ALTON, Va. – Elliott Skeer prevailed in a frantic, race-long duel with Angel Benitez Jr. to win Round 11 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama on Saturday at VIRginia Int’l Raceway.
Skeer also regained the lead in the Platinum Cup Drivers Championship with his fourth victory of the season in the No. 14 Wright Motorsports Porsche. Skeer leads Jesse Lazare, 171-154. It’s the largest gap of the season between the two young stars, the only drivers to lead the standings.
Lazare entered this weekend with a three-point lead over Skeer but was scoreless after crash damage forced an end to his race right after the green flag flew at the start.
“Good points day for us, and I am really happy, ” Skeer said. “We just have to keep it up for tomorrow’s two races.”
Two rounds will take place Sunday on the 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit.
Michael Schein ended up a season-best second in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche, 6.950 seconds behind Skeer. Lucas Catania earned his second consecutive third-place finish in the No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche.
Andrew Longe placed fourth in the No. 47 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche. Santiago Creel, from Mexico City, rounded out the top five in the No. 60 Wright Motorsports Porsche.
Bill Peluchiwski finished sixth in the No. 74 Kelly-Moss Motorsports entry and was the top Platinum Masters finisher.
Jeff Mosing padded his lead in the Gold Cup and Gold Masters class with a victory in the No. 01 TOPP Racing Porsche.
Skeer led the entire race from pole, but his margin of victory of 6.950 seconds was deceptive. Benitez hung within a few tenths of a second of Skeer for most of the 45-minute race.
With one lap remaining, the gap between leader Skeer and chaser Benitez was .115 of a second. Each driver had points of superiority around the challenging circuit, setting up a compelling final dash for the checkered flag.
But Benitez was fighting a steering rack issue in his No. 05 JDX Racing Porsche for the entire race, and the problem bit him on the final lap when he went off track and nosed into the tire barrier in Turn 3, ending his race. Benitez, who was unhurt, was credited with 13th place.
Skeer drove away to victory. Again, it was a deceptively peaceful cruise to glory after a thrilling race.
The most dramatic and potentially decisive incident occurred right when the green flag flew to start the race.
Lazare’s car slowed after it would not upshift into gear as the field approached the starter’s stand. Longe was right behind Lazare and veered right to avoid hitting him. Longe’s car made contact with Platinum Masters points leader Kasey Kuhlman, sending Kuhlman’s No. 15 Wright Motorsports Porsche into the front straightaway wall. Lazare’s 911 GT3 Cup car also was collected in the accident, suffering heavy front-end damage after also hitting the front straightaway wall.
Kuhlman and Lazare were out of the race, credited with 20th and 21st place, respectively.
The ensuing thrilling duel between Skeer and Benitez wasn’t the only one-on-one battle for the podium. Schein and Catania stayed within tenths of a second of each other for most of the race.
“Lucas ran me clean,” Schein said. “We both ran clean. It was a good battle. I had to hit my marks every lap, every corner, just make sure we had no mistakes.”
Peluchiwski capitalized on Kuhlman’s early exit to earn his first class victory of the season.
He avoided the chaos at the start but lost a few positions in the field. Once Peluchiwski passed the leading Gold Cup car of Mosing, he clicked off consistent laps to earn the victory.