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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Caroline Candas takes first ever victory in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America

After challenging for race wins throughout her debut campaign, RAFA Racing Team's Caroline Candas enjoyed a breakthrough weekend at Watkins Glen where she scored her first victory in the series, while achieving the largest haul of championship points of any driver.


Caroline Candas, RAFA Racing Team Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Watkins Glen
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver Caroline Candas scored her first ever victory in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America at Watkins Glen. Candas has been challenging for race wins throughout her debut campaign and finally secured a breakthrough result in race one of the event.


Starting from third position, Caroline had to negotiate a lap one incident, multiple safety car periods and a late-race challenge from teammate Ian Porter on route to victory. Candas backed-up this result with a second-place finish in race two as she cut Porter’s championship lead with two rounds of the season now remaining.


Candas arrived at Watkins Glen on a streak of four consecutive podium finishes, with the young French driver having missed out on a podium spot in just one of the first eight races of the campaign. At the previous round at Virginia International Raceway, Caroline showed excellent speed on her way to a pair of third place finishes at the fast and technical circuit.


Prior to the season, the RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver rated Watkins Glen as one of circuits she was most looking forward to competing at and was therefore aiming to get up to speed quickly while fighting for the top positions.


The first on-track action began on Friday with a pair of free practice sessions to enable the drivers to get up to speed. It was a productive day for Candas who built up her times nicely in the opening session and set the second fastest lap, with her quickest time coming on the final tour. Improving by half a second in session two, Caroline ended Friday’s running in second position with a healthy gap back to third place driver Nick Shaeffer.


Qualifying took place on Saturday morning with Candas immediately making space on track for a series of flying laps. Caroline showed brilliant speed to extract peak performance from the tyre and set the fastest lap during the qualifying session, however the time was disallowed for exceeding track limits. The RAFA Racing team by JDX driver set a time two tenths faster than teammate Ian Porter with the overall fastest second and third sectors. With this time removed, Candas pushed to replicate this lap and set the third quickest qualifying time in Cayman Pro/Am.


Candas lined up third on the grid for race one and made a good start, while Nick Shaeffer challenged Ian Porter for the lead into turn one with the JTR Motorsport Engineering driver emerging ahead. Porter, meanwhile, fought back on the approach to the Inner Loop and made contact with Shaeffer which sent the race leader spinning. Caroline did a superb job to avoid Shaeffer and although she dropped behind Alain Scalzo, she had avoided damage to her car.


Candas immediately caught Scalzo and made a superb move on the Cayman Masters driver on lap two, with Porter issued a drive through penalty for avoidable contact. This promoted the young French driver to the race lead and she began to build a gap to her rivals behind. By lap five, the margin over Scalzo had grown, with Candas also extending her gap over Loni Unser, the new second placed driver in Cayman Pro/Am.


At the end of the fifth lap, the safety car was deployed as Shaeffer’s car had stopped on the approach to the final corner and this eradicated the healthy lead which Caroline had built up. Candas made an excellent restart and after setting the fastest final sector of any driver on lap nine, her lead over Scalzo was now 3.6 seconds. Now over five seconds clear of Unser, a second safety car for an incident involving Jozsef Petkes saw her lead cut once more with championship rival Porter back inside the top-5.


The final restart of the race came with just over four minutes remaining and although Candas once again judged the start perfectly, Porter was up into second place and began to apply the pressure. At the end of lap 14, Caroline’s lead stood at one second and she was able to maintain this with the fastest lap of the race on lap 15.


Setting a further fastest lap, Candas was showing confidence and composure at the head of the field while pushing on in order to repel the challenge from Porter. Maintaining this margin to the checkered flag, Candas took a historic maiden victory in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America with Porter later demoted to third following a penalty for overtaking outside of track limits to help boost her championship ambitions.


Caroline Candas, RAFA Racing Team Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Watkins Glen
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Caroline lined up second on the grid for race two of the weekend and ran side-by-side with Nick Shaeffer for the runner-up position on the run down to turn one before the JTR Motorsport Engineering driver pulled clear.


The top three drivers ran nose-to-tail at the conclusion of the first lap with Candas applying significant pressure to Shaeffer. On lap three, she forced her rival into defensive lines through the middle sector and although Porter extended his lead at the front, Caroline was showing great speed.


Running just a quarter of a second behind Shaeffer over the next few laps, Candas was plotting her move and assessing her strengths against his weaknesses. On lap eight, the young French driver forced Shaeffer into a mistake into the Chute with Caroline close enough to clear her rival on the exit of the corner. She immediately displayed her pace and pulled out a gap of around one second through the remainder of the lap.


Although the gap to teammate Porter now stood at six seconds, Candas continued to push and matched the race leader while quickly breaking clear of Shaeffer. A safety car was now Caroline’s best hope of sweeping the weekend and she settled into a good rhythm, showing excellent speed in the middle sector especially. The race remained under green flag conditions in the closing stages with Candas taking the checkered flag in second position to round-off a superb weekend.


The RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver enjoyed a breakthrough weekend at Watkins Glen where she scored her first victory in the series, while achieving the largest haul of championship points of any driver. As a result, she closed the gap to leader Ian Porter and remained in contention for the title with two rounds remaining.


The next event on the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America calendar takes place on the weekend of August 10th/11th where the drivers tackle the formidable Road America circuit.

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