Van Berlo Sweeps Doubleheader to Take Pro Class Lead
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Kay van Berlo walked away from Rounds 5 and 6 of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands at Watkins Glen International with two victories and the Pro class championship points lead. The Dutch native, now living in Miami, Florida, was able to control Friday’s 45-minute race from the early laps but had to fight all the way to last lap to take the lead in Saturday’s Porsche one-make feature event. The twin wins in perfect weather conditions moved the driver of the No. 3 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car from second in the driver standings to the lead over his Kelly-Moss Road and Race teammate, Seb Priaulx.
Race 1 Recap: Max Root started the race from the top spot, having earned his first pole position of the series earlier in the day driving the No. 7 Moorespeed-Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car. One of seven Porsche Junior Program North America drivers, the veteran of the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid, Root held the lead for the first 15 minutes before van Berlo passed the Californian and began to methodically pull away from the field. The final Pro class standings would be van Berlo, Root and TJ Fischer, providing season-best finishes for Root and Fischer who drove the No. 58 Topp Racing Porsche.
The day paid additional points as Priaulx, who had started second, was assessed a penalty for switching lanes prior to the start and dropped deep in the field while serving the penalty. The Brit would fall back to 22nd but race back to eighth place.
The Pro-Am class, for drivers 40 and older driving the current generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car (type 992), saw a shake-up on Friday. Alan Metni (No. 99 iFly/Kelly-Moss Porsche) entered the weekend undefeated in class with four straight victories. However, it was Efrin Castro in the No. 65 Team Hardpoint EBM entry who overcame an incident in the first practice session to better the Texan on this occasion. Castro led Metni across the finish line, with John Goetz (No. 57 Wright Motorsports) taking third.
The Pro-Am 991 class, reserved for those campaigning the previous generation type 991.2 “Cup car,” also saw a shake-up as Jeff Majkrzak earned his first career class victory. Making his first appearance at The Glen, the Minnesotan bested his Goldcrest Motorsports teammate Matt Halcome and ACI Motorsports’ Kurt Hunt across the line. Halcome had won the last three class races while Hunt won the first round at Sebring.
Race 2 Reap: Racing on a new track and with a new rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup N3 R tire was not enough to rattle van Berlo. Starting third behind polesitter Priaulx – earned by virtue of setting the second-fastest time in Friday’s qualifying session – and Root, van Berlo and Leh Keen each worked by Root and began the chase on Priaulx.
With only a single caution period, a result of Ryan Gates (No. 11 311 RS Motorsport) contacting the retaining wall after contact with Dylan Murry (No. 38 BGB Motorsports), the hunt was on. After a spirited fight with Keen (No. 12 311RS Motorsports), van Berlo was able to gap the veteran Porsche champion enough to focus on Priaulx. The new points leader stalked his teammate testing for areas of weakness but found none.
With the two Kelly-Moss cars even around the course, van Berlo waited for any opening. He found it on the last lap entering the “Bus Stop” turn. He exploited an opening inside the No. 15 and placed the No. 3 between the car and the curbing with a deep braking maneuver. Priaulx countered and the two made light contact, with van Berlo staying on the line and Priaulx going off course. The battle resumed when the No. 15 machine returned to the track, but he was unable to retake the lead and finished second to van Berlo and just ahead of Keen. It was Keen’s second podium of the season.
Van Berlo now has four wins, Priaulx one and Parker Thompson (No. 9 JDX Racing) one. Van Berlo holds a 10-point lead in the Pro class over Priaulx (140-130), 56 beyond Thompson (84), 58 ahead of Keen and 59 markers up on Riley Dickinson.
It was Metni back on top of the Pro-Am class in Race 2, just ahead of Castro and Goetz. Pro-Am 991 saw a repeat by Majkrzak with Hunt and Halcome in close contention. This tightens the points battle in each class where Metni holds a 33-point lead over Castro in Pro-Am while Halcome remains at the top of Pro-Am 991 with 132 markers over Majkrzak.
Rounds 7 & 8 of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands will come Aug. 6-8 at the iconic Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Full race coverage of both 45-minute Watkins Glen events can be found on the Porsche Motorsport North America YouTube channel (youtube.com/porschemotorsportnorthamerica).
Kay van Berlo, No. 3 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: “I have never raced at Watkins Glen before, so it is always different when you start racing somewhere new. I learned a few things at the start of Race 1 I was able to apply in Race 2. (In Race 2), almost everywhere we were the same. It was just about mistakes, if I made a mistake, I lost a tenth (of a second), if he (Priaulx) did, I gained a tenth. That is how we went: back and forth. I knew it would come down to the last laps. I was already on his back on the lap before the last lap, but he defended on the inside. On the last lap he did the same thing, but I had a big tow. I saw a gap and went for it, and it worked out. It was really tight, I will be honest, but there was no contact on the pass and it just worked out. I didn’t expect to come away with the win, especially after fighting with Leh Keen and losing time on Priaulx. But it shows how good of a package we have.”
Seb Priaulx, Driver, No. 15 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: “I am annoyed I couldn’t cover that move. It was a harsh move, but he pulled it off. I didn’t have the car at the end to keep him behind me, so that is how it is. We just have to keep working hard. It is close and we will take it all the way to (the final round at Michelin Raceway Road) Atlanta.”
Leh Keen, Driver, No. 12 311RS Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: “We started off struggling a little bit. I actually missed Practice 2 altogether. So, we had a lot of progress to make, and we did. I wasn’t too worried about it from the driver’s seat, but what we missed was being able to make changes to the car as the track changes. The track evolved a lot through the past three days and four sessions would have been nice to learn how to adapt the car, but I have so many laps around here I wasn’t worried about it from the driver’s seat. The car really came alive in Race 2. I had a really, really good start and that put me in the position for the podium. The race was awesome thanks to 311RS. We are a new team, and this is our second podium now. All in all, a good weekend.”
Efrin Castro, Driver, No. 65 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: “I’m just thrilled with the victory. It was a tough beginning to the weekend because in Practice 2, I lost the rear of the car and put it in the wall. Thankfully, we’re running a very professional team here and they got the car back to normal. The car came back even better than before. It was perfect, just on rails. I had an opportunity in the Bus Stop on the first lap and took the lead, and that’s all she wrote. From there, I just maintained my pace and hit my marks and didn’t make any mistakes.”
Jeff Majkrzak, Driver, No. 29 Goldcrest Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: “I came in here without expectations of winning. I just came in here with a new track and in my rookie year, and I just wanted to finish well. This is a stacked field and I just sort of clicked with the track. I know why people say this is their favorite track. It has a little bit of everything. It has good grip and good flow. It was a lot of fun.”