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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Ashley Freiberg scores podium finish, leads laps at Watkins Glen

Kellymoss driver Ashley Freiberg showed excellent speed in the latest round of Porsche Sprint Challenge NA at Watkins Glen to claim her sixth podium finish of the season, then led most of the second race before a high-speed accident not of her own making eliminated her from the race, fortunately escaping unharmed.

Lia Block, GRS Team, Spanish Formula 4 Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche Motorsport North America

Kellymoss driver Ashley Freiberg showed excellent speed in the latest round of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America at Watkins Glen to claim her sixth podium finish of the season.

After challenging championship leader Jared Thomas in practice and qualifying, Freiberg finished third in race one before lining up on pole position in race two.

Ashley defended superbly throughout before a high-speed crash involving the top-three drivers eliminated the trio from the race, with Freiberg fortunately escaping unharmed.

Freiberg has adapted well to Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992) machinery over the course of the campaign and was looking to close the gap on championship frontrunners Jared Thomas and Paul Bocuse.

In the previous round of the championship at Virginia International Raceway, the Shift Up Now athlete produced two exceptional drives from the rear of the field to step onto the class podium, taking her podium tally to five in the 2024 season. It was a positive debut weekend driving for Kellymoss and Ashley was aiming to build upon this start at Watkins Glen, a challenging circuit featuring predominantly high-speed corners.

The weekend began with two free practice sessions on Friday, both of which were held in good conditions. It was an excellent start to the event for Ashley who set the second-best time in both sessions, just a few tenths of a second behind championship leader Jared Thomas. Freiberg’s fastest laps were also extremely consistent and this would be crucial with two hard-fought races to come.

Qualifying was held on Saturday morning and with warm track temperatures, the early laps of the session would be vital. Freiberg jumped to the top of the times after her first lap, before slipping to second after Jared Thomas moved ahead.

The session was then red flagged with just two laps completed due to an incident involving one of Freiberg’s rivals and due to the repair work needed, qualifying was not restarted. Nonetheless, the Kellymoss driver had qualified second and set the fastest final sector of any driver.

Lining up on the front row of the grid for race one, Freiberg was involved in a tight battle on the run down to the first turn with Paul Bocuse moving ahead. Ashley fell to third position but remained just half a second behind Bocuse at the conclusion of the second lap.

The top three drivers began to open out a gap in the early stages with Conrad Geis attempting to remain with Jared Thomas, Bocuse and Freiberg. As the race settled into a rhythm, the Kellymoss driver set consistent lap times which ensured the gap to Thomas remained at just five seconds after nine laps.

On lap 14, the safety car was deployed for a stalled car on the exit of turn one and therefore Freiberg would have a chance to mount a late challenge. Ashley made a fast restart and ran directly behind her rivals, before a second neutralisation was called for after John Gilliland stopped on track. This led to a one lap restart and the Kellymoss driver continued to apply pressure and took the checkered flag in third position, just one second behind race winner Thomas.

Race two of the weekend gave Ashley a chance to return to the top step of the podium as she would line up from pole position with championship leader Jared Thomas alongside. Thomas challenged Freiberg into turn one, but she held position superbly and led the opening lap by four tenths of a second. The JTR Motorsport Engineering driver looked quick in the early stages and forced Ashley to defend heavily during the third lap, but she was able to maintain the lead.

Thomas was using the slipstream to good effect and as a result, he was getting a good run into the Inner Loop. This appeared to be his best chance to make a move, with Freiberg positioning her car superbly to maintain momentum. On lap seven, the Kellymoss driver was able to extend the margin beyond half a second, before Thomas closed in once more.

On lap 12, Thomas mounted his next challenge and as a result, third-place driver Paul Bocuse was able to challenge him for the runner-up position and ran side-by-side through the Chute. As a result, Ashley extended the margin to eight tenths of a second, before the trio encountered lapped traffic for the first time. Catching Charles Craig on the exit of the Inner Loop, Freiberg was forced to the outside line with Thomas and Bocuse narrowly avoiding contact with the slower car.

On the following lap, Freiberg caught 991 class driver Francisco De Jesus through the esses and this allowed Thomas to close in once again. De Jesus pulled to the right-hand side of the circuit entering the Inner Loop, with Ashley overtaking on the outside. However, Thomas had significant momentum and attempted an ambitious three-wide manoeuvre, making contact with Freiberg and sending both cars into the barrier, while also collecting Bocuse in the process. Consequently, all three drivers were forced to retire from the race with Conrad Geis claiming his first victory in the series.

It was an unfortunate end to the event for Freiberg who was caught up in an incident not of her own making. The damage caused to the car was substantial and the contact ended a potentially race-winning opportunity for the Kellymoss racer. Nonetheless, Ashley showed excellent speed across the weekend and defended her position superbly as she resisted pressure from both Thomas and Bocuse.

Her attention will now be focused on ensuring she can return to the grid when Porsche Sprint Challenge North America returns at Road America on the weekend of August 10th/11th.



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