Kris Wright entered this weekend’s IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda race at Barber Motorsports Park looking to move into the series points lead after back-to-back podium finishes to start the season.
He’ll be in a good position to do just that earning the pole for Saturday’s race and stealing it from his closest competition in the series standings for good measure. Wright turned a lap of 1 minute, 20.302 seconds (103.110 mph) in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 he will co-drive tomorrow with Yann Clairay, taking the top spot from series points leader Austin McCusker.
The 15-minute session was slowed by a red flag for the No. 44 Ave-Riley AR2 of Gary Gibson, forcing a seven-minute sprint for the pole. McCusker seemed to be in prime position to give the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30 team its third consecutive pole to start the season before Wright turned in his flyer in the final minute, grabbing the top spot by 0.627 seconds.
“The first round of laps was really slow because nobody had their tires up when the red came out,” said Wright. “The guys told me I had to get the pole back by six or seven tenths, and I was pretty confident because at that point I hadn’t put a good lap in yet because the tires weren’t hot. I just went out, cleaned everything up and drove the car.”
Leo Lamelas will join Wright on the front row also jumping McCusker on the final lap in the No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3 he will co-drive with Will Owen tomorrow.
The third of six rounds for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, McCusker leads Wright by four points in the LMP3 standings, 64-60, and Lamelas by five points.
Eurosport Racing picked up its second consecutive pole in the Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) class with Michal Chlumecky driving the No. 31 Elan DP02 to the top spot one race after Jon Brownson did the same at Sebring International Raceway in the team’s No. 34 entry.
Chlumecky lapped the 2.3-mile circuit in 1:23.509 for the pole, besting Daytona pole winner Wyatt Schwab’s No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02.
“It was certainly an interesting session,” said Chlumecky. “I’m actually quite surprised I was able to make at least one half-decent lap. I got caught into traffic. The car handled great. I just wish I had an opportunity to get a good clean lap in there, a good flyer. Nevertheless, we’re on P1, so I can’t complain about that.”
A total of 26 cars will take the green flag for tomorrow’s race. The entire race can be streamed live on IMSA.com beginning at 5:35 p.m. ET.
De Angelis Quickest on First Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Practice Day
It was a solid first day of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama practice for Canadian youngster Roman De Angelis, who posted the day’s fastest time of 1 minute, 26.556 seconds (95.660 mph) in the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911.
De Angelis’ quick time came during the 30-minute morning session. He was fifth in the 45-minute afternoon session, but his morning time was more than two tenths of a second faster than afternoon leader Trenton Estep in the No. 3 JDX Racing Porsche.
After the morning session, De Angelis was confident in his and the team’s ability to find more speed as the weekend went on. They’ll get another chance in qualifying Saturday morning at 8 a.m. CT, and also in Saturday’s first 45-minute race of the doubleheader weekend, which starts at 11:50 a.m. CT.
“P1 is pretty good, but there’s definitely some things we can work on,” De Angelis said. “We didn’t get the optimal pace out of the car, there were a little bit of traffic issues, so I think there are two or three more tenths easy in the car and myself, especially, so I think we have the pace for the weekend. I hope we’re the guy to win at the end.”
It’s a big weekend for De Angelis and the team, as his No. 1 Porsche carries sponsorship from the nearby Children’s Hospital of Alabama. In fact, the livery on the car includes hand prints from some of the hospital’s patients.
“I mean, Children’s Hospital of Alabama and Medical Properties Trust are here this weekend as well for our event, so that’s going to be cool,” De Angelis said. “Hopefully, we can grab a win for them as well. I’m looking forward to it and to grab some valuable points back from Sebring.”
De Angelis finished second in Race 1 at Sebring and 10th in Race 2 after a last-lap incident while battling for the win with Estep. As a result, De Angelis currently sits fourth in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA Platinum Cup point standings, 14 behind Estep, who leads.
Devastating Injury Set Wheels In Motion For Foley To Pursue Racing Career, Auburn Degree
Robby Foley may be from New Jersey, but the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda driver still considers Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, his home track. That’s because the driver of the No. 42 P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3 attends nearby Auburn University, where he is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
A driver with a passion for engineering may not be all that unique, but the circumstances that led the 21-year-old to the IMSA paddock and Auburn certainly is.
Growing up around racing, Foley had a passion for cars and began racing karts. It was when he entered high school, however, he decided to focus on stick and ball sports like football and baseball. That all changed on Sept. 11, 2010, when as a freshman in high school he suffered a devastating and career-ending leg injury in a football game.
The damage included a torn LCL, ACL and PCL, a broken tibia, fibula and ankle, and a nerve injury that caused a complete foot drop.
“It kind of kickstarted the idea to go racing,” said Foley. “I was homeschooled for the better part of my freshman year [after the injury] so my dad said if I could get straight A’s he would send me to Skip Barber to drive a Mazda MX-5. Naturally with that motivation I did. The leg injury was a tough deal for sure, it took me out of doing anything for pretty much a year – I didn’t really move for seven months – but in the end I probably wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing without that scenario.”
After success in Skip Barber and Mazda MX-5 Cup, and a handful of IMSA starts, Foley moves full-time to the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda in 2018 co-driving with Jim Garrett. Entering this weekend’s race at Barber, the duo sits sixth in the LMP3 standings.
Foley now finds himself balancing his mechanical engineering degree pursuit at Auburn with a full-time IMSA schedule, which makes a “home” race at Barber not only special, but also convenient.
“Since coming down here I’ve kind of made Barber my new home,” he said. “I do a lot of coaching, a lot of work out here on the off weekends from racing. Every weekend there’s an event here, more or less, I’m here.”
He’s also hoping to put that education to work as he continues to try to move up the IMSA ladder to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“The whole reason I pursued a mechanical engineering degree was to better understand race cars and automobiles in general,” he said. “For me there is a big connection in some of the classes I’m taking that I can apply to the car and driving the car. Understanding how to make the car go faster is just as important as making the car go fast as a driver. The engineering perspective a driver can provide to the engineers actually setting up the car is important.”
Fazekas Enjoying Atmosphere at Barber Motorsports Park
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama driver Kurt Fazekas is making the most of his visit to Barber Motorsports Park.
“Just the environment here, the rolling hills, the elevation changes – we had a lot of down time between our morning session and our second session, so I took that time to go over to the museum,” said Fazekas. “I walked through all the bridges, around through all the woods and waterfalls. You get a real appreciation for the whole property and not just the course itself. It’s a real beautiful masterpiece they’ve done with this place.”
It also looked pretty good through the windshield of Fazekas’ Kelly-Moss Road and Race-prepared No. 52 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine on Friday. He was quickest in the Gold Cup class for cars built between 2014 and 2016 in the afternoon session.
“You know, I’m an old guy trying to keep up with these young kids,” said Fazekas after the day’s second practice session. “Just to keep pace and make sure that we’re staying out of everybody’s way but still be quick, I’m really pleased with it. We just have to keep it going for tomorrow when it really matters.”
Both of this weekend’s GT3 Cup Challenge USA races will be streamed live on IMSA.tv. The first race starts Saturday at 12:50 p.m. ET and the second is Sunday at 9:45 a.m. ET.