Weather Issues Clear in Time for Two Exciting Races on Sunday
AUSTIN, Texas – Weather played a key role in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands.
The premier one-make championship made its second stop of an eight-weekend inaugural season at the Circuit of The Americas. Severe weather plagued the first two days of the weekend visit to the 3.4-mile (5.513 km), 20-turn track, forcing the cancellation of qualifying on Saturday. However, Sunday dawned with clear skies for both events. Overcoming the still-damp conditions and intense competition, Parker Thompson won his first race in the series in the morning, while Kay van Berlo won his second career race later in the afternoon.
Twenty-seven cars were entered for the COTA weekend, 20 of which are the newest generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, type 992, in the Pro and Pro-Am classes. Seven of the previous-generation type 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars were also entered for the pair of 45-minute races.
“This was a challenging weekend in regard to the weather, but it was a great success for our teams and drivers,” said Dr. Daniel Armbruster, President & CEO, Porsche Motorsport North America. “We were faced with many obstacles, but each time we were able to overcome those by working as a team. In the end, we provided two very competitive and exciting races in one day under very different conditions. We are seeing our Junior Program North America drivers shine despite the adversity, and their development is a key goal for Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands.
“We welcomed some of our friends from the Cayman Islands to the racetrack here in Austin and I believe we have found not only a partner with synergy to our clients but have also created new race fans. They witnessed the passion that our drivers and team owners have not only for the sport, but for life and found a deep connection we all share. We look forward to returning the favor and visiting them in the Cayman Islands very soon.”
Pro Class: With qualifying canceled, the starting grid for Race 1 on Sunday morning was set by championship points. The starting order for Race 2 was determined by each driver’s fastest lap in Race 1. As a result, in the morning event, Sebastian Priaulx sat on the pole position in the No. 15 Kelly-Moss Road & Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car while with teammate van Berlo (No. 3 Porsche) beside him.
When the young driver from Guernsey – and winner of the first race in series history at Sebring in March – brought the field to the green flag in tight, side-by-side formation. It was van Berlo who took the lead charging uphill into Turn 1 and began to pull away. Priaulx fell into the clutches of those behind him, unable to put full power down on the 500-plus horsepower, normally aspirated rear-engine racer. Fifteen minutes into the race, van Berlo – who won Race 2 at Sebring – was ahead of Thompson (No. 9 JDX Racing) by more than four seconds.
As the remaining top five battled behind them, and on a drying track, the leading pair pulled away. A late yellow flag bunched the field for a restart with 10 minutes remaining. Van Berlo grew the lead to almost two seconds before Thompson formed his attack and was less than a second behind the Dutchman entering the final lap. Thompson closed and overtook van Berlo for the win in the final sector of the circuit, with a surging Priaulx in third place.
“Kay was really good on cold tires, so on the restart he pulled away, but I slowly tracked him back in,” Thompson said. “He made a little mistake going through (Turns) 17, 18, 19 and I threw it in and we got the job done. I think the JDX car was the fastest on track. We deserved to be on the pointy end of the field today.”
Priaulx’s late charge earned him the fastest race lap and pole position for Race 2. The Pro class points leader entering the event pulled into the early lead in Race 2 as Leh Keen (No. 12 311RS Motorsport) and Riley Dickinson (No. 53 Team Hardpoint EBM) battled behind. The field remained consistent until van Berlo – who started fourth – closed the gap to the leaders and overtook for the top position at the end of the backstraight. He would never be seriously challenged again as Priaulx and local favorite Dickinson closed out the top three.
“I felt I had to set something right for the team,” van Berlo said. “I just wanted it to be a clean race. I made it up to P2 and after that it was remembering we had a 45-minute race and I had to save the tires. I closed the gap to Priaulx and my first opportunity I made my move. It worked out pretty well. From there onwards, it was a matter of taking care of the tires and not making any strange mistakes. We brought it home. A good way to finish the weekend. It was a difficult weekend with so many different conditions. It requires the driver to shift from one style of driving to another.”
After four races, Priaulx holds a seven-point lead (97-90) over van Berlo in the class standings.
Pro-Am Class: Austin resident Alan Metni (No 99 iFly/Kelly-Moss Ross & Race) was the Pro-Am race winner of both rounds at COTA. He now stands as the only driver to win the class at every round of the championship thus far.
Metni originally placed second at the conclusion of Race 1 but postrace technical inspection of the No. 69 BGB Motorsports entry of Thomas Collingwood found the car did not meet series camber requirements. As a result, Metni was declared the winner, with Efrin Castro (No. 65 Team Hardpoint EBM) second and Curt Swearingin (No. 17 ACI Motorsports) third. The trio repeated the order in Race 2.
Metni leads Castro by 33 points in the Pro-Am standings following the weekend.
Pro-Am 991 Class: Matt Halcome piloted his No. 55 Goldcrest Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, type 991.2, to victory in Race 1. Not only did Halcome lead his fellow Pro-Am 991 competitors, he also bettered the field of Pro-Am type 992 cars. It was a Goldcrest Motorsports podium sweep, with Jeffrey Majkrzak (No. 29) finishing second and Grady Willingham (No. 21) third. The trio repeated the feat in Race 2.
“This morning was pretty rough in the first race,” Halcome said. “It was super slick with no grip in the front end, but the second race was great weather. The track got a little greasy toward the end, but it was a good time. We are happy with our results this weekend.”
With three Pro-Am 991 wins in four outings, Halcome has a 26-point edge on Majkrzak.
A video archive of the COTA weekend can be found on the Porsche Motorsport North America YouTube channel (youtube.com/porschemotorsportnorthamerica). Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2021 season will be held at Watkins Glen International in New York from June 24-27.