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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Ashley Freiberg scores podium finish on return to Porsche Sprint Challenge NA

Reigning Porsche Sprint Challenge 991 class champion Ashley Freiberg successfully stepped up to the 992 GT3 class with a superb opening weekend at Sebring: despite a late deal, the Shift Up Now athlete displayed her trademark speed and racecraft to score a second place.

Ashley Freiberg, MDK Motorsports, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Ashley Freiberg successfully stepped up to the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America 992 Pro/Am class with a superb opening weekend at Sebring International Raceway. The reigning 991 class champion put together a late deal with MDK Motorsports to compete in Florida and despite limited track time prior to the weekend, scored a best result of second place in race one. Displaying both the speed and racecraft which saw her claim the title last season, Frieberg maximised her results and leaves Sebring third in 992 Pro/Am class championship.

Heading into the weekend, Freiberg was no stranger to Porsche Sprint Challenge North America as she claimed the 2023 title in the 991 division. Despite a long period away from full-time racing prior to last season, Ashley got up to speed quickly and this enabled her to claim seven victories and five other podium finishes across the 14-race season.

Ashley arrived at Sebring with limited seat time and would use the series of test and practice sessions on Thursday and Friday to get up to speed in a highly competitive class. The MDK Motorsports driver was immediately on the pace by setting the third fastest time in the 992 Pro/Am category during the opening test session on Thursday.

Further improvements came during Friday’s free practice sessions, with Freiberg’s best lap of 2:06.178 two tenths of a second faster than her testing benchmark. This placed her fourth in 992 Pro/Am, with the final session before qualifying seeing Ashley replicate this result while setting a 2:05.392 which was her quickest lap of the meeting to date.

Qualifying would bring a further challenge for Freiberg, however her inexperience in the Porsche 992 GT3 Cup car did not prevent her from achieving her best session result to date. Qualifying third in 992 Pro/Am, Ashley’s fastest lap of a 2:04.666 represented a seven tenth of a second improvement from Friday’s final practice, with the MDK Motorsports driver within a couple of tenths of the front row.

Freiberg had successful extracted performance from the Yokohama tyre over a single lap and maintaining this over a race distance would be the next task for the reigning Porsche Sprint Challenge North America 991 class champion.

Lining up from the second row of the grid, Freiberg made a fantastic start in race one by immediately moving into second position at the conclusion of lap one. As a result, Ashley’s confidence grew, and this saw her setting the fastest lap of the race on lap two as she began to close the gap to JTR Motorsport Engineering driver Jared Thomas. Her superb pace saw the gap behind extend to over two seconds, with the gap between Freiberg and Thomas reducing to just a quarter of a second.

As the leaders shadowed one another, this allowed both Paul Bocuse and Anthony McIntosh to close in, with the gap covering the quartet just three seconds at the end lap five. A series of fastest laps saw Bocuse close the gap further reduce the gap and at the conclusion of lap 11, less than a second covered the top-3 drivers. The racing continued to gain intensity as a number of spins for drivers further down the field added to the drama of the opening race of the season.

With Thomas still in Freiberg’s sights, her runner-up position looked under threat at the end of lap 13 when Bocuse got a run on the MDK Motorsport driver heading into turn one. Despite the drivers crossing the finish line side by side, Ashley held onto second place with some great defensive driving which paid further dividends when the race entered a full course yellow period on the following lap. With just a few minutes remaining, the race was unable to be resumed and thus Freiberg claimed an excellent second place result in her first race driving the Porsche 992 GT3 Cup car.

Ashley Freiberg, MDK Motorsports, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Freiberg began Sunday afternoon’s race two from fourth on the grid and despite falling behind the JDX Racing machine of Daniel Bloom on the initial start, she made a fantastic move into Sunset Bend to reclaim the position before the end of the first lap. From there, Ashley set about extending the gap behind her and therefore built herself a margin to mount an attack on the drivers ahead. By lap four, Paul Bocuse had made a move on Anthony McIntosh for second, with the JTR Motorsport Engineering car now in her sights for third.

The middle portion of the race saw Freiberg run extremely consistent lap times, regularly matching the two drivers ahead who continued to battle for the runner-up position. By lap 11, the MDK Motorsport driver was beginning to make inroads on a podium spot and had cut the gap to McIntosh to less than three seconds.

Dealing with lapped traffic in the closing stages, Freiberg was able to take advantage of this to finish just one and a half seconds behind McIntosh, less than three seconds from replicating her runner-up result of Saturday. Nonetheless, a fourth-place finish represented another excellent result in her debut weekend behind the wheel of the Porsche 992 GT3 Cup car.

Freiberg’s improvements across the race weekend were extremely impressive considering her lack of experience in the car. The step she made from practice into qualifying underlined both her natural talent and adaptability at a highly demanding circuit. Her runner-up finish in race one was wholly on merit and combined with a fourth-place result in race two, sees the MDK Motorsport driver hold third in the championship after the opening weekend.

"So stoked about this result, we worked hard for this one!" - she commented. "Competition is tough this season, but we came here ready to fight!"

Round two of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America takes place in support of the NTT IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park on the weekend of 27th/28th April.

Ashley Freiberg, MDK Motorsports, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America



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