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Mar 10, 2014 - 04:08 PM
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Wide Open 2014 GT3 Cup USA Season Starts At Historic Sebring
Posted by: newsla on Mar 10, 2014 - 04:04 PM
Sports Cars
Wide Open 2014 GT3 Cup USA Season Starts At Historic Sebring

Just four drivers from the top 10 of the final standings in the 2013 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama return in 2014, creating a wide-open free-for-all for the season championship.


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But every driver in the series will target one rival entering the first two rounds of the season March 13-14 at Sebring International Raceway - Angel Andres Benitez. The races will take place on the historic, 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida weekend.

Benitez, from Venezuela, opened the 2013 season by winning both rounds at Sebring for NGT Motorsport and is back this season at a new address in the paddock, driving for his father's Formula Motorsport team.

The victories at Sebring helped Benitez to finish third in the final standings after a spirited battle with eventual champion Madison Snow, who has climbed to the GT Daytona class this season in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Benitez and Snow swapped the championship lead throughout the first half of the season, culminated by their incredible finish in Round 7 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where Snow edged Benitez by .011 of a second in the closest finish in series history.

Benitez's closest competitor in the points in 2013, series runner-up Sloan Urry, is back. He will drive for JDX Racing after competing for Effort Racing last season and should be a contender for victory at Sebring and the overall Platinum Cup title.

Two other returning competitors who finished in the top 10 in the overall standings last season are Kasey Kuhlman and Colin Thompson.

Kasey KuhlmanKuhlman will lead a five-car Sebring entry for 2013 Team Champion Wright Motorsports and is the top returning Masters competitor, as he finished second in Platinum Masters last season. Thompson moves from his family-owned Thompson Racing team to series powerhouse Kelly-Moss Motorsports in a Platinum Cup car.

New drivers to watch at Sebring include young talents Michael Lewis and Jesse Lazare, and female driver Christina Nielsen.

Californian Lewis joins the series with Competition Motorsports in a Platinum Cup car after racing in prestigious European junior open-wheel formulas for the last three seasons, including the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, the Formula 3 Euroseries and Formula 3 Italia.

Lazare, from Montreal, is a protégé of 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Price Cobb and is leading Moorespeed's return to competition for the first time since 2001. Lazare, 16, is a three-time Canadian national karting champion and also won the 2013 Can-Am Cup for FF1600 cars.

Nielsen, from Denmark, joins the seven-car NGT Motorsport entry at Sebring in a Platinum Cup car. She comes to the series from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and ADAC GT Masters series.

Also at NGT, returning driver Amadeo Quiros will be joined by his brother Javier to form a family affair.

TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT standouts Dempsey Racing, co-owned by actor Patrick Dempsey, will field two Platinum Cup cars for Masters competitors Charlie Putman and Jay Patel. Putman returns to the series after a long hiatus, while Patel is a newcomer.

The two class divisions in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama are Gold Cup and Platinum Cup, with each class featuring a Masters Championship (for drivers 45 and over). Each class is awarded with a podium at the end of every race, with individual champion honors at the end of every season. Points are awarded by finish in class.

All Platinum Cup drivers will race this season in the 2014 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, developed for Porsche one-make Cups worldwide and based on the street version of the current Porsche 911. The 3.8-liter power unit featured in the new 911 GT3 Cup car produces 460 horsepower and a maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm. The new 911 GT3 Cup also includes a new Porsche six-speed sequential gearbox with a mechanical slip differential, with an electro-pneumatic paddle shift system creating faster, more efficient gear changes.

The 2010-2013 versions of the 911 GT3 Cup car will compete in the Gold Cup class, while the new 2014 model will race for Platinum Cup honors.

Practice at Sebring starts Wednesday, March 12, with qualifying at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, March 13. The first 45-minute race is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Thursday, with the second 45-minute race at 8:55 a.m. Friday, March 14.

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