Madeline Stewart secures third in Porsche Sprint Challenge 992 championship
With another solid result at the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America's finale at Indianapolis, Madeline Stewart secured third place in the championship standings of the 992 class, at her first racing season in North America.
New Zealand's Madeline Stewart secured third in the championship standings of the 2023 Porsche Sprint Challenge North America in the 992 class, at her first racing season in North America.
Stewart, 23, competed in Australia before moving Stateside - which meant learning a new racetrack every race weekend. Nevertheless, the young driver - who has also been selected for the Porsche Deluxe Female Driver Development Program - soon proved to belong to the top of the field: she would claim a pole position at debut at Sebring, followed by a pair of podium finishes in her first weekend in the series.
Madeline's campaign in the 992 ProAm class proved to be an extremely consistent one and, with more podiums at Barber Motorsports Park, Mid Ohio Sports Car Course and a couple of third place finishes at COTA, she ran steadily in the top five in the remaining races; the JDX Motorsport driver scored a big haul of points at most of the rounds and entered the season finale at the road course of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a good position to finish the season on a high.
Seventh in the first practice session, Madeline found speed and climbed the order in the second practice, where she was second fastest overall and established herself again in a solid fourth place in qualifying, having set a 1:27.200 that put the #282 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup just a tenths off third placed Aidan Kenny.
The first race of the weekend was a very wet one, as conditions worsened just before the start of the first 992 contest in the afternoon. Lining up from the second row, Stewart soon moved up to third place with a great getaway, but she was then hit and spun around at turn 2, which sent her to the tail end of the field on the first lap of racing.
Stewart never gave up and soon passed Daniel Sibille but, 26th overall, she had a mountain to climb to charge back. In the extremely challenging conditions, Zachary Vanier was faster than anyone in clean air and with clean visibility; he continued to lead the pack from Jared Thomas and Peter Ludwig.
Stewart cleared Todd and Leathers as well - then continued to make up positions after position: by lap 9, Stewart had already gained four more spots, as she closed in on the overall top-20. Five seconds faster than Tutino, the Kiwi was about to pick up another position in class when the race was neutralized for a big crash on the main straight that involved multiple cars on lap 10.
The lengthy clean up meant that the race couldn't be resumed and Stewart was classified P20 overall, seventh among the North America ProAm entries.
"We had a great start and jumped into third but unfortunately got turned around at Turn 2 which dropped us back to last", Stewart wrote. "We drove back to seventh in class before we went under safety car for the last 15 minutes of the race. It was super tricky conditions with heaps of standing water on the track but it’s always good to get some more wet driving in."
In contention for a top three in the overall championship standings, though, Madeline Stewart had another chance on Friday, in a dry second race of the weekend that rounded out the 2023 season.
It was a cleaner start compared to race 1 and Stewart went alongside Kenny at turn 1, but then had to slot behind, retaining her fourth starting position. Thomas found a way past Vanier at the end of the first lap, as the top three tried to open a gap; Stewart defended from Robert Todd - who led the US West category - barely one second behind her class rivals.
Vanier and Thomas kept trading places at the top, but it would be Vanier to settle back in the lead after the first few laps. Thomas managed to stay at around one second gap, while both Kenny and Stewart - who kept Todd behind comfortably - had drifted behind.
With consistent laps on the 1:28-low, Madeline kept chipping away from the cars behind and, later in the race, she slowly got closer to Kenny - although she had a 7 second gap to close. The race remained green throughout even after a contact between Kayden Kelly and Kenton King, who dropped the latter to 19th overall and cost the driver of the #288 Porsche 992 a drive through.
After 25 uninterrupted laps, Zachary Vanier claimed back-to-back wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, completing the season with another dominant performance.
Madeline Stewart crossed the finish line in P4, wrapping up another very solid weekend in the top five. The result was enough to secure Stewart 45 points, which meant that she finished her first North American racing season in the top three in the championship standings, 26 points ahead of Matt Paine and 24 points behind Aidan Kenny.
What a year!", she commented after the weekend. "Third in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America Championship! I can’t thank my amazing team JDX Racing enough, you have all been exceptional this year and have made the 2023 season so enjoyable."
Following such a positive campaign, the driver - who has been travelling back and forth from Australia - will be aiming to continue the positive trend next season, with a racing programme still to be announced.