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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Podium success for Loni Unser in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America

Kellymoss driver Loni Unser has taken significant strides forward in the opening events of the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America season and was rewarded with a third-place result in race one at COTA, her first ever podium finish in the series.


Loni Unser, Kellymoss, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

Loni Unser claimed her first ever podium finish in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America at Circuit of the Americas. The Kellymoss driver had taken significant strides forward in the opening events of the season and was rewarded with a third-place result in race one.


After qualifying fourth, Unser applied the pressure to the podium runners and was able to claim third position in the closing stages. A puncture while running fourth was an unfortunate end to race two, however the team changed the tyre and this saw her bank points for seventh position.


After the first two rounds of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Loni has stepped up to the series superbly. Consistently challenging for top-5 finishes within class, Unser’s next task was to step onto the podium and race her way closer to the front. At Barber Motorsports Park, Loni made sizeable improvements throughout the event and will be looking to use this knowledge to develop further at Circuit of the Americas.


Although not competing in the opening round of Porsche Endurance Challenge North America, the track would be shared between the sprint and endurance drivers in the initial practice sessions leading to a busier track.


The first on-track action began on Thursday with three test sessions in preparation for the weekend ahead. Unser made significant progress throughout the day and was immediately challenging the top-5 drivers in class. Friday saw two further practice sessions for the drivers, with the second session exclusively for Porsche Sprint Challenge North America competitors. Loni showed excellent pace in the final session before qualifying which saw her set the fourth fastest time in class, while placing within the top-5 overall.


Qualifying on Saturday morning was the next chance for Unser to improve on her strong performances from practice. The session was disrupted by a red flag during the middle portion of the session after an incident for Sean Kelishadi. Nonetheless, Loni was able to improve in the latter stages of the session and set a time of 2:16.159, by far her quickest lap of the event. This placed her fourth in class, as well as fourth on the overall grid and therefore in a prime position to score a maiden podium finish.


Following her best overall qualifying performance of the season, Unser lined up fourth for the opening race of the weekend. Loni made a confident start and slotted into fourth position while running close behind Caroline Candas ahead. On lap four, the safety car was deployed following a technical issue for Kevin Maxim which saw his car stop out on track.


The race restarted on lap eight with Unser again showing strong pace. As the leading Masters class driver Michael Clark initially closed in, Loni began to stretch her legs and once again and opened out a gap behind. On lap nine, a personal best lap saw her margin to Clark grow to over one second as she focused on the podium positions ahead. On lap 13, Loni was elevated into a podium position following an issue for race leader Nick Shaeffer.


This consequently filled Unser with confidence as she ran another personal best time on lap 14, while being the fastest driver on track during that lap. Holding her position to the line, Loni claimed a maiden podium finish in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America.


Loni Unser, Kellymoss, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche North America

After securing her first ever podium finish in race one, Unser was aiming for a repeat performance in the second race of the weekend and would once again line up fourth on the grid. It was a clean start from Loni who challenged for a podium position into turn one before settling into fourth position.


As the Cayman Masters drivers battled hard behind, Unser was able to break clear and build a sizeable gap behind. On lap four, she ran a lap time within a second of the race leading trio who were beginning to stretch their legs at the head of the field.


Misfortune then struck Loni on lap six as she was forced into the pits with a puncture, however a quick job from the team saw her rejoin the race while remaining on the lead lap. Falling to 20th overall, tenth in class, Unser was now hoping for a safety car period to make late-race progress.


Although this failed to materialise, Loni continued to set extremely fast lap times and following an issue for Nick Shaeffer and an overtake on Paige Morales, she was up to seventh in class by lap 15. Setting the second fastest lap of any driver on the final lap, Unser took the checkered flag in 18th position overall, seventh in class.


Loni achieved a breakthrough podium finish at Circuit of the Americas in a weekend where she took a significant step forward in performance. Unser was comfortably the fourth fastest driver and this put her in position to claim a podium result in race one, with the Kellymoss driver in position to make it back-to-back trips to the rostrum before misfortune struck.


Nonetheless, it was a memorable weekend for Unser who will be looking to continue her progress as Porsche Sprint Challenge North America heads to Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of June 15th/16th.

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