PCA Racers Rise and Shine at Road Atlanta
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Front-engine racers take the green flag in a photo by Aaron Ambrosino.

Article by Patti Mascone

Porsche Club racers relished the chance to retool after a snowbird stop in Sebring, before the fledgling 2016 season sprung into spring at Road Atlanta and beyond. The PCA contingent was greeted with a wake-up call at the southern circuit, known for sticky run-off areas, concrete walls, and testing the racecar's front and top ends. And this is the first year under rules requiring data collection ports on all cars, and both the scrutineers and racers took advantage of the resulting information.

That's fitting because one's "A" game had to be in place from the get-go on day 2 as competitors, representing 42 PCA regions, went directly to qualifying. Maverick region (Dallas) triumphed in representation, with 14 members taking to Road Atlanta, while Carolina, Chicago, and of course, the host Peachstate, made strong showings.

When the spec Boxsters and 944s took the track just after sunrise in Red group, lap times were well off the record-setting pace of recent times. Karl Poetl (SP3), four-time 944 Super Cup champion, rested early on a 1:39, while SPB's Livio Galanti posted a 1:40, with 20 similarly outfitted competitors to line up behind the 1999 Boxster. Dave Rodenroth, the '13 and '14 South 944 Cup (SP2) champ, returned to the SP1 class after a 10-year hiatus, taking the pole, before leaving competition with an oil leak.

At the top end of performance in Green group, Andy Wilzoch set a lap record in GT1 at 1:23 with his Flying Lizard steed, while Cory Friedman earned the pole in the other super-modified class, GTA2. In the 'middle sibling' Blue group, veterans Jack Baldwin and Adam Merzon shined, returning to the PCA stage after a few years away. The pair drove GT3 and GTB3 Porsches, respectively, to the front of a mixed grid, comprised of everything from 997s and Caymans to 911SC's and 951 turbos.

Double Sprint Action
The schedule then went right into double sprints for the three amateur race groups. Galanti (SPB) held on for overall wins in Red, while Poeltl (SP3) gave up his ride so Denny Hiffman, whose 968 clouted the wall in qualifying, could remain in competition. Hiffman came from the back (due to the driver change) to earn ninth- and sixth-place class finishes. Chris Blazer and Steve Coomes, last year's SP1 champion and runner-up, each took a sprint in their category.

The next two sets of sprints featured head-to-head battles; and not surprisingly, the battles began with Baldwin (GTB3) and Merzon (GTB1) for Blue group honors. Baldwin never relinquished the lead, but the Connecticut Valley racer chased, ending up only 0.2 seconds behind. Unfortunately, the gap grew to 2 seconds for the second outing between the 2005 997 GT3 and the 2014 Cayman.

Although the space between Wilzoch (GT1) and Friedman (GTA2) could not be closer, the former's 2016 GT3R never surrendered the overall lead in the first Green contest. It took Friedman and his 2007 RSR, until lap 16 of the second contest to wrestle the lead from the GT, once and for all. Two other veterans had clean runs - Mardi Gras region's John Crosby, former racing chair, took two GTA2 runner-ups in his 2014 GT3R, while Mac McGehee drove to a second in GTC5, at the wheel of an orange 2010 GT3 Cup the Floridian introduced last summer.

Messy, Windy Enduros
Enduro racing was a messy, windy affair come Sunday morning. The toll from Yellow group's untidiness was 12 DNFs among the street-based drivers, including Blazer (SP1) and the team of Edward Dunne and Tom Collins (SP3). When the dust settled, two GT4s took the checkered flag, led by Maurice Smith in a pastel green 1986 911, with red livery. The top Boxster was the F-class machine of Rennsport's Mark Guerette in third. Getting stronger with each race, Craig Smid drove his 1988 951 to eighth overall and an SP3 win. In SP2, Northam bested Beasely, while Coomes was 29th, taking SP1.

Pit stops, which are mandatory, are made difficult under the pressures of time, rules, and pit-lane space; and they can make or break the enduro finishing order. With Friedman jumping into at least one other lower-powered car for the Gold enduro, Wilzoch (GT1) earned a wire-to-wire win, as the Rocky Mountain native traversed the course at an average of 108 miles per hour, propelled by a perfectly timed pit stop and strong in-out laps. Many drivers, like the Yellow and Gold winners, went the distance alone; but many shared the 50+ laps with fellow racers, such as Joseph Lombardo and Chip Herr, who co-drove a 2012 GT3 Cup (GTC5) to the last rung of the group podium.
Meanwhile, chaser Seth Davidow (GTC6) lost second-place overall twice, including once at the start, on his way to winning the powerful class and grabbing the overall bridesmaid position after pit stops. Charles Price (H), hoping to build on a second-in-class from the sprints for a strong enduro showing, found trouble on the pit stop; the Carolina member was disqualified for a fuel spill.

For the season points tally, see: www.rennpoints.com.

Up next for the PCA racers:

  • May 14-15, Buttonwillow
  • June 4-5, Motorsports Park Hastings
  • June 3-5, Watkins Glen