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Courtney Crone completes IMSA VP Racing Sportscar Challenge season with double podium

Courtney Crone rounded out her IMSA VP Racing Sportscar Challenge campaign with two podiums, topping her best finish of the season at Road Atlanta. Fourth in the championship standings, Crone had a strong finish in both the IMSA series as well as the German-based Prototype Cup.

Courtney Crone, Forty7 Motorsport Red Dragon Duqueine LMP3, IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, 2023 Road Atlanta
Photo credits: LAT Images / Jake Galstad

Courtney Crone completed the 2023 IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge season with a double podium at the Road Atlanta season finale, claiming a second and a third place finish at the action-packed event that rounded out the inaugural season of the series.

Crone, 22, has contested her third season of competitions in LMP3 machinery, combining for the first time a double program in Europe, where she joined German-based series Prototype Cup at the wheel of the Gebhardt Motorsport LMP3 machine and scored a highly positive fourth place at Assen as best result at her European debut.

In the new IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge - the evolution of the previously-named IMSA Prototype Challenge - Crone immediately shone with podium finishes and front.running pace throughout the season. The Californinan joined Forty7 Motorsports at the wheel of the #99 Duqueine, in the iconic Red Dragon livery; she claimed her first podium at the season opener at Daytona, where she battled for the win before settling for third.

The new format of the series features two sprint races with single driver, maximising driving time - which gave Crone the opportunity to progress through the season had collect more silverware at Mosport, Canada, where she started a streak of top five finishes that included a fifth and third place at Lime Rock Park, as well as another third at VIRginia International Raceway.

Coming into the final race meeting of the season - which also clashed with the final round of the Prototype Cup Germany - Courtney Crone remained in contention for a top three in the championship standings thanks to the highly consistent campaign.

While promising practice sessions confirmed that the young driver of the #99 Duqueine would again be running in the top five, a difficult qualifying at Road Atlanta meant that Crone had to start from the back of the pack among the LMP3 field, after her first two fastest laps were invalidated for causing a red flag.

In the first race of the weekend, Courtney therefore had to focus on a recovery drive: from eighth in class, she held position at the start - in a chaotic getaway which saw all the LMP33 field receive a warning for breaking the line before the green flag.

With strong pace, Courtney was already up to sixth after the first lap, having found a way past both Brownson and Kunzle on lap 1. From pole, championship leader Bijoy Garg kept the lead.

Crone gained one more position and passed Thienes for fifth, as she now chased Kirby ahead. The race was placed under caution 10 minutes in, when Moises Uretsky went off at speed at the Esses, ending the race of the #44 Accelerating Performance Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the tyre barriers.

With the field now bunched up again, Crone resumed her charge with 11 minutes to go once the race was back under green: the driver of the #99 Forty7 Motorsport prototype had a perfect restart and passed Kirby, who lost out also to Thienes - before his car came to a halt at turn 7.

In the final 10 minutes of the race, Crone got ahead of Goldburg, thus claiming third with a stunning charge. While Garg and Jones battled for the top spot, the two LMP3 leaders made contact and took out the #82 Van der Steur Racing's Aston Martin. The race ended under caution and Courtney Crone crossed the line in third place.

At his first start in the series, Jagger Jones ended up getting a penalty for the accident - which dropped him to seventh. As a result, Courtney Crone secured second in the penultimate race of the season, in her best ever finish in the championship.

Courtney Crone, Forty7 Motorsport Red Dragon Duqueine LMP3, IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, 2023 Road Atlanta
Photo credits: LAT Images / Jake Galstad

The final race of the season was another chance for Crone to snatch third in the standings, having gained 20 points to Brian Thienes in race 1. Jagger Jones led Dan Goldburg and Courtney Crone on the starting grid, in a field shortened by a few incidents that occurred in the previous day. Bijoy Garg, though, soon climbed to third, demoting Crone to fourth on the opening lap and then started to apply pressure on Goldburg while Jones attempted to open a gap, five seconds up the road. Courtney's mission was to maximise points; by lap 10, she settled in her rhythm and was comfortably ahead of Thienes’ #77 Forte Racing Ligier. Crone gained a position on Garg when the latter made a mistake and spun at turn 7; he rejoined in fourth – in a very significant position change championship-wise, as third place would give Crone P3 in the standings. This battle heated up again on lap 15, as Garg tried to find a way past Crone; Courtney defended well and Garg followed, settling half a second behind. While Crone was navigating the lapped GT4 traffic, though, Garg found a gap and reclaimed third on the front straight on lap 20. Once in clear air, Garg set the fastest lap of the race but had a big gap to close to catch the top 2. Jagger Jones, though, retired with two laps to go after a solitary run in the lead, as his JDC Motorsports Duqueine came to a halt at turn 2. Now in the lead, Goldburg had a dramatic final lap and spun in the gravel after contact with Brownson’s lapped car – incredibly handing the top spot to Bijoy Garg – who secured the championship with a back-to-back victory. Courtney Crone crossed the finish line in third – but with Thienes fourth, she would have to settle for fourth in the overall championship standings. Nevertheless, Crone was the protagonist of a highly positive season, concluded with six podium finishes and a second place as best result of the year. "What a weekend in Road Atlanta!", she wrote. "Closed out the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge season going from P8 to a P2 finish in race 1, and a P3 finish in race 2! Stoked to get a double podium this weekend in the Forty7 Motorsports #99 Red Dragon to end the year. A big thank you to the team and all my partners for making this a great season." Crone has shown big progress throughout the season both in Europe and Stateside, and will be looking to build upon this trend coming into 2024.

Courtney Crone, Forty7 Motorsport Red Dragon Duqueine LMP3, IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, 2023 Road Atlanta
Photo credits: LAT Images / Jake Galstad



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