Lisa Clark sweeps Ferrari Challenge NA opener at Homestead-Miami
With two dominant wins, two pole positions and a fastest lap, Lisa Clark swept the weekend at Homestead Miami for the season opener of the 2023 Ferrari Challenge North America.
The scenic venue of Homestead Miami Speedway kicked-off the 2023 season of Ferrari Challenge North America, as drivers tackled the technical 3.557 km road course layout that features an interesting mix of fast and slow corners within the speedway. The new season of the Ferrari-one make series saw returning drivers as well as new sports car rookies across the Pirelli and Shell classes; a driver that is no stranger to the series, though, was American Lisa Clark, entering the #127 Ferrari 488 Challenge EVO run by Ferrari of Beverly Hills in the North American series. Clark has built a strong reputation in the Shell Cup and also participated in selected rounds of the European-based Ferrari Challenge, as well as the latest Winter Challenge in the Middle East. Following two days of testing and a further day of practice, Clark's season couldn't have had a better start, as the American took pole with an impressive 1:27.969 - which put her on top of the Shell-AM contenders and fourth overall on the timing sheets. She preceded Dan Cornish (Ferrari of Austin) and Jeffrey Nunberg (Ferrari of Central New Jersey), in a strong field of 26 Shell entries. In a hectic start of Race 1, Clark ended up losing two positions, as Cornish and Luis Perusquia found a way past the #127 Ferrari orange and blue Ferrari. On the second lap, though, Lisa made a perfect dive and got by Perusquia, then hunted down Cornish. Clark was clearly the fastest in class and started to put pressure on her rival – with both making up a couple of places in the overall classification. Having encountered the slower car of Thor Haugen, Lisa Clark was able to make the pass for the class lead on lap 6, then immediately opened a gap. Having set the fastest lap in class, Lisa Clark was also faster than most of the cars in the Shell class, getting closer to the overall top-10. A Full Course Yellow was deployed with 10 minutes left on the clock for a spin involving the #153 488 Challenge of Langberg. The race ended under SC conditions, and Lisa Clark, thanks to a spectacular recovery, took Shell-Am class victory in race 1, ahead of Cornish and Perusquia. Sureel Choksi claimed victory in the Shell class, having pulled away from the rest of the pack in dominant fashion before the caution; Root and Bernier rounded out the podium. “It’s incredible, I don’t even know what to say", she said after the first win on American soil. "I had a great battle with Dan Cornish, who is so fast – and finally I was able to make a move and get by him. That pretty much sealed the deal – but then came the yellow flag." "I had a great day, from quali all the way through, so I’ll take it” It was Lisa's second win in Ferrari Challenge, after a class victory at Imola in 2022, but her first conquered on American soil. Her move for the win was also voted the move of the race by Ferrari.
The second day of racing at Homestead Miami was off to a great start again for Lisa Clark, who secured another pole position in Shell-Am and slotted into fifth overall, with a 1:27.584 lap that clearly set the tone for the remaining 30-minute race. Second in class was Dan Cornish, one second off the pace of the pole sitter Clark, and Darren Bernstein third. Clark had the upper hand at the race start, but Cornish managed to sneak ahead on the first lap, as they tried to make their way through the Shell Cup field. Perusquia and Nungerg, meanwhile, found a way past Bernstein for third in class. In traffic, Cornish gained precious time as Lisa Clark got stuck behind some slower Shell Cup cars; the American driver, though, finally got ahead of traffic and, in a few laps, closed a six-second gap to catch back up with Cornish. The two avoided the spinning car of William Naranjo and, with 20 minutes to go, Clark was all over the back of the yellow 488 Challenge Evo of Dan Cornish. On lap 7, Clark had a better exit on the back straight and completed a clean move, re-claiming the lead. With the fastest lap of the race in class, Clark pulled away at an impressive pace and never looked back, also climbing again in the overall top-10. Clark had to take evasive action when Rey Acosta spun just in front of her, but no caution was deployed until a few laps later, when Acosta went off again with 11 minutes to go. Having moved up 8 places overall, Lisa Clark had to build her gap again at the restart with 5 minutes left on the clock. At the green flag, several cars spun on cold tires – but Clark kept the class lead unfazed. In the final minutes, Cornish was closer to Clark’s #127 machine, but never enough to cause worry to the race leader: Lisa Clark took the checkered flag to make it two out of two wins at Homestead Miami. Cornish, hit with a 10 second place penalty for track limits, dropped from second to fourth, which promoted Luis Perusquia and Jerri Walters to the second and third steps of the podium. “What a weekend. I didn’t see this one coming" – Clark said. "I had some great battles with Dan Cornish and it was hotter today than yesterday and people were spinning everywhere. But I was able to eking through the slow corners to keep the tires somehow good. I’m just glad the weekend worked out the way it did for me." With two dominant wins, two pole positions and one fastest lap, Lisa Clark takes an early but firm championship lead in the Shell-AM Cup, ahead of next round at COTA, on 19-23 April.