Championship Opening Sprint Saturday at Palm Beach - Lee Davis Wins Pole in Qualifying; Kevin Gleason Wins Friday Night EnduroMark Sandridge passed Lee Davis on lap two of Saturday’s eight-lap sprint to win the first official points race of the 2012 season – and the first in the new Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship era – in the opening full day of racing action at the Palm Beach Grand Prix at Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR).
Sandridge, driving his white and red-and-yellow striped No. 49 Cayman S that is themed after his 1994 IMSA Champion Team Salad Porsche 911 RSR, jumped from third to second at the race start and made his winning move on Davis two laps later in the twisty sections into and out of Turn 1.
“It was pretty interesting,” Sandridge said. “I tucked in right behind Lee at the race start, and that gave me the edge to take second. Then Lee later just made a mistake going into Turn 1, and after he gathered it up, I just knew by the time I got to Turn 3 I would have a little run on him. He was nice enough to leave me a little window, we have been gentleman racers for a long time, and we always race each other clean. I want thank HSR, certainly Napleton Porsche for putting this series together, and these Caymans are just phenomenal, just dynamite to drive.”
Davis, the two-time reigning Cayman Interseries Champion, finished second in his black and red No. 33 Cayman S that carries the colors of a Brun Motorsport Porsche 956 and Luna-C Clothing.
“I didn’t downshift in Turn 1, Ieft it in fourth gear and went through there, and just had a really slow exit coming out,” Davis said. “Mark was able to take advantage of it. I thought I had the door closed enough, but apparently not closed close enough, and he just made a great pass.”
After winning the pole with a lap time of 1:23.863 on Saturday morning, Davis led from the start of the sprint but opened the door for Sandridge at the beginning of lap two.
“I was hoping that Mark got slower over the off season but apparently that didn’t happen,” Davis said. “It’s always fun racing with Mark and if you make a mistake someone is going to be there to take advantage of it in this series. He was there, made a great pass, and we are kind of leading off with where we left off last year when it was really competitive and came down to the wire with Mark.”
Third place overall went to debuting driver Chris Gleason Jr., who is joining his older brother Kevin Gleason and their father Chris Gleason, in the family’s first weekend of Pirelli Cayman Endurance Championship Cup Series action at Palm Beach. The Gleasons are sharing the yellow No. 55 Cayman S, which is themed after a David Piper Racing/Sandeman Porsche 917K.
“It was a blast,” Gleason Jr. said. “I actually started off in the wrong gear, I was in third and I need second, so I lost a position there at the start. Those guys ahead of me drove a great race. No one really made any major mistakes, so it ended up just being kind of a tail-and-follow, but it was a lot fun. The cars are great to drive and I realized there are really a lot of great drivers in this series.”
Sandridge, Davis and Gleason Jr. finished in the top three overall and in the Pro division while Ron Rashinski took Sportsman class honors with a solid fourth-place overall result. Rashinski’s victory was even more impressive considering the Porsche Napleton Racing (PNR) crew repaired his Cayman S in time for the sprint after a contact incident earlier Saturday in qualifying. Rashinski was uninjured, but his blue and yellow No. 6 Cayman S, which pays tribute to the mighty Sunoco/Penske Racing Porsche 917-30, needed a few hours of left front repair work.
“The guys did a great job putting the car back together,” Rashinski said. “It’s amazing they got it running, fortunately it looks like it’s okay, other than the bodywork, and I really have to thank them for getting it done.”
Rashinski’s winning rebound continued what has been a productive weekend so far in Palm Beach.
“This has been a great weekend,” Rashinski said. “I had a session yesterday where I was within 3/10ths of the top guys. I was real happy with that. Even this morning, I was within a quarter click of Mark Sandridge, and he won the race.”
Bill Dennis, driving his red No. 5 Akin/Coca-Cola-themed Cayman S, finished second in the Sportsman class while Ed Napleton rounded out the top three in the division in his No. 1 Cayman S that features a special gray and carbon fiber “prototype” livery.
The Pirelli Cayman Interseries schedule at the Grand Prix of Palm Beach wraps up Sunday with the weekend’s featured two-hour endurance race at 9 a.m. and a sprint race finale that afternoon.
Noteworthy: The first race of the Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship weekend at the Palm Beach Grand Prix was actually Friday’s non-points night enduro that was run in partly rainy conditions. Kevin Gleason passed Rashinski for the lead just under 20 minutes into the race and went on to score the victory in his very first Pirelli Cayman Interseries race start. “I knew the series existed but I had no idea about it,” Gleason said. “I really had no expectations coming in. I just wanted to come out, hang out with my brother, hang out with my Dad, and have a great weekend, and Porsche Napleton has provided a great platform for us to come out here and do that. We have had some success so far, the cars are a ton of fun to drive, and the whole crew at Napleton has done a tremendous job of preparing them. It’s been great so far.”… Davis was pressured to the finish in Saturday’s sprint by Gleason Jr. and welcomes some new competition in the Pirelli Cayman Interseries paddock. “It’s great having guys like the Gleasons come in,” Davis said. “They have got a lot of experience, they are really competitive, and that’s what we need. We are all happy to have them here.”… Sandridge set the fastest race lap in the Saturday sprint with a time of 1:24.182… In addition to the first appearance of the series at PBIR, this weekend’s race marks the debut of Pirelli Tire North America as the new title sponsor of the Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship. The new partnership names the Pirelli P Zero racing slick the official and series-standard tire in all series races. Pirelli will also work closely with series organizers in enhancing both competitor incentive programs and series-related marketing and advertising initiatives.About The Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship: Established in 2009 by Napleton Porsche of Westmont, Illinois, the Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship is North America’s only auto racing series featuring the exclusive use of the 320-horsepower Porsche Cayman S. Sanctioned by Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR), the Pirelli Cayman Interseries conducted its first official seasons in 2010 and 2011 and crowned a pair of champion drivers in both the sprint and endurance racing formats each year. Races are run on legendary circuits such as Daytona, Sebring, Road Atlanta, Road America and other premier venues. Every competing Porsche Cayman S is exclusively supplied and prepared by Napleton Porsche and each car competes with an assigned and specific heritage livery themed after a famous Porsche race car from the past. Learn more about the Cayman Interseries at CaymanInterseries.org.