Madeline Stewart’s consistent start to the season - her first in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America - saw the Kiwi achieving three class podiums from the first four races of the season.
Madeline Stewart continued her impressive start to the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America championship with a podium finish in the 992 Pro-Am class at Barber Motorsports Park.
Arriving into the weekend with no experience of the Alabama circuit, Stewart steadily improved her lap times throughout the course of the weekend. Qualifying fourth in the 992 Pro-Am class, Madeline held the position for the duration of race one, before securing an excellent third place result in the second race of the weekend. Stewart’s consistent start to the season means she has achieved three class podiums from the first four races of the season, an excellent return for the young Kiwi driver.
Arriving into the weekend, Madeline had not been in the car since the first round at Sebring so the free practice sessions were a chance to re-familiarise herself with the Porsche 992 Cup car. Improving her lap times throughout the opening session, she ended first practice in 11th position overall, fourth in 992 Pro-Am with her best lap time coming on her 15th and final lap. Improving on her best lap time from the first session by two seconds, Madeline finished second practice seventh overall, fourth in 992 Pro-Am.
Qualifying was held on Saturday morning and Stewart was determined to improve her lap times and push closer to the front of the field. Stepping-up her performance once again, Stewart qualified the #282 JDX Racing car seventh overall, fourth in 992 Pro-Am, less than seven tenths away from pole position. This was an encouraging performance which proved that Madeline was gaining more confidence and track knowledge with every session completed.
Lining up in seventh position overall for the start of race one, Madeline held fourth place in the 992 Pro-Am class following the first lap. Despite slipping behind two 991 class cars in the opening stages, Stewart passed Roberto Tutino on lap four and set about closing down on the drivers ahead. As the race reached the halfway point, Madeline remained fourth in the 992 Pro-Am category but began catching Aiden Kenny for the final podium position.
Setting her personal best lap of the race on the penultimate lap, Stewart’s late race charge was almost rewarded as she finished just one second behind Kenny on the road. This meant Madeline ended the first race of the weekend eighth overall, fourth in the 992 Pro-Am category.
"We got caught up in some chaos at the start but we had great pace at the end of the race so we’re looking to translate that to Race 2", Stewart summed up.
Race two was held on Sunday morning with Stewart starting from the sixth position, third in the 992 Pro-Am category. Madeline once again held her position following the opening lap, setting herself up for a return to the podium.
Following a period under full course caution, Stewart remained third in class until a penalty for Pavel Lefterov elevated the Kiwi to fifth overall and second in the 992 Pro-Am class. Despite a spirited defence, Aiden Kenny was able to find a way past on lap 15, with Madeline slipping back to third. Putting in a number of good lap times in the closing stages, Stewart did her best to remain in touch with Kenny, ending the race five seconds adrift of her rival.
Nonetheless, a third place result in the 992 Pro-Am class meant a well-deserved return to the podium for Madeline who fought hard throughout the weekend and continued to show improvements at a circuit new to her.
"Another really positive weekend in Sprint Challenge North America and some great points for the championship", she added. "A huge thank you to the JDX Racing crew for giving me an awesome car all weekend, Jaxon Evans for making me fast and my sponsors Byers Motorsports, Spool Imports and BOSS Air Suspension for making this possible. We have a month off before Round 3 so we’ll be working hard between now and then"
Madeline should be particularly encouraged by her development throughout the weekend, with clear improvements in each session. Her consistent start to the season means that she holds third position in the 992 Pro-Am standings, narrowing behind Barber rival Aiden Kenny. Stewart will believe that her first win in the championship is just round the corner with the next race on Madeline’s schedule coming on the weekend of 3rd/4th June where the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America returns at Virginia International Raceway.