Ashley Freiberg maintains championship lead with podium finish at Road America
After technical issues in qualifying, Ashley Freiberg fought back from adversity to claim a podium finish at Road America in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, showing excellent racecraft and maintaining the championship lead in the 991 class.
Ashley Freiberg fought back from adversity to claim a podium finish at Road America in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America. After a technical issue in qualifying which limited her running, the MDK Motorsports team did a great job to repair the car for Ashley to charge through to second place in race one.
Freiberg then produced a superb drive in race two to take the victory on the road, only to be dropped to tenth following a post-race penalty. These results ensure Ashley maintains her championship lead in the 991 class, while claiming a podium finish in every round of the season to date.
Ashley’s race weekend began on Friday with two scheduled practice sessions, the first of which was held in wet conditions which looked unlikely for the race of the weekend. As a result, Freiberg completed just one lap to shake the car down ahead of a dry second session. Competition was strong in the 991 class throughout practice two, with Ashley setting her quickest time on her tenth lap of the session, placing her third in class. With the top-4 drivers covered by less than a second, qualifying was set to be a hotly-contested session on Saturday morning.
Targeting further improvements in qualifying, Ashley’s first flying lap was already half a second faster than her time from the second practice session as she pushed for pole position in the 991 class. Freiberg then hit trouble as a technical issue prevented her from making any further progress, ending her involvement in the session early. Nonetheless, her quickest lap placed her fifth in the 991 class and within striking distance of the leaders.
Lining up from the third row of the grid, Ashley was determined to make progress and a fantastic job from the MDK Motorsports team meant the car was repaired in time for race one. After holding position on the opening lap, Ashley made a great manoeuvre for fourth at the beginning of lap two and began chasing down Scott Zdanis for a podium position.
On lap three, the safety car was deployed which enabled Ashley to catch up to the leaders and assist her charge through the field. Making an excellent restart, Freiberg continued to pressure Zdanis before completing another superb pass to move into a provisional podium position.
Following an issue for Tim Kezman on lap 10, Ashley had moved into second and although there was a sizeable gap to leader Charlie Peter, her pace continued to improve. Running three consecutive personal best lap times, Freiberg matched Peter in the closing stages to finish second to round off a great recovery after the issue in qualifying.
Ashley lined up fourth for race two based off the fastest laps from race one and was immediately on the move, crossing the line third at the end of the first lap. The MDK Motorsports driver showed superb racecraft in setting up overtakes throughout the weekend and displayed this once again on lap two, getting a good exit out of the final turn to draw level with Tim Kezman across the line. Completing the pass into turn 1, Ashley now had just Charlie Peter ahead of her as she began to close in on the race lead.
Setting the fastest lap of the race on lap three, Ashley had cut the gap to just half a second and began applying pressure to her rival. Another fastest lap on lap six saw the gap remain half a second, before Freiberg and Peter traded fastest laps as their battle out front remained close. At the end of lap 12, Ashley worked lapped traffic to her advantage to a get a run on her rival down the main straight, completing the pass into turn one and claiming the lead.
Her advantage grew following a mistake by Peter, with Ashley holding an advantage of over 10 seconds as a late race caution period neutralised the race. Despite taking the checkered flag first in the 991 class, Freiberg was given a penalty for a yellow flag infringement, dropping her to tenth in class, with the unfortunate timing of the caution period dropping her considerably further than if the race had remained green.
"The beauty of racing is that it has the highest of highs, and with that, it also has some really deep-hitting lows", Freiberg said.
"Came here with hardly any laps, fighting a sickness, crew battling some technical issues, and yet we fought to rise to the top" - she explained. "I drove from 4th to one of my strongest battles to 1st place on a track surface that is incredibly hard to pass on, only to get a last minute penalty after the checkered."
"While battling for first in the final minutes of the race, the 1st place car and myself caught a lapped Cayman in turn 14 with a local yellow for a 991 Cup car that spun to the outside, after we passed the incident, we continued up the front straight where there was a waving green flag, and although I kept my position within my class, the Cayman we were lapping was still moving slowly, and I ended up being a couple feet ahead of the Cayman at the green flag which was quite a long distance from the incident."
Despite not claiming victory at Road America, Ashley showed frontrunning speed while bouncing back from a challenging qualifying session. The MDK Motorsports driver showed excellent racecraft to move from fifth to second in the opening race, before taking the checkered flag in the 991 class in race two, before the post-race penalty.
"Drove one of my best performances in a long time, and my team gave me an incredible racecar", she continued. "It was a huge hit to my gut knowing how hard everyone worked, and we felt we earned the win."
"But I can only focus on the positives from this, which are the overwhelming amount of support I received from my crew, other team members, my sponsors, even people I didn’t know, and the progress we made both on the car and on my driving. This weekend was a huge motivator and learning experience, and I’m already prepping to finish out the season stronger than we have ever been before."
Ashley still maintains the championship lead as the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America heads to the Circuit of the Americas for the next round on the weekend of 26th/27th August.