A year ago at this time, Fred Poordad was in the early stages of recovery after he was injured in a crash at the Bathurst 12-hour race in Australia.
“I ran a Nissan GT-R at Bathurst in the 12-hour last year, and really didn’t have much time to get into the car before the event,” Poordad recalled on Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway, where he was testing the No.20 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup machine. “In fact, not at all before the event, just the practice there. So, it was a new car, new track and I’d never been there before.
“I was having a really awesome time and a great run until I had a little mishap coming down the mountain and clipped a wall and went into another one. Unfortunately, it left me with some back and neck injuries and I spent six months rehabbing.”
Poordad admitted there were times along the way where he didn’t know if he’d ever return to the cockpit, but there he was on Tuesday, preparing for the upcoming Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season, which opens next month at Sebring International Raceway. And beyond just turning laps in the car, the Platinum Cup Masters driver was right on pace with some of the quickest drivers on the racetrack.
“I’m feeling pretty good now,” he said shortly before the start of the day’s second session of the test day. “I wanted to get back in the car to see if the passion and energy were still there. So far, so good. I’m enjoying it. There’s nothing like being in a Porsche.”
Poordad was getting acclimated to the new Antilock Braking System (ABS) that will be used by Platinum Cup Masters drivers this season. He was skeptical going in, but is optimistic that by adding ABS, it could raise the level of competition throughout the series.
“I was actually one of the guys that was disappointed that we were going to bring ABS onboard, but I think if it makes the series better and makes people more competitive, then I think it’s a good thing overall,” Poordad said. “I think it’ll take a couple of events to really understand it and change your driving style a little bit. I think it’ll be a positive. We’ll see how the young guys who don’t have ABS, what they think of it if some of the old guys are mixing it up with them.”
The Sebring Test is open to the public. There is no admission charge on Wednesday, and admission is $10 per day on Thursday and Friday. Fans who have purchased tickets for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be admitted free.
P1 Motorsports tops IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda charts
on opening day of Sebring test
With it’s shop located just over 100 miles southeast of Sebring International Raceway in Coconut Creek, Florida, P1 Motorsports used a little hometrack advantage to hit the ground running Tuesday on the opening day of a two-day IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda test at the historic circuit.
One week after conducting a private test at Sebring with the team’s No. 25 Ligier JS P3, Joel Janco and Kenton Koch unofficially posted the top time in each of the day’s two practice sessions. Eight prototypes from the LMP3 and Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) classes turned laps on the day.
“It was kind of the perfect place to test before a test, and then the race,” said Koch. “For the most part the car was hooked up at the end of that test. We tried some little things in the morning today and ended up just going back to where we were.
“I’m really happy with everything, the car’s really hooked up and Joel’s doing great too. All the practice is really paying off. I’m happy to be a part of it, it’s really been a treat to be a part of this program.”
The day’s lone incident came early in the first session when the No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2 of Gary Gibson made contact with the tire barrier in Turn 16. The team made repairs and returned to the track midway through the afternoon session.
The series will have one final session tomorrow at 8 a.m. before returning for the Sebring race weekend March 14-16. The second round of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda is Friday, March 16 at 9:20 a.m. ET, live on IMSA.com.
Dontje Making Most of First Sebring Visit, Continental Tire Challenge Opportunity
While most IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge drivers in attendance for this week’s test at Sebring International Raceway have raced or tested at the iconic circuit previously, it’s a whole new experience for Dutch driver Indy Dontje.
But that’s not stopping him from making an early first impression in the Grand Sport (GS) class. Driving the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4, Dontje unofficially posted one of the top five times in Tuesday’s morning practice session, the first of three scheduled for the Continental Tire Challenge across two days.
“I got my rhythm and put a good lap time together and it’s quite bumpy in some places, but it’s a nice, quick track and I think this will suit the Mercedes a bit more than Daytona,” said Dontje. “I was really happy with my pace and I’m really excited to be here in Sebring. I’ve heard a lot of stories about it, so I wanted to know the track and see and hear everything.”
As of now, Sebring is one of four races in 2018 that Dontje will contest for Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport. His first was the BMW Endurance Challenge last month at Daytona in which he and co-driver Bryce Ward brought home a fifth-place finish.
His background includes go-karts, Formula 4, Formula 3 and then GT racing in GT3 endurance races and GT Masters. Dontje was approached by HTP to test the new Mercedes-AMG GT4 in 2017 and made his United States debut at the 24-hour race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas last October.
“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult if you look at regulations, and I experienced everything at Daytona,” said Dontje, on adjusting to racing in the United States compared to Europe. “The team itself, it’s good because we have a partnership with HTP, so there are some European mechanics here with me…We have a sort of mixture of all the guys we have the experienced guys from Europe, we have the experienced guys from the U.S. It’s cool, you know?”
And to help with any learning curve that comes with driving the American circuits, Dontje has already found his go-to guy.
“Sometimes I use the experience of (teammate) Damien (Faulkner),” said Dontje. “He’s an experienced guy here, so sometimes if I felt like I have a big question, I ask him because he knows his way around.”