Nearly halfway through the 2014 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, something has to give.
Three drivers have combined to win the first seven rounds of the 16-round season in one of the most exciting single-make series in the world. And in no coincidence, that trio -Colin Thompson, Angel Benitez Jr. and Michael Lewis - comprises the top three drivers in the championship, locked in a tight race for the Platinum Cup drivers' title.
Rounds 9 and 10 of the series will take place Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. It's the only visit of the season to Canada for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, one of 19 globalPorsche single-make championships.
A trend has emerged through the first seven rounds this season, as one driver has won all available rounds at each of the four venues the series has visited.
Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, swept the season-opening two rounds in mid-March at Sebring International Raceway in the No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport 911 GT3 Cup car. Lewis, from Laguna Beach, California, followed with a sweep in early May at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 98 Competition Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian Porsche. Benitez won the only round contested on Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock Park, as rain washed away the second round.
Thompson, from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, broke through with his first two series victories June 27-28 at Watkins Glen International in the No. 14 Kelly Moss/Porsche of Bucks County entry. Those victories propelled Thompson to the points lead, 116-112, over Benitez. Lewis is third, with 102 points - still within one race worth of points of the top.
Both of Thompson's wins at The Glen came after he pulled off thrilling, risky passes of Benitez for the lead on the last lap, heating the rivalry between the 20-something stars from a simmer to a boil.
There could be a repeat of those last-lap theatrics on the fast, 10-turn, 2.459-mile circuit at CTMP, if history is any indication. 2013 season champion Madison Snow edged Benitez by .011 of a second in the first round last year at Canada's most prestigious permanent road circuit. But Benitez rallied to beat Sloan Urry by 3.469 seconds in the second round at CTMP.
A handful of other drivers could challenge for the Platinum Cup (2014 model cars) podium in both races at CTMP.
Runaway Platinum Masters (drivers age 45 and older) championship leader Kasey Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, has finished third overall in Round 4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Round 8 at Watkins Glen in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports entry. Two strong finishes at CTMP, coupled with problems for any of the leading three drivers, could launch Kuhlman into the title race, as he is fourth with 89 points.
Urry, from Park City, Utah, has three podium finishes this season in the No. 20 JDX Racing Porsche and is fifth in the standings with 84 points.
Christina Nielsen, from Aarhus, Denmark, finished second at Lime Rock Park in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport entry for her first career podium in the series. Nielsen is racing in North America for the first time this season after competing in various open-wheel and Porsche series in Europe and the Middle East.
Nielsen competed in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin event in May at CTMP to gain more experience on the rolling, challenging circuit. She is sixth in the GT3 USA standings with 69 points.
This will be a special event for 16-year-old series rookie Jesse Lazare, the only full-time Canadian driver in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. Lazare, from Montreal, drives the No. 31 Door Doctor/Moorespeed Porsche managed by 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Price Cobb.
The Platinum Cup Team Championship is tense and tight. Just 15 points - less than one race worth of points - separate the top three teams. At the top, Kelly Moss/Porsche of Bucks County leads Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport, 118-117.
Racing for Drivers and Team championships also remain tight in the Gold Cup (2010-2013 model cars) class.
Patrick-Otto Madsen, from Boca Raton, Florida, took the championship lead at Watkins Glen and is atop the standings with 110 points in the No. 99 ANSA Motorsports Porsche. Fred Poordad, from San Antonio, Texas, is second at 101 points in the No. 02 Competition Motorsports 911 GT3 Cup car.
Madsen and Poordad are looking over their shoulders at Michael Levitas, charging hard after winning both Gold races at Watkins Glen. Levitas, from Baltimore, is third in the Gold Cup championship with 96 points in the No. 35 TPC Racing Porsche.
Just 18 points separate the top four teams in the Gold Cup Team Championship - ANSA Motorsports, Competition Motorsports, Wright Motorsports and TPC Racing - entering CTMP.
Practice at CTMP starts at 10 a.m. (ET) and 3:25 p.m. Thursday, July 10, with qualifying at 10:35 a.m. Friday, July 11. Two 45-minute races are scheduled. Round 9 of the season starts at 5:40 p.m. Friday, with Round 10 at 10:10 a.m. Saturday, June 28. Both races will be streamed live at FansChoice.TV, and live updates on all on-track sessions will be provided @IMSALive on Twitter.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama continues its 10th season at CTMP, offering two unique classes of racing to fuel the competitive spirit of drivers and teams.
The two class divisions in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama are Gold Cup and Platinum Cup, with each class featuring a Masters Championship (for drivers 45 and over). Each class is awarded with a podium at the end of every race, with individual champion honors at the end of every season. Points are awarded by finish in class.
All Platinum Cup drivers will race this season in the 2014 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, developed for Porsche one-make Cups worldwide and based on the street version of the current Porsche 911. The 3.8-liter power unit featured in the new 911 GT3 Cup car produces 460 horsepower and a maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm. The new 911 GT3 Cup also includes a new Porsche six-speed sequential gearbox with a mechanical slip differential, with an electro-pneumatic paddle shift system creating faster, more efficient gear changes.
The 2010-2013 versions of the 911 GT3 Cup car will compete in the Gold Cup class, while the new 2014 model will race for Platinum Cup honors.
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama
The IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama enters its 10th season in North America as the one of Porsche's largest single-make Cup Challenge series in the world. The series produces intense, exciting competition for semi-professional and aspiring professional drivers in one of the world's most successful and iconic race cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Racing is divided into two classes - Platinum Cup, featuring the new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, which is based in on the current seventh generation of the street car, and Gold Cup, which is comprised of the previous version (2010-2013) of the race car. The series is the perfect platform for aspiring drivers to ascend to the highest levels of GT competition, such as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The series races at classic American road courses, providing thrills for drivers and fans.
The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) is the sanctioning body of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the road-racing series resulting from the merger of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. IMSA also sanctions the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, as well as four single-make series: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama; Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin; Ferrari Challenge North America; and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. IMSA is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.