Sebastian Priaulx kicked-off his Porsche Carrera Cup North America championship challenge, at the iconic Sebring International Raceway, with an impressive performance. Competing in the #15 Kelly-Moss Porsche, Priaulx took pole position for both 45-minute races, won an extremely hard fought first round and finished runner-up in the second. The results place him at the top of the championship tables leaving Florida, with a 10-point lead over his closest rival.
The pressure on the drivers in a one-make series, like the Porsche Carrera Cup, cannot be under estimated but Priaulx handled it like a veteran and never faltered. In a repeat of his pre-season testing pace the 20 year-old, third-generation racer grabbed pole position for both opening rounds during Thursday’s qualifying session.
Round 1 began at a furious pace as Priaulx executed a text book start, closely followed by his Kelly-Moss team mate, Kay van Berlo. The experienced Dutchman stuck to the #15’s rear bumper as the two fought a race of their own, gapping the rest of the field by an impressive margin. The battle continued unabated for 30 minutes until a Full Course Yellow intervened, allowing both drivers to take a breath.
The race restarted with just four minutes to go and this time the young Guernseyman displayed some techniques undoubtedly acquired from his father Andy, and got away before anyone could react and brought the #15 Porsche home in first place, a clear 1.2 seconds ahead of his team mate.
The roles were reversed in Round 2 when van Berlo made an aggressive move on Priaulx at the green flag into Corner 1, the latter choosing discretion over valour which forced him into playing the chaser. The young Briton tucked in behind Kay’s #3 Porsche and returned the favour of breathing down his neck for the opening half of the race, the two team mates again in a race of their own. In the latter stages the #15 started to suffer with degrading rear grip, the tyres having been pushed so hard chasing in the opening laps. Priaulx crossed the line in second place but not before setting a new lap record!
Priaulx was understandably delighted to win the first ever round of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America, which also made him the first winner in the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car as it was its first event. He was also characteristically disappointed to finish second in Round 2.
“I’ve had a great opening weekend in the Porsche Carrera Cup,” said Priaulx. “The first race was a lot of fun. Kay (van Berlo) pushed so hard but there was no way I was letting him get past me. It was good, fair racing and that’s what we are all here for. Race 2 was tough as he got past me at the start. He raised his game today but that’s okay as I will do the same in time for the next race. I’m annoyed not to get both wins but I’m really happy to get one of them and of course both pole positions. To leave Sebring leading the championship is more than I could have wished for so I’m happy.”
Priaulx will be back in the #15 Kelly Moss Racing Porsche for Rounds 3 and 4 of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America at Mosport in May.