Each of the Three Porsche Caymans in the Line-Up Were in Contention During the Doubleheader Weekend at Sonoma Raceway
By Valkrie Velocity
SONOMA, California (April 2, 2023) – The Pirelli GT4 America debut for OGH/Valkyrie Velocity saw a pair of top five finishes, a narrowly missed podium, and a program on and off the track that set itself up for a strong 2023 season for all three cars in the season opener at Sonoma Raceway.
The Pro-Am class No. 95 GridRival/Valkyrie Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport driven by Rob Ferriol and Mac Clark led the trio with a fourth-place finish during Saturday’s season opener, while the No. 97 OGH/Valkyrie Porsche Cayman co-driven by Sean Gibbons and Sam Owen led the way on Sunday with a fifth-place finish in the Am class. Chris Walsh and Dominic Starkweather paced their way through the weekend with a strong pair of sixth-place finishes on the weekend in the No. 96 wear blue/Beacon Building Products Porsche Cayman in the Silver class.
Each car had moments to celebrate throughout the pair of hour-long races, with driver ratings rather than car prep separating the classes.
Walsh and Starkweather ran as high as fourth during Saturday’s race after starting fifth in class, but shuffled back to seventh during the mandatory pit stop window before Starkweather brought the car home. The duo started Sunday’s race in seventh after a challenging qualifying on a busy track, and showed pace throughout the race. The team elected to dive to pit lane at the beginning of the pit window and executed a spectacular stop of 92.8 seconds (rules dictate that each stop must take 92 seconds from pit in to pit out), but an untimely caution negated the strategy and successful execution and left the No. 96 in sixth at the checkered flag.
The Sonoma race weekend was a successful debut for the 19-year-old Clark, who made his lone scheduled appearance for OGH/Valkyrie Velocity as a substitute for regular Will Owen, and his first in a tin top away from his young open-wheel career. The Canadian driver was less than a week removed from a podium in his USF2000 competition and got up to speed quickly in the Porsche Cayman. Ferriol’s Saturday nearly ended in the second corner of the race when a competitor hit his left-front wheel with enough force to knock the Porsche well out of alignment. He recovered, however, and Clark took over after a difficult stint in seventh place. Clark slipped past a handful of drivers, including a slick pass in the hairpin coming to the white flag, to cross the finish line in fifth place. That top five became a fourth-place finish when a competitor was deemed non-compliant in tech.
Clark started Sunday’s race deeper in the field, dodging contact from the Pro-rated drivers ahead of him to march all the way to third place. Unfortunately, a yellow flag during the pit window, but after Clark had made his stop to pass the car to Ferriol, dropped the No. 95 GridRival/Valkyrie machine lower than its on track performance had dictated, robbing the team of a potential podium finish and leaving them mired in ninth place.
The No. 97 OGH Porsche also found themselves in podium contention, with Sam Owen climbing into the top three after cruising past a host of cars caught up in the same instance that nearly ended Ferriol’s race in the opening corners. Owen passed the car to Gibbons, who fell back in the pack during the pit cycle before picking up additional positions to finish 11th. The duo eliminated any pit mistakes during Sunday’s race, keeping the car in position to march forward from a ninth-in-class start to finish fifth in the Am class.
The team returns to action with the rest of the Pirelli GT4 America championship at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, April 28-30.
OGH/Valkyrie Velocity Quote Board
Rob Ferriol, Owner and Driver, No. 95 Porsche Cayman: “While we’re certainly disappointed in Sunday’s result and think some decisions out of our control caught us out, it was a great opening weekend under the OGH/Valkyrie Velocity banner. I’m really pleased with how Mac rose to the occasion this weekend, and couldn’t be more proud of how our crew has tackled the past few weeks and carried that through this weekend. We were able to welcome a number of corporate partners, especially Valkyrie and wear blue: run to remember into our paddock and become another piece of our puzzle.”
Mac Clark, Driver, No. 95 Porsche Cayman: “Overall for me, it was a positive experience. I’m honored to be a part of this team in its new configuration and to come in and compete for a podium in the first race of the season was a special feeling. It was definitely a challenge, being my first time in a GT car, but I think I learned a lot and I’m hoping to have the opportunity to jump back in soon.”
Chris Walsh, Driver No. 96 Porsche Cayman: “On Saturday, we demonstrated that we can be at the front of the pack in the Silver class and fight for a podium. We learned some things on how the pit cycle needs to work and some strategy that we can use going forward. We just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time all weekend. The team is great, everyone here is working hard and are dedicated to doing well. I think we have all the pieces we need to be a championship winning team, including having Lisa Hallett and all of the team and guests with wear