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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Paige Morales opens her Porsche Sprint Challenge North America campaign at Sebring

Despite being a racing rookie, Paige Morales has made brilliant progress in a short space of time: in just her second ever race weekend - her first in the Porsche Cayman GT4 - the RAFA Racing Club driver secured a best finish of sixth in the Cayman Pro/Am class on Porsche Sprint Challenge NA debut.


Paige Morales, RAFA Racing Club, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: RAFA Racing Club

Paige Morales began her Porsche Sprint Challenge North America season with an excellent debut showing at Sebring International Raceway. Competing in just her second ever race weekend, her first in the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport, Morales secured a best finish of sixth in the Cayman Pro/Am class. After qualifying fifth in class with an excellent lap, the RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver drove smartly in both races to finish sixth and seventh respectively in Cayman Pro/Am, with a best result of 14th overall.


Despite being a racing rookie, Paige has made brilliant progress in a short space of time and this was further underlined in her debut races for RAFA Racing Team. Competing in the Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour event at NOLA Motorsports Park earlier this month, Morales secured a pair of podium finishes in the GTX class while overcoming changeable conditions throughout the weekend. This illustrated her adaptability as a driver and will be a key skill to develop as she continues her progress in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America alongside her three RAFA Racing Club teammates of Rafael Martinez, Caroline Candas and Ian Porter.


Morales began the weekend by taking part in a number of test sessions, gaining valuable track time at an extremely challenging circuit. Improvements were evident across both Thursday and Friday which saw the racing rookie compare favourably to her rivals with greater experience.


Paige was consistently challenging for places inside the top-5 of the Cayman Pro/Am class, while running close to teammate Rafael Martinez as the two drivers completed similar on-track programmes. Friday’s final practice session was typical of the pace she had displayed to date with the RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver finishing the day inside the top-5 of the Cayman Pro/Am class.


Qualifying took place on Saturday morning and proved to be a successful session for Paige, who did well to extract peak performance from the tyre. Morales’ quickest time was set on her fifth lap of the session, with a 2:12.788 seeing her improve on her benchmark from Friday’s practice sessions by two full seconds. This fantastic effort placed her fifth among the Cayman Pro/Am runners, while mixing it amongst the Cayman Masters competitors.


Morales made a nice start to her debut race in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by holding fifth in the Cayman Pro/Am class at the end of the opening lap. After losing an overall position to BGB Motorsports driver Joseph Rizzo on lap two, Morales settled into her rhythm while defending from her closest rival Chris Hutter. Lap three saw Paige set her personal best lap time, just eight tenths of a second away from her qualifying effort despite a heavier fuel load. This further highlighted Morales’ potential with the RAFA Racing Team by JDX driver competing well against her more experienced rivals.


By lap seven, Morales’ closest challenger was now teammate Rafael Martinez and the RAFA Racing Club founder had begun to close the gap. With the margin down to seven tenths of a second on lap 12, Paige was coming under increasing pressure and with Martinez through the following lap, she had moved down to sixth.


Nonetheless, Morales’ pace was still extremely strong and she was able to successfully negotiate a number of midfield incidents to move from 18th overall to take the checkered flag in 14th, sixth among the Cayman Pro/Am drivers. It was an assured debut for Morales who banked valuable experience at Sebring International Raceway.


Paige Morales, RAFA Racing Club, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Sebring 2024
Photo credits: RAFA Racing Club

Race two on Sunday morning brought an extra challenge for Paige with overnight rain leading to damp track conditions. As a result, the race initially started behind the safety car with Morales lining up fifth in Cayman Pro/Am and 17th overall. Making a measured start in light of the conditions and cold tyre temperatures, Morales dropped two positions within Cayman Pro/Am, but remained in close proximity to both Rafael Martinez and Chris Hutter.


As Paige gained confidence in the conditions and the damp patches evaporated, her pace increased and ran just four tenths of a second behind BGB Motorsports driver Jim Jonsin at the conclusion of lap five. Despite losing two more overall positions, Morales continued to drive smartly and this was to pay dividends in the closing stages of the races. Setting personal best times on lap eight and then lap 11, she was confidently holding her own in a frantic midfield battle.


With less than five minutes remaining in the race, a full course yellow period saw the safety car deployed and thanks to quick work from the marshals, the race was able to resume with one lap remaining. Following incidents for drivers ahead, in addition to a controlled restart from Morales, she was able to gain five overall positions in the closing stages to end race two 16th overall, seventh in Cayman Pro/Am.


Morales showed impressive maturity despite her limited experience at Sebring and should be encouraged by her performances which saw her compete amongst the midfield runners. She was unfortunate to miss out on a top-5 finish in the Cayman Pro/Am class, with a class podium not out of the realms of possibility as the season progresses.


The next round of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America will take place at Barber Motorsport Park, in support of the NTT IndyCar Series, on the weekend of 27th/28th April.


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