Following a busy IMSA season that consisted of two season-long championships plus a podium finish at the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, one would think Roman De Angelis earned some time to relax.
But it’s that success that had the 18-year-old racing once again just two weekends ago.
After scoring 22 wins in 28 races between Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and its Canadian counterpart – GT3 Cup Challenge Canada – en route to Platinum Class championships in both series, De Angelis was nominated as a wild card entry for the Porsche Motorsport Junior Programme Shootout following the season’s end at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last month.
Alongside 11 other drivers from Porsche one-make series around the world, De Angelis traveled to Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal to showcase his skills in an attempt to be named the next Porsche Junior and ultimately, win a scholarship to compete full time in the Porsche Supercup series in 2020. The winner will be announced in the coming days.
"To compete in the Porsche Junior Shootout is something that I never would have expected to have the opportunity to do in my life," said De Angelis. "It was a massive honor to be ranked along with the other 11 selected talented drivers to compete for such a coveted seat in motorsports.
"Over the three days I spent competing for the 2020 Porsche Junior seat, the knowledge and learning done was amazing and I can’t thank Porsche enough for this, which I will hopefully be able to take further into my life in motorsports."
While the Canadian from Belle River, Ontario has competed in a variety of race cars since joining the IMSA ranks three years ago – including a Ligier LMP3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge for three events in 2018, plus the Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class at this year’s Rolex 24 – it’s the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car that De Angelis has mastered with guidance and time.
His first encounter with the car came in 2017, when fellow Mark Motors Racing driver Marco Cirone introduced him to GT3 Cup Challenge Canada and arranged a ride for him in the Gold Class.
"The hard thing about that year was that I didn’t really have an engineer," said De Angelis. "We went with a low-budget program with Mark Motors because I was their third driver, having Marco and Zach (Robichon) in the car and throwing me in last minute. I was trying to figure out everything on my own, figuring out a sports car, basically a proper race car for the first time, having only ran in Formula Ford before."
Joining the Platinum ranks in 2018, De Angelis gained the assistance from an engineer – Chiel Bos, to whom he credits much of his driver development.
"Coming into this year, I not only had a year in Platinum and I’d say a half season in Gold where I was able to adapt a little bit to a sports car," he said. "Maybe not the best method, but at least I had the seat time I needed. As you saw with Zach in his third season, he was able to come together and put out some really good results (to win the 2018 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada championship).
"I guessed what he had going into 2018 is what I had this year, that extra little confidence with the car. I was able to adapt a little quicker than some of the guys who came on strong at the end of this year. I just had the experience in the Porsche Cup car, which helps quite a bit because it is such a difficult car to drive even compared to the LMP3 or the Audi GT3 car I drove at Daytona this year. It’s a lot of adaptation over the last three years, but obviously it’s paid off."
Robichon and 2017 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada champion Scott Hargrove have been constant sources of inspiration for De Angelis over the last three years. Robichon won all but one race – which went to De Angelis – during his championship-winning season, while Hargrove missed out on a perfect season by two victories.
The pair then went on to co-drive this season in IMSA’s top-tier WeatherTech Championship sharing a different Porsche, a 911 GT3 R. Robichon also scored the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup title for GTD drivers competing in the seven races in 2019 that were two-hours, 40-minutes in duration or shorter.
"Even when I was in Gold, we had Scott who set the baseline for the competition and how high it was," De Angelis explained. "We see Scott now moving into GT3 and doing an awesome job, as well as Zach last year setting the baseline and also doing an awesome job this year in GT3. It shows how high the level is. I think it’s good to have somebody like that in the series, that you know how far off you are from someone who’s at the peak of their Porsche GT3 Cup career and of their driving ability in that vehicle.
"At the end of this year, we had some really good fights the last few rounds. It just shows how competitive the series will be moving forward. I think a lot of the other rookie talent we’ve had the last two years is going to start evolving into what Zach was last year, Scott was the year before and hopefully what I was this year."
While De Angelis is still working through plans for next season – "I’m looking forward to something where I can hopefully keep learning" – he recognizes those who have helped him skyrocket to success.
From his karting team, Koene USA; to Mark Motors Racing and Kelly-Moss Road and Race with Jeff Stone in GT3 Cup Challenge USA; to ANSA Motorsports in Prototype Challenge; and Audi Canada for the Rolex 24 effort, De Angelis’ talent has been recognized across the board.
And to further show his level of humility, De Angelis donated the Porsche 911 Carrera S that he was awarded during the GT3 Cup Challenge USA banquet to the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, as he has been a partner with Racing for Children’s and Medical Properties Trust for the last two years.
"The stuff we do there is really cool to be involved with," he said. "It shows you’re not only just racing for yourself and the results you want, but you’re racing for kids who are in the hospital and suffering with things that are unimaginable. It’s cool to have something to push you and keep moving forward on your bad days."
In the end for De Angelis, "It’s a lot of people to thank, but it’s been a long road. I’ve done a lot of stuff in the last three or four years, so I have to thank them all."