Back-to-back podiums for Madeline Stewart at COTA
Kiwi racer Madeline Stewart enjoyed her best weekend to date in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, scoring back to back podium finishes in class at Circuit of the Americas - as she will enter the final round third in the championship standings.
Kiwi racer Madeline Stewart enjoyed her best weekend to date in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, scoring back to back podium finishes in the 992 NA ProAm class at Circuit of the Americas. Stewart, who is also part of the Porsche Deluxe Female Driver Development Program, therefore her fourth and fifth podium finishes of the season, returning to the class rostrum since Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.
With previous experience in the Australian Carrera Cup, Stewart is contesting her first season Stateside, in the very competitive Porsche Sprint Challenge North America: her introduction to the series was an overall pole position at Sebring, where she would then claim a third place in race 2. She would return to the top-three at Barber Motorsports Park and Mid Ohio, before the remarkable Texan weekend that saw the JDX Motorsport driver scoring a big haul of points for the championship.
In the series' biggest grid so far, 992 North American entries were joined by the US West championship entries, bringing the field up to 35 cars at COTA. Only two weeks after the previous round at Road America - where Stewart claimed a pair of top-five finishes - the New Zealander took the opportunity to complete a two day test at the 5.515km track which plays host to the US Grand Prix.
Testing proved fruitful and Stewart was up immediately in the top three in the first practice session, with a best timed lap of 2:11.283. She held third in class also after the second practice, which preceded qualifying on Saturday.
Further improving on her lap time, Madeline clocked a 2:11.080 in qualifying, which put her #282 JDX Motorsport Porsche 992 GT3 sixth overall and third among the 992 NA ProAm entries despite losing her best effort due to track limits.
In a chaotic start to race 1, Stewart managed to successfully avoid incidents at the tricky turn 1 - traditionally stage of a funnel effect that frequently ends in contacts. While she initially dropped to seventh, a five-wide battle ahead saw Madeline seizing opportunities and gaining positions, as she drove back to fourth and third in class.
She continued to make progress and, on lap 2, she made up another position and climbed to fourth overall. A big crash involving Mark Kvamme and Scott Noble at turn 1 then brought out a full course yellow. The race went back to green with 14 minutes to go - but a second big shunt between James Li and Robert Todd neutralized the race once again.
The green flag was back in the air for the final lap; championship leader Zachary Vanier led Aidan Kenny and Madeline Stewart in the 992 ProAm NA class - the latter having a US West class entry in between her rivals ahead. Positions remained unchanged until the chequered flag and Stewart crossed the finish line in a highly positive third place, showing great speed and racecraft after the opening race of the weekend.
Vanier, Kenny and Stewart were again the protagonists of Sunday's race 2, as Madeline lined up in third place and fourth overall. The young Kiwi made a great start and immediately moved up to third overall, having passed Kayden Kelly. Ahead, Vanier soon checked out, putting 3 seconds in between his #206 Porsche and second-placed Aidan Kenny - who was under pressure from Stewart.
Kenny, though, closed all the gaps and, having defended well in the first stages of the race, managed to open a small safe margin to Stewart, whose third place overall was then under threat from the recovering Kelly. Vanier was unreachable, but his 15 second lead was neutralized with 10 minutes to go, when Todd Parriott stopped on track. This gave Madeline Stewart the chance to close back in with the cars in front - also with a big gap to the closer class rival behind, outside the top-15 in the overall classification.
In the closing laps, Kenton King found a way past Stewart for fourth overall thanks to a great restart, but she remained unchallenged for P3 in the 992 NA ProAm class - thus securing back to back podiums at COTA.
Zachary Vanier took another victory in race 2, sweeping the weekend ahead of Aidan Kenny.
It was a highly productive weekend for Stewart, who now sits third in the championship standings with 546 points to her name.
A huge thank you to my team for all of their hard work over the weekend, it was a tough few days for everyone working in 42°C but they continue to work so hard and prep a great car", Stewart commented. "And a really big thank you to Jaxon Evans for standing out in the heat all weekend to coach me, and for all of the effort he has put in for me this year."
"It feels good to walk away with a double podium this weekend, we have one round to go this year so we will keep pushing for that top step!"
With one round to go - at one of the most iconic venues of North American motorsport, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on October 6-8 - Madeline Stewart will aim to finish her first American season in the top three.