year to get back into his 991 car because I know he’s a fast driver. He’s a good friend of mine, and we want to have fun on the track. Congratulations to him for winning today. He drove really well. It was so slippery for everybody. The battle was just to try to keep the car underneath you, put the power down where you could. It’s frustrating. You want to overtake; you’re right there. But you just don’t have the grip. Survival was the strategy.”
DAVID BAKER (No. 56 TOPP Racing, third Platinum Masters): “It was very slick. It was one of those deals: Once we got through Turns 2 and 3, it was a little crazy. But after that it kind of sorted itself out. It was a great Apex Capital car. Thanks to the folks at TOPP Racing. It was a great car. We made some adjustments from the qualifying to the race that really helped us.” (About racing at Porsche Rennsport Reunion V): “I’ve been here since the beginning (of the event), and every day I go look at all the cars, and it seems like there are more cars every day. In fact, I almost missed the grid because I was out there ga-ga-ing over all these gorgeous cars. This is insane. It just is.”
JEFF MOSING (No. 01 TOPP Racing, winner Gold Cup, Gold Masters): “I really like this track a lot. It’s a lot of fun, and there are a lot of elevation changes and the track really is demanding as far as working our crew chiefs over and trying to figure out a setup. The track’s been different every single time we’ve been on the track, so a lot to figure out there with the Yokohama tires. We’re going to work on the setup for tomorrow and try to be a little bit more consistent, but even so, they gave me a good enough car to stay out front. Again, the big thing was just to avoid anything in the first lap of the race. We were able to do that and then just put our heads down and put some laps in.”
MARK LLANO (No. 22 NGT Motorsport, second Gold Cup, Gold Masters): “This is such a historic track, and with the Porsche Rennsport Reunion going on and just the amazing fans that are here. It was just one of those races where you wanted a podium, and we really had to dig deep and work hard to do that. The competition and the extra drivers here was pretty deep, so we’re just happy to be on the podium. I want to thank Yokohama and the guys at NGT and the pit crew, and I want to thank all those that are supporting the mission for veterans that are here. We’ve had some amazing veterans come out to the track, and so without them, a lot of this wouldn’t be possible. We also want to thank our sponsors for sticking with us all year, and we are very happy.”
JOE CATANIA (No. 24 NGT Motorsport, third Gold Cup, Gold Masters): “I just have so much fun. At this point of the year, the same guys, we always seem to be the same speed. We know how to race together; we know how to play together. So we had a great race. A lot of challenging, but also a lot of respect. We had a great time.” (About racing at Porsche Rennsport Reunion V): “The whole thing started with loving Porsches. We loved to look at them, and then we started to love driving them. To be driving a race car with so much history and heritage is just an honor. It’s great to be part of this event. I think Porsche was really special to give us a chance to be here for this event. I’m really thankful for it.”
JOHN GOETZ (No. 18 Wright Motorsports, Yokohama Hard Charger Award): “It’s a tough track, and this is my first weekend here ever. I just showed up yesterday and tried to get the hang of it. So I didn’t have a great qualifying time, so I started pretty far back. And then I got punted at the start, so I started from the absolute back of the field but gradually learned the track through the course of the race and made up a lot of spots. Thanks to the Wright team. The car is always fantastic, and thank the weather, and it’s a wonderful track. I am very happy.”
Source. Grand Solutions