Straight into the Fire at Sebring

Straight into the Fire at Sebring

Written by  Parker Thompson on Thursday, 25 March 2021 08:48

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 25, 2021)- With new partners, a cross-border move to Indianapolis, COVID-19 turmoil continuing, and my return to Porsche on the horizon, the 2021 pre-season generated more excitement and anticipation than I have ever experienced.

The first-ever Carrera Cup North America is a historical moment for Porsche racing on this continent. I was psyched to reunite with the great people at JDX Racing, get behind the wheel of a brand-new Porsche race car, and go wheel to wheel with some of the best sportscar drivers in the world.

The series kicked off this past weekend with Rounds 1 & 2 at Sebring International Raceway. From my perspective, it more than lived up to the hype.

Before I get into details of the event, I want to reiterate - I can't race without significant involvement from sponsors and partners. Throughout my career, I've had the honor of working with some amazing people in great organizations. As I rise in the ranks my appreciation and pride in those partners rise higher and higher exponentially. Investments are required on so many levels to make a campaign like this come together. The fact that I am the one who is entrusted with those investments for 40 minutes on race day, is a responsibility and honor that I do not take lightly.

Special thanks to Porsche Cars Canada Ltd, Surgere Supply Chain Solutions, and the team at Byers Porsche and Renier Construction who have been steadfast partners of the good people at JDX Racing. None of this would be possible without their involvement!

At arrival to Sebring, it was immediately clear that Carrera Cup North America was more than just a new name for an old GT3 Cup Challenge series. From teams to drivers, media, and organizers, everyone pulled out all the stops to prepare for the new season. The crew at JDX Racing made the best of the short turnaround time we had to prepare for the season. Having only taken delivery of our new cars 10 days prior, we barely had time to arrange liveries and transport to the track. Creating further challenges, some key members of our crew were unavailable for initial testing and set up as we uncorked our brand-new cars.

The significance of the new 992 race car should not be understated. While still a rear-engine, naturally aspirated Porsche like the previous year's 991, changes to aerodynamics, suspension, and tire packages mean that setup notes from that old car are completely irrelevant. Teams that were able to find more time for testing and discovery with the 992, were at a certain advantage.

In terms of the competition on the track, spec series like Carrera Cup tend to create some of the most intense rivalries between drivers. I got a taste of that during my time in GT3 Cup through 2019. Several of those drivers are on the grid again this year. As are some new faces, including journeyman pros like Leh Keen, who has enjoyed a career that any young racer would aspire to. Leh and I got very familiar with each other in Race 2!

Significant to this year's campaign, is my designation as a Porsche Junior Program North America Driver. Seven Carrera Cup North America drivers, and I, are contending for the opportunity to advance at the end of the year to a Porsche factory driver program based out of Germany. Here I'm competing alongside some very talented young sportscar drivers! With results from the weekend now official, we Junior drivers hold 7 of the top 8 spots in the championship standings. As a racer with experience predominantly in open-wheel cars, I'm eager to prove my merit!

After our performance this week, I'm confident that I will be able to do just that.

As mentioned, through early practice and qualifying sessions at Sebring, we struggled to get ourselves adjusted to the car and track. The Sebring road course is not one to take lightly. This was my first time on the full circuit. I found that the dangerous reputation it has developed through seventy years of racing history was deserved. "Respect the bumps" is a phrase that anyone in racing will connect to Sebring. In my unfamiliar car, with a full season of racing still ahead, you can be certain that I did exactly that!

By race day however, we were starting to get comfortable. Middling qualifying results had us starting from the fourth row, but with each session that passed, our performance got better and better. In Race 1 we were able to cleanly move up to P5, and then up another spot to P4 on a late-race restart. By Race 2, we had enough pace to contend at the top, finishing P5 after a long battle with Leh Keen.

A couple of top-five finishes feels like a solid start!

If COVID turmoil does not strike again, our next stop will be a home race. We are scheduled to cross the border into Ontario, visiting Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for May Long Weekend. Fingers-crossed here! Not only do I love the CTMP track, but I know that racing in Ontario might allow me an opportunity to connect personally with some of you!

Until then, I have a full schedule that includes testing, training, and some other fun things that I will save for my next update. Hint: you won’t see me in a car, but I am still closely connected to friends on the Road to Indy.

Parker Thompson


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