“Teammate” isn’t the first word that comes to mind for most when describing competitors in an athletic endeavor.
But that’s exactly the term Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama driver Alan Metni uses when he talks about those who he has been racing against in similar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars over the past two-and-a-half years.
“I actually call my competitors my teammates, because I think we’re all on a journey trying to make each other better,” says Metni, who drives the No. 99 AM Motorsports/Kelly-Moss Porsche in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA Platinum Cup class. “But the guys I’m competing against are the guys who taught me how to race. Before I met them, I had no idea how any of this went. I’ve got to tell you, they put up with a lot, because I was a hot mess when I got here.”
Metni “got here” at the start of the 2017 GT3 Cup Challenge USA season after a brief period of getting acquainted with high-speed cars on racetracks during track days.
“I came to it really, really late,” says Metni of his decision to go racing. “I wasn’t one of these guys who was a club racer or a guy who was a big-time race fan. I kind of wasn’t even really aware of how big, robust and well-attended this entire sport was.
“A buddy of mine, a couple of years back, kept inviting me to go to a track day with a street car. I kept putting it off because I was busy, and then eventually he bought me a ticket to a track day so I couldn’t put it off and I went out and did the track day and just loved it. I thought it was the greatest thing ever and then went out there and did a bunch after that, more and more of those track days.
“Then, eventually, I started getting faster and faster and realized, ‘This isn’t very safe to be doing in a street car.’ So, I started asking around how one gets into this and then eventually was referred to Jeff Stone at Kelly-Moss and had some conversations with them, which eventually led me to test the Cup car and then start in that series.”
That first year, Metni partnered with Kelly-Moss Road and Race to field an entry in the Gold Cup class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016. He finished sixth in the season standings, scoring his first podium result with a third place run at VIRginia International Raceway.
Last year, Metni moved into the Platinum Cup class for current generation 911 GT3 Cup Cars, and was part of the Masters class for drivers 45 years of age and over. He started off the season with another third-place showing at Sebring, established a new career-best result of second on the following event weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, and scored his first career Masters victory in the next doubleheader weekend at Mid-Ohio.
He ended the season with a total of five Masters victories – including at Watkins Glen International, which hosts another GT3 Cup Challenge USA doubleheader next weekend – and went on to win the Platinum Masters title with a sweep of both 45-minute races in the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
He picked up right where he left off this season, winning the Masters class in three of the first six races and finishing on the podium in two more to build a 12-point lead in the Platinum Masters standings over Fred Poordad in the No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche.
In addition to GT3 Cup Challenge USA, Metni has expanded his program to include the full Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama this year as well. He’s had one class win and three podiums from the first four races and is currently tied for the Platinum Masters points lead with Marco Cirone.
That Metni is competing in both the USA and Canada series is consistent with his overall approach to racing – and life. In his efforts to improve as a driver, Metni drove in Porsche Club of America (PCA) and several other races to get valuable seat time, as well as extensive simulator work and coaching from Andrew Davis, an IMSA champion driver. In short, he fully immersed himself in the sport.
“That’s the only channel I have,” Metni said. “That is how I did my business. That is how I did other sporting things before this. I was on the U.S. Skydiving Team for about eight years and I kind of did the same sort of thing. I came into the sport, took a look around, got my bearings and figured out what was going to be the hardest, most challenging, most difficult thing I could do and then I basically went at it with everything I had.
“In that sense, at that time, I literally quit my job and moved to the drop zone and lived there in order to be able to train every possible moment that I could. So, yeah, I’m kind of a black-and-white guy and it makes for a fun ride. Maybe a little bit of a bumpy ride for a bunch of people with me, but that’s my path.”
It’s a path that also served him well in business. Metni founded iFly Indoor Skydiving, which has become a popular form of entertainment at locations around the world.
‘Basically, iFly is a vertical wind tunnel,” Metni said. “It’s a lot like a horizontal wind tunnel that you’d test a car in, but it runs vertically so that you can drop a person through the airflow. Instead of dropping them out of an airplane and have them fall through the air at 120 miles an hour, we blow the air up at them at 120 miles an hour. Inside that tube is exactly like freefall skydiving. It is a near-perfect simulation of freefall skydiving.
“I designed that machine and invented a bunch of the components and technology necessary to make that work and make it able to be a mainstream entertainment and then built the company around it. We now have 82 of these things running in more than a dozen countries around the world and we’ve flown over 10 million people and I assume we’ll fly many millions more.”
As for racing, Metni enjoys the learning experiences in GT3 Cup Challenge USA and is in no particular hurry to move on to another series. His primary goal at this point is to compete at the front of the overall Platinum Cup class.
“I don’t want it to sound at all like I’m dying to leave my buddies and my co-competitors in the Masters class, but it is part of my goal to get – over the course of this year – to the point where I’m competing for overall podiums and overall places and giving the kids a run for their money,” Metni said. “That was the whole point of this year for me. That’s my goal here. By the end of the season, I want to be up there competing with the kids and competing for overall podiums. That’s my goal. We’ll see if it’s possible.”
The eight-weekend, 16-race GT3 Cup Challenge USA season reaches its halfway point next weekend at Watkins Glen International as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen event weekend.