It was a race for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama history books and Jeff Kingsley claimed the victory.
In the first race of the season for the Porsche one-make series – which initially was scheduled to begin in March at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Kingsley started from the pole position and led every lap of the 45-minute race to earn his first career Platinum Class victory in GT3 Cup Challenge USA. It was also Kingsley’s debut race with Kelly Moss Road and Race in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
However, the victory didn’t come without some tests. Kingsley had to defend against an eager Riley Dickinson in the No. 53 Moorespeed Porsche twice after on-track incidents resulted in full-course yellow flags. The second caution was lifted with just one lap remaining in the race, setting the stage for a possible last-lap battle between the two drivers. However, Kingsley’s jump at the restart was enough to pull away and win by .857 seconds.
"Riley gave it his all today, he was tough to keep back there," said the Ontario native. "We had a really good start and I think that was the key to our success for the first little bit. It was about making laps and staying out front, staying clean and keeping the tires safe.
"I’m super happy, super proud and ready to do it again tomorrow."
Finishing third was Kingsley’s teammate Alan Metni in the No. 99 Porsche for Kelly-Moss/AM Motorsports. Also a contender in the Platinum Masters category for drivers 45 years and older, Metni took home the first-place trophy for that class as well.
"It’s great to be back, it’s wonderful to be racing again and I want to thank all the people who made that possible in really challenging times," said Metni. "To put it together, to do it well and to do it safely is really spectacular so hats off to them.
"I got a little bit behind at the beginning and just put my head down and stayed focus and actually as closing the gap I thought, pretty well. I was happy with my race pace. The car was great. It got better and better throughout the race."
In the Gold Class, Efrin Castro dominated in similar fashion to Kingsley, leading flag-to-flag in the No. 65 TPC Racing Porsche for his first career GT3 Cup Challenge USA victory. The driver from the Dominican Republic collected three podium finishes in 2019 but had yet to stand on the top step until Saturday.
"I’m glad to be back, it’s great they’re letting us race," said Castro. "I kept my focus (during the) off time and I kept practicing. I knew the day would come that we would race so I wanted to be ready and I came ready to this weekend. I want to thank my team TPC and my sponsors… We were able to pull it off and it was a team effort.
"It’s just a dream goal to achieve. God gave me the opportunity to be here and do it and it just feels fabulous."
Receiving the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for gaining the most positions throughout the race was Castro’s TPC Racing teammate in the Platinum Class, Dan Hardee driving the No. 69 Porsche. Hardee finished 11th in class after starting 16th.
"It’s so nice to be back since we got to start the season a little bit in St. Pete and didn’t get to finish the event," said Hardee. "To come back here and to finally get back to racing and it’s nice to have some of the fans here today and get to finally start a sport that we love. Thanks again to Mike Skeen as well for helping me coach and TPC Racing."
The second and final GT3 Cup Challenge USA race of the weekend will go green on Sunday, August 2 at 10 a.m. ET. The race can be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.