Lazare, 17, from Montreal, won Round 1 of the International Motor Sports Association(IMSA)-sanctioned Single-Make Series by 2.175 seconds over rookie Elliott Skeer on Thursday at Sebring International Raceway. It was his second career victory and his first with Wisconsin-based powerhouse Kelly-Moss.
"It feels great," Lazare said. "Honestly, I was waiting for this since last year. You just have to keep smooth and make no mistakes. I'm happy I'm more experienced now, and I hope I just keep improving. It's a great feeling being with Kelly-Moss. They have such a high level of experience. They gave me a car to win. It's a great team."
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada standout Marco Cirone, from Toronto, finished fourth overall and first in Platinum Masters in the No. 88 Mark Motors Racing Porsche, and fellow Platinum Masters competitor Kasey Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, rounded out the top five in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Skeer, from Carlsbad, California, led from the pole in the No. 14 Wright Motorsports entry. But he slowed under braking in Turn 17 nine minutes into the 45-minute race, and Lazare closed the gap and passed Skeer for the lead in Turn 1 on the following lap. Lazare then pulled away on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit, never trailing thereafter.
Schein took advantage of teammate Kuhlman's misfortune. Kuhlman was running third when he spun in the hairpin on the historic circuit, catching a curb with his rear wheel while trying to avoid debris from an accident. That allowed Schein and Cirone to pass Kuhlman.
Cirone started preparations for the defense of his Platinum Masters championship in the Canadian series in the best way possible by winning at Sebring. He has made the trek regularly to Florida in March to race here.
Platinum Masters podium finishers, from left: Kasey Kuhlman, Marco Cirone, David Williams
"I love coming down here," Cirone said. "The first reason to come down here is to escape the cold, cold weather in Toronto, but then I love coming down and seeing more people from IMSA and Yokohama and all the fans that come here. This is one of my favorite places to race. We've come down here so often that I think I'm pretty comfortable with the track, and my team always gives me a great car. I feel bad for Kasey because he spun, but otherwise he was just rocking. He was really, really fast."
Reigning Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Masters champion Kuhlman held on to finish second.
Yokohama Hard Charger Award winner John Goetz, left
David Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, earned a career-best third in Platinum Masters in the No. 37TPC Racing Porsche.
John Goetz, from Weston, Connecticut, earned theYokohama Hard Charger Award while racing in the Platinum Masters division. Goetz finished 11th overall after starting 16th in the No. 18 Wright Motorsports entry.
Gold Cup/Gold Masters
Mosing held off friendly rival and fellow Texas resident David Ducote early in the race. But that threat ended when Ducote was hit by another driver with 20 minutes remaining, ending his race in the No. 6 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche.
Gold Cup/Gold Masters podium finishers, from left: Mark Llano, Jeff Mosing, Wayne Ducote
That allowed Mosing to pull away to a 12.1-second victory in Gold Cup over Llano, from Wellington, Florida. Llano earned a career-best finish in the No. 22 NGT Motorsport Porsche.
"I certainly knew he (Ducote) was going to be the one who was going to be a contender," Mosing said. "I just wanted to keep my head in the game and keep out of the troubles for the first lap. Everybody stayed pretty clean on the first lap, but that wasn't the case later in the race. I heard over the radio that David, after he was hounding me and keeping me honest for a good bit, he got taken out. It's a shame. The Yokohama tires were great."
Wayne Ducote, from New Orleans, also earned a career-best finish by placing third in the No. 70 Kelly-Moss Motorsports entry. Ducote produced the best race of his career just three weeks shy of his 70th birthday, which he will celebrate at the next event at NOLA Motorsports Park, near his beloved hometown.
All three Gold Cup podium finishers also are Gold Masters competitors.
Round 2, a 45-minute race, is scheduled to start at 11:10 a.m. (ET) Friday. For live video, visit imsa.com. For live updates on all the action, follow @IMSALive on Twitter. For live timing, visit scoring.imsa.com.
Delayed television coverage of both rounds at Sebring will be provided on major network affiliates in numerous U.S. markets by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The schedule will be announced soon, and the broadcast will be available on YouTube after it airs on television.
ROUND 1 POST-RACE QUOTES:
JESSE LAZARE (No. 21 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, winner): "It feels great. Honestly, I was waiting for this since last year. You had to save your tires out there; that's what I was doing. You just have to keep smooth and make no mistakes. I'm happy I'm more experienced now, and I hope I just keep improving. It's a great feeling being with Kelly-Moss. They have such a high level of experience. They gave me a car to win. It's a great team. It felt great. I was waiting a long time to come back with the new car and a new season and the experience I gained last year moving forward. It paid off. The team I am working with, Kelly-Moss, are great, and I am very excited to continue the year with them."
