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Apr 30, 2014 - 05:32 PM
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Field Takes Aim At Points Leader Benitez At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Posted by: newsla on Apr 30, 2014 - 05:28 PM
Sports Cars
Field Takes Aim At Points Leader Benitez At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca


There's one simple, but big, question entering the second event of the 2014 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama May 2-4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

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Can anyone catch Angel Benitez Jr.?

Benitez opened the season by sweeping both rounds March 13-14 at Sebring International Raceway from the pole in convincing fashion in the No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport Platinum Cup entry. Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, won Race 1 by 3.103 seconds over Colin Thompson and Race 2 by 3.735 seconds over Thompson.

The same story unfolded after the first event last season, when Benitez also swept Sebring. But Madison Snow rallied to win both races at the challenging Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., en route to the series championship after a summer-long battle that included Benitez.

Snow has graduated to the GT Daytona class of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. So Thompson and fellow young standout Sloan Urry could be the top challengers to Benitez based on the opening round in March at Sebring and their past results at Laguna.

Thompson, from Doylestown, Pa., turned in a steady, consistent performance in the No. 14 Kelly Moss Motorsports entry at Sebring to show his credentials as a Platinum Cup (2014 cars) title contender. He finished third last season in the first race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for his family-owned team and this season is the top Platinum Cup driver for series powerhouse Kelly Moss.

Urry, from Park City, Utah, is third in the championship standings behind Benitez and Thompson with 26 points in the No. 20 JDX Racing entry owned by former Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca IMSA class winner Jeremy Dale. Urry rallied from a sixth-place finish in the first race at Sebring to finish third in the second race. He also has good history at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, placing second to Snow in Race 2 last year at the legendary track.

Ashley Freiberg captured attention last season at Laguna Seca by finishing second and fifth. Freiberg has climbed to the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, but another talented female driver, series rookie Christina Nielsen, also is a serious challenger for the podium.

Nielsen, from Aarhus, Denmark, finished a solid fifth in both races at Sebring in her first-ever races at the tough, bumpy track. She'll face a similar steep learning curve on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. She never has raced on the circuit, which features the famous "Corkscrew" turn.

Kasey Kuhlman leads a talented group of Masters (age 45 and older) competitors this weekend. Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, finished fourth in the second race at Sebring in the No. 15 entry fielded by reigning team champion Wright Motorsports. The team knows how to win at Laguna, as Snow drove a Wright Motorsports-prepared entry to the top of the podium in both races last year.

Charlie Putman could provide a tough challenge to Kuhlman and challenge for Platinum Masters podium positions. Putman, from Mills, Wyo., finished in the top 10 in both races at Sebring in the No. 40 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in his return to racing after a brief hiatus. Putman and Jay Patel drive cars fielded by Dempsey Racing, owned by actor and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship driver Patrick Dempsey.

Fred Poordad and Jeff Mosing will continue their battle for the top of the Gold Cup (2010-2013 cars) and Gold Cup Masters standings. Poordad, from San Antonio, Texas, leads both standings in his No. 02 Competition Motorsports entry.

Patrick-Otto Madsen also will be a strong contender for Gold Cup victory. He held a big lead in Race 1 at Sebring before going off track in his No. 99 ANSA Motorsports entry and won the Gold class by more than 23 seconds in Race 2.

This is the only round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season on the West Coast, and there will be a strong California contingent on the starting grid. Golden State drivers include Michael Lewis (Laguna Beach) and David Calvert-Jones (Los Angeles) in Platinum Cup, and Blair Chang (Santa Monica) and Michael McAlister (Beverly Hills) in Gold Cup.

Practice at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca starts Friday, May 2, with qualifying at 9 a.m. (PT) Saturday, May 3. Two 45-minute races are scheduled for Sunday, May 4, with the first at 9 a.m. and the second at 5:15 p.m. For live updates on all the action, follow @IMSALive on Twitter.

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama continues its 10th season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as one of the most exciting one-make series in the world, offering two unique classes of racing to fuel the competitive spirit of drivers and teams.

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.



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