IMSA

Benitez Dominates Sebring GT3 Opener

Angel Benitez Jr. (center), Colin Thompson (right) and Marco Cirone were the top three finishers in the season opener for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama event Thursday at Sebring Int'l Raceway. (Scott LePage/LAT Photo)

Angel Benitez Jr. (center), Colin Thompson (right) and Marco Cirone were the top three finishers in the season opener for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama event Thursday at Sebring Int’l Raceway. (Scott LePage/LAT Photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – Angel Benitez Jr. continued his mastery of Sebring Int’l Raceway in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, winning the opening event of the 2014 season Thursday.

Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, drove his No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport 911 GT3 Cup Platinum Cup car to a 3.103-second victory over fellow young star Colin Thompson. Canadian standout Marco Cirone finished third and was the leading Platinum Masters (age 45 and over) driver in the field.

It was the third consecutive overall victory at Sebring for Benitez, who swept both rounds in March 2013 at the historic Florida circuit for NGT Motorsport before moving to his family-owned team this season.

“It’s incredible to be here,” Benitez said. “Winning the first race of the season, and I love Sebring’s track. Everything this year is new. The cars are new, the tires are new, even the series with the merger is new.

“I’m racing with my dad’s team, and I’m so happy to be here with my dad. We don’t have that much help. We do the old-school mechanic thing with all of the setups, so it’s been tough for us. I respect all of the drivers. There are such good, competitive drivers in this series, so it feels so good to get first place. I would like to thank Porsche and Yokohama for an amazing job.”

Pole sitter Benitez led every lap of the 45-minute race on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit, staying out front despite two restarts after full-course cautions.

Thompson, from Doylestown, Pa., climbed from seventh to the second step on the podium in the No. 14 car in his first race with series powerhouse Kelly-Moss Motorsports after driving last season for family-owned Thompson Racing. He survived a three-way scrap late in the race with front-row starter Sloan Urry and Kasey Kuhlman and passed Christina Nielsen for second in the fast Turn 1 with four laps to go.

Masters competitor “Wild” Bill Peluchiwski, from Chicago, won the Gold Cup overall class for 2010-2013 cars in the No. 74 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup fielded by Kelly-Moss Motorsports after Jeff Mosing and John Baker collided and spun while dueling for the Gold Cup lead on the last lap.

“The race started pretty well for me, and I was able to capitalize on some moments when there was bad behavior in front of me,” Peluchiwski said. “Kelly-Moss put together a great car for me.”

Posted by on Mar 13 2014 Filed under IMSA, Latest Headlines, Road Racing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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