Benitez Repeats At Sebring
SEBRING, Fla. — The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama hit the pavement and concrete of Sebring Int’l Raceway again today as part of the historic 61st Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
At an event where the Porsche marque leads all others in overall wins, it is only fitting that the GT3 Cup Challenge was here for its 14th race at the legendary 3.74-mile circuit.
Thursday’s winner Angel Benitez Jr. from NGT Motorsport lined up alongside BBS Pole Award winner Madison Snow of Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports for a gripping 45-minute sprint to the finish in their GT3 Cup machines. Thirty-six of their friendly rivals were hitched behind them to launch the mid-afternoon fray, including five drivers from the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Series.
At the drop of the green flag, Snow jumped to a lead over Benitez, but his lead was immediately hampered as the fray turned into an outright fracas. A number of cars were involved in a turn one incident that ended the day for Patrick-Otto Madsen of Ansa Motorsports, Phil Fogg Jr. from TruSpeed Motorsports, and newcomer Colin Thompson of Thompson Racing.
IMSA Safety officials quickly cleared the course allowing Snow the chance to resume his point position, but his lead only held for a couple of laps as Benitez got around him on lap six. But like Snow’s lap one joy, Benitez’ bliss was spoiled by an immediate incident that kept the full-course-caution in play for four laps.
This time it was Wayne Ducote from Kelly-Moss Motorsports, Ary Krau of NGT Motorsport, and Candian Jim Hoddinott of SpeedMerchants that followed their prized GT3 Cup Cars out of competition for the day.
When racing resumed on lap 11, Benitez secured the lead and championed an effort to hold off the storming Snow and Michael Mills from Effort Racing. Mills was in search of another first-place trophy to pair with his 2012 award from Sebring.
Both Snow and Mills made a run at Benitez as the lap counter clicked, but neither would be successful. Benitez took home his second Platinum Cup win for the week here at Sebring, matching his 2012 Gold Cup performance.
“This race was easy physically because there were so many yellow flags, but it was hard fighting with Madison (Snow) because he was really fast today,” said the two-race winner. “Michael (Mills) also almost got me in Turn 3. I’m happy to make it to the end of the race with the car in one piece. Driving in this race was exactly how I like it. From start to finish we were driving as hard as we could. It’s unbelievable to repeat in Platinum Cup what I did last year in Gold Cup at Sebring. I’m very happy right now!”
Snow’s ascent to the second step of the podium was a vast improvement over yesterday’s result. The 17-year-old driver was forced to park his 911 early after suffering damage from light contact with Benitez in a Race 1 battle where he finished 35th overall.
“The race was a good race. I finished second, and I’m happy with that,” said Snow. “It’s a lot better than yesterday, a lot better than last year. In the second race (today) I was there, we were battling, but it was just so short there wasn’t any time. It was all clean and everything, but we had a couple passes just on the start and restarts but that was it. ”
Michael Mills worked hard to repeat his win from last year, but time was not on his side today. He settled for third place.
“I think with one more lap we may have been able to get Madison,” said the Effort Racing driver. He flat spotted a tire early on and was nursing it for most of the race. It was a clean race for us though.”
Twenty-one Platinum Cup 911’s finished on the lead lap with Benitez, despite the mayhem they endured.
In Gold Cup, Michael Levitas of TPC Racing earned the BBS Pole Award for both races at Sebring and entered the Race 2 battle in defense of his Race 1 win, where he narrowly outpaced teammate David Williams. The TPC Racing duo lined up first and fifth in class to start the race.