ELLIOTT SKEER (No. 14 Wright Motorsports, second): "It's a good race. First race in the series so it's still a steep learning curve, but we started out strong and got up front and ran a couple of good clean laps. I made a few small errors in the early stints that got Jesse (Lazare) back up, and then I just kind of settled in running second. The Yokohama's were there the whole time, and we are going to make a small change to the car for tomorrow, and I feel really good. I am just really happy all this came together. It's been so much work over the offseason, so thanks to everyone at Porsche, Yokohama, IMSA and countless others. It's just a victory getting here!"
MICHAEL SCHEIN (No. 16 Wright Motorsports, third): "It was a great race. Started fourth, stayed our position. They had that accident in the hairpin, and I guess there was some water down. My teammate Kasey (Kuhlman) unfortunately got the worst of it. He spun. So that allowed me to come into third, and from then on, me and Marco (Cirone) had an awesome race. He was pushing me really hard, driving me really clean, so that was a lot of fun."
MARCO CIRONE (No. 88 Mark Motors Racing, first Platinum Masters): "I love coming down here. The first reason to come down here is to escape the cold, cold weather in Toronto, but then I love coming down and seeing more people from IMSA and Yokohama and all the fans that come here. This is one of my favorite places to race. We've come down here so often that I think I'm pretty comfortable with the track, and my team always gives me a great car. So thank you to Mark Motors for allowing me to be here and to my team. I feel bad for Kasey (Kuhlman) because he spun on some antifreeze, but otherwise he was just rocking. He was really, really fast."
KASEY KUHLMAN (No. 15 Wright Motorsports, second Platinum Masters): "I came into the hairpin with the debris flag waving, and a lap before there was a headlight and a splitter there on the left. So I really stayed right and my right rear caught that curb in there, and it just threw me around. All I could do is just gather it up and keep going, and fortunately we had a pretty big lead at that time so I didn't lose any spots other than the two guys behind me, and I just couldn't catch them. But the car was good, and Wright Motorsports did a great job. It was just a little mistake, but that's all it takes."
DAVID WILLIAMS (No. 37 TPC Racing, third Platinum Masters): "It was fantastic! It was my best overall finish ever. With the car and my experience, we are just getting better."
JEFF MOSING (No. 01 TOPP Racing, winner Gold Cup, Gold Masters): "I certainly knew he (David Ducote) was going to be the one who was going to be a contender. I just wanted to keep my head in the game and keep out of the troubles for the first lap. Everybody stayed pretty clean on the first lap, but that wasn't the case later in the race. I heard over the radio that David, after he was hounding me and keeping me honest for a good bit, he got taken out. It's a shame. Yokohama tires were great. I flat-spotted one of them on Lap 3, and that caused the off at Turn 13. I just put my head down and cranked a ton of rear in it and tried to get the rear tires to do all the work, and thankfully there was nobody up to contest me because of the accidents that were happening. Todd Opperman really set up the car good for us. Hat's off to them and hat's off to Porsche for running such a great series."
MARK LLANO (No. 22 NGT Motorsports, second Gold Cup, Gold Masters): "For me, this track is just epic. This is where it all started for me two years ago. The track was amazing. The competition is just incredible. It's one of those situations where it really means a lot to me to bring home the trophy to veterans and what we're doing for the mission. I'm thankful that my family is here, the pit crew and NGT for what these guys do. This one really means a lot to the whole team and to me personally. You always think about these things late at night; you dream about how you're going to get there, about how you're going to train and what you're going to do. It's always something I've wanted to do. I'm just blessed and thankful we're here today and for those who make it possible."
WAYNE DUCOTE (No. 70 Kelly-Moss Motorsports, third Gold Cup, Gold Masters):"Starting the season off is great, but not only that my birthday's next week, and I'm going to be 70 years old! I want another podium in NOLA, actually I want two, and I want to see (son) David (Ducote) on one time. I'm ready to go for tomorrow. I am ready to go!"
JOHN GOETZ (No. 18 Wright Motorsports, Yokohama Hard Charger Award): "I didn't have a great session for the grid. But I came up from behind and gained a lot of places. It felt good for my first race in the Porsche 991. I feel much more confident going into Race 2 now. At the end of the race, I was doing much better with the car. I had a better feel for it. So I'm ready for tomorrow."
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama enters its 11th season in 2015 as one of the largest of Porsche's 20 single-make Cup Challenge series in the world. The series produces intense, exciting competition for semi-professional and aspiring professional drivers in the world's most produced and iconic race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Racing is divided into two classes - Platinum Cup, featuring the 2014 and 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, which is based on the current seventh, and current, generation of the street car; and Gold Cup, which is comprised of the previous iteration (model years 2010-2013) of the race car. A Masters Championship also is conducted in Platinum and Gold classes. Each class is awarded with its own podium at the end of every race and individual champion at the end of every season. Points are awarded by finish in class.
The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) was originally founded in 1969 with a long and rich history in sports car racing. Today, IMSA is the sanctioning body of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the premier sports car racing series in North America. 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 - a company within the NASCAR Holdings group - 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 Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.