Sonoma, Calif. (4 July 2016) – Kelly-Moss Road and Race once again traveled West to California for Round 5 of the 2016 Pirelli Cup Trophy USA, this time at Sonoma Raceway, a 2.52-mile permanent road course nestled in Northern California. The Wisconsin-based team fielded three Porsches in the Diamond division at the double-header event and took home two podium results and five top-five finishes.
Russell Ward was the first to reach the podium with a runner-up result on Saturday which marked his best finish as he competed in just his third-ever round of car racing. Patrick Laughlin captured a podium finish of third on Sunday for his best Pirelli GT3 Cup finish of the year. Also in action was Bryce Ward who bounced back from an incident on Saturday to finish fourth on Sunday.
After qualifying fourth on Saturday, Russell Ward was ready to capitalize on that strong starting position. He made quick work of moving forward up into second and began chasing down the race leader, but his forward progress was slowed when a full course caution was displayed. When the race went back to green, Russell Ward gave it everything he had but came up just short of the victory.
Russell Ward was hoping to carry that podium momentum into Race 10, but contact from behind on the very first lap took him out of contention for another top-three result.
“It was a very adventurous race weekend!” said Russell Ward. “Dino (Crescentini, race leader) and I had an awesome battle. The gap was closing between us when the safety car came out and we just had two laps at the end to battle it out. At the end of the day, Dino won and I came out in second, but it was my first podium finish in these cars, so it was incredibly exciting. It’s a real treat to drive these cars. Sunday was a bit more eventful! I qualified fourth again, but coming out of the Carousel on lap one, the guy in third place left it really wide and I thought I had an opportunity to get a run on him and out-brake him. I overcooked it a little bit and had some oversteer coming out but I was able to keep it straight. But that allowed two 997s to come up on either side and the guy on my right dive bombed me going into Turn 7. He hit my rear quarter panel, causing me to spin out and by the time I got started again, I was dead last. I worked my way through the GT4s and past some 997s before the end. I had an incredible race, awesome pace and it was a lot of fun.”
Russell’s father Bryce had a bit of an opposite run in each race. In Race 9 on Saturday, Bryce had contact that dropped him out of the running with a broken tie rod. But on Sunday, he ran a clean and consistent race with coaching from Porsche veteran Damien Faulkner and took home a solid fourth place result.
“Saturday was a great race, I had super race pace,” said Bryce Ward. “I made a decision that turned out not to be a good one, to go into the corner at the same time as another car. The officials ruled it a racing incident and I ended up breaking a tie rod. Sunday was a great race, even though it started by seeing Russell (Ward) lose it in Turn 7. Two cars ran right up on him and spun him out, which was really disheartening because I think we could have both had a super race. After that, I just kept my head down and ran good laps and finished fifth overall. That was really wonderful.
“It’s our second weekend with the series and our coach, Damien Faulkner, said to me that racing is rather like life, in that you have ups and downs: but in racing, your highs are much higher, and your lows are much lower. We were in a pretty good high with Russell getting a podium Saturday, but it’s a bit of a low with him getting spun out Sunday. I was down on Saturday because I had an incident, but Sunday I had a super race so it’s a high for me. We’re really looking forward to the race in Utah in five weeks’ time.”
For Laughlin, Saturday looked to be a promising podium run as he kept his No. 23 Porsche in third throughout the race before getting tagged into Turn 11. He was able to return to the race but had fallen down the order and was fifth at the checkered flag.
Laughlin was determined to find redemption on Sunday and had a spectacular runtoward the front of the field as he battled for second place. He ultimately took third at the finish after a thrilling run.
“Saturday was a great race,” offered Laughlin. “I was in third place the whole time but unfortunately got tapped from behind and spun in Turn 11. But Sunday was even better. Unfortunately, my teammate Russell Ward got in an incident in Turn 7 that allowed me and Bryce (Ward) to get around so we were up with the leaders. Dino (Crescentini, race leader) just took off, but I had an epic battle with Mike Zuieback the whole race. He actually made a mistake on the last lap but I just couldn’t get around him. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the weekend – thanks to everyone at Kelly-Moss. It’s a great feeling.”
The Kelly-Moss Road and Race team was pleased with the Sonoma event and the racing on offer in Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA competition.
“There were a lot of ups and downs!” said Assistant Competition Director Alex Stone of the Sonoma event. “It was an eventful weekend. We came here on Thursday to test, which turned out to be hugely beneficial for Bryce and Russell Ward. It allowed them to have some momentum going into the weekend. The first few practice sessions were business as usual for them, which was quite nice. Pat Laughlin was quick right out of the box, which was really fun to see. We had a bit of a struggle in the first race – Bryce had an incident, which was an unfortunate circumstance, as did Pat. But they recovered very well. We got very lucky in that all the incidents were fairly minor, and our technicians are so experienced that they made short work of it. Russell got unlucky at the start of Sunday’s race but had an amazing drive to get back into it. I’m proud them and of all the guys on the Kelly-Moss crew: they worked so hard and kept the cars on track and we had really good results to show for it.”