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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Loni Unser impresses on Porsche Sprint Challenge North America debut

Teaming up with experienced squad Kellymoss, Loni Unser achieved two fourth place finishes in class while displaying pace that challenged the frontrunners on her Porsche Sprint Challenge debut at Sebring.


Loni Unser, Kelly Moss, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Loni Unser enjoyed a productive Porsche Sprint Challenge North America debut at Sebring International Raceway. Competing in the Cayman Pro/Am class, Unser achieved two fourth place finishes while displaying pace that challenged the frontrunners. Despite her limited experience in the car, Loni showed excellent speed and potential, with the improvements she made across the weekend standing her in good stead for the remainder of the season.


Teaming up with experienced squad Kellymoss, racing in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America was a huge step up for Loni whose previous circuit racing experience had predominantly come behind the wheel of a Mazda MX5 in 2021 as well as in a Round3Racing Porsche in World Racing League in the following seasons.


“I could not be more excited to race the Cayman GT4 RS in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America", Unser commented at the announcement. "It has been something I have been working on with Kellymoss for over a year and I’m excited to see what I can do! I feel fortunate to have amazing partners like Speedway Motors, TruStage, Mobil 1 and Yokohama supporting my efforts.”


With slick tyres and a sizeable performance increase, Unser knew the scale of the task in hand and used Thursday’s test sessions to get up to the speed with the car and the legendary Sebring International Raceway.


Competing in the Cayman Pro/Am class, Unser made an extremely encouraging start by finishing the session just outside the top-5 in the class. By the final session of the day, Loni had improved on her fastest lap time by over one and a half seconds and this saw her conclude testing third in class, just eight tenths of a second away from the overall pacesetter.

Further experience was gained in the pair of free practice sessions on Friday, with Unser setting the fourth fastest time in the Cayman Pro/Am category to start the day, just missing out on third position.


Loni’s consistency across the test and practice sessions was admirable and this was again on display in the final session before qualifying. Unser’s time of a 2:12.080 placed her fourth in class, half a second away from her closest rival.


Saturday morning’s qualifying session saw Unser take another sizeable step forward in pace, underlining her speed in a car which was still extremely new to her. Loni slowly improved on her best time throughout the session, with her best lap of 2:10.852 placing her fourth in the Cayman Pro/Am class, ninth overall, and within striking distance of TPC Racing driver Tillman Schmid in third. The margins throughout the field were extremely close with Unser just half a second away from a second row overall starting position.


Unser made a measured start to the opening race of the weekend and although dropping two overall position on lap one, she knew she had the speed to make up for lost time. Dropping to 12th overall at the end of lap four following a pass from former Porsche Sprint Challenge North America frontrunner William Peluchiwski, Loni had chance to learn from the Cayman Masters class driver and push forward. By the halfway mark, Unser was ahead of Roland Krainz and set her personal best time on lap eight with her times stacking up well against those inside the top-5 overall.


The second half of Unser’s race was particularly strong as she managed the tyre degradation superbly, while engaging in a number of close battles. Smartly negotiating an incident ahead, Loni was inside the top-10 overall by lap 15 while comfortably holding onto fourth place in the Cayman Pro/Am category. A full course yellow period teased the possibility of a late race restart, however the thirty-five-minutes plus one lap race time had elapsed with Unser taking the checkered flag in fourth place in class. It was a good debut race in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, with Loni’s pace suggesting that more was to come in race two.


"I know we can win these races, it’s going to come down to putting it all together", she commented. "We have hard work ahead, but I’m excited to see what we can accomplish."


Loni Unser, Kelly Moss, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Starting race two from fourth in Cayman Pro/Am and eighth overall, a change of conditions with overnight rain and a slightly damp track led to an extra lap being run behind the safety car. When racing got underway in earnest, Unser was keen to improve on her position from race one and made a more confident start by holding her position in the opening exchanges. Closely challenging Scalzo Motorsports driver Alain Scalzo, Loni was just three tenths of a second behind the Cayman Masters class driver at the conclusion of lap four.


As the race settled into a rhythm, Unser was involved in a fantastic battle in the lower reaches of the top-10, with an overtake by Matt Joffe on lap six leaving her exposed to the threat from behind. Despite showing great intent and confidence in the car to make moves forward, William Peluchiwski completed an overtake on lap eight before Unser set a sizeable personal best lap time to regain contact with the pack of drivers ahead.


At this stage, Unser was the fifth fastest driver on track and remained hopeful of moving forward from her fourth place in the Cayman Pro/Am class. The Kellymoss driver was in hot pursuit of RS1 competitor Roland Krainz and had cut to the gap to just two tenths of a second when a full course yellow period halted her progress. A one-lap shootout followed with Unser driving well to complete the pass and capitalise on incidents ahead of her to claim eighth place at the line, fourth in the Cayman Pro/Am class.


Unser should be extremely encouraged following her debut weekend in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, with this level of competition a sizeable step up from her previous racing campaigns. The progress she made from the first test session to the final race was hugely impressive and she was not reluctant to race wheel-to-wheel with her rivals.


"Kellymoss gave me an incredible car for the race", Unser said. "So, I am excited to go into this season with a fire in my belly and the knowledge I have all the tools I need for success. Walked away with good points towards the championship."


The potential is certainly there for Loni to be a regular podium finisher in the Cayman Pro/Am class and this will be her next target when the series returns to action at Barber Motorsports Park, in support of the NTT IndyCar series, on the weekend of 27th/28th April.


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