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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Runner-up finish for Loni Unser in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America

Kellymoss driver Loni Unser enjoyed a breakthrough weekend in Porsche Sprint Challenge NA at Watkins Glen, showing good speed in both qualifying and the pair of races to ultimately achieve her best result with a runner-up finish in race 1, solidifying her third-place in the Cayman Pro/Am standings.


Loni Unser, Kellymoss Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Watkins Glen
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche Motorsport North America

Loni Unser enjoyed a breakthrough weekend in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America with a runner-up finish at Watkins Glen. Driving for Kellymoss, Unser showed excellent speed throughout the event which resulted in a fourth-place qualifying effort, before ending the opening race in second. A consistent run to fourth completed the event for Unser who consolidated third in the Cayman Pro/Am standings.


In her debut season of Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, Unser sits an impressive third in the Cayman Pro/Am championship standings, finishing all but one race inside the top-5. Loni’s consistency has been a feature of her campaign as the Kellymoss driver has continued to score large hauls of championship points at all four prior meetings. Targeting a return to the podium at Watkins Glen, Unser was aiming to start the event on the front foot with a series of free practice sessions.


Unser showed excellent speed in both session on Friday as she got up to speed quickly at a technical and demanding circuit. Completing 17 laps in the first session, Loni was less than a second away from the fastest time and was immediately encouraged by her pace. Setting the fourth fastest time in Cayman Pro/Am during the second session, the Kellymoss driver was just a tenth of a second away from third placed Nick Shaeffer.


After an encouraging first day at Watkins Glen, Unser was aiming to carry this momentum forward into qualifying. Loni ran a session-high ten laps in search of a fast time with the Kellymoss racer setting her quickest time of a 1:56.110 on the fourth lap of the session. Ending qualifying fifth overall, fourth in the Cayman Pro/Am class, Unser was in contention for a podium finish.


Lining up fifth on the overall grid for race one, Unser made a clean start and successfully negotiated a spinning Nick Shaeffer at the Inner Loop to move into a provisional podium position in class. Although Loni fell behind a Cayman Masters competitor, she was in a strong position and after a drive-through penalty for race leader Ian Porter, the Kellymoss driver was up to second in Cayman Pro/Am.


Now running in her highest position of the entire season, Unser was still focusing forward and aimed to make further progress. On lap five, the safety car was deployed with Shaeffer stopped on track and this allowed her to close up to the drivers ahead. Loni applied significant pressure to Bill Fenech on the restart and this forced Fenech into a mistake which elevated Unser into third overall while remaining second in Cayman Pro/Am.


On lap 11, a second safety car period saw the drivers close up once more, with a recovering Porter now on Unser’s tail. At the restart, Porter moved ahead of Unser at turn one, however he passed the Kellymoss driver with all four wheels off the track. Nonetheless, Loni finished the race strong and took the checkered flag in fourth overall, third in Cayman Pro/Am.


However, Unser was set to achieve her best career result to date following a ten second time penalty awarded to Porter for passing outside of track limits. Therefore, Loni finished race one in second position and with Caroline Candas claiming the victory, female drivers stood on the top two steps of the podium.


Loni Unser, Kellymoss Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche Sprint Challenge North America, 2024 Watkins Glen
Photo credits: Kyle Schwab / Porsche Motorsport North America

For the second race of the weekend, Unser started from fifth position overall, fourth in Cayman Pro/Am. The Kellymoss driver made an excellent start and cleared the leading Cayman Masters driver to run in fourth overall and behind Saturday’s overall race winner Candas. Loni quickly opened up a comfortable margin over Alain Scalzo and she could therefore focus forward on setting quick lap times.


By lap four, Unser began catching Candas and Nick Shaeffer as they battled for the runner-up position and this gave her encouragement as she aimed for her second podium finish in as many races. As Candas cleared Shaeffer on lap eight, the gaps began to extend and Scalzo edged closer to Loni, reducing the deficit to just two seconds by lap 12.


Unser was managing the race well and began to stretch the gap once more, aided by a personal best first sector on lap 17. This allowed her to close in on Shaeffer by half a second, however the margin remained sizeable in the closing stages. Nonetheless, Unser took the checkered flag in fourth position to secure her largest haul of points across an event to date.


It was an excellent weekend of racing for Unser at Watkins Glen who achieved her best result while solidifying her third-place position in the championship. Gaining significant points on Nick Shaeffer in race one was an important result, while Loni showed good speed in both qualifying and the pair of the races.


The Kellymoss driver will be aiming to continue her run of good form as the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America drivers now take a short break before returning at Road America on the weekend of 10th/11th August.

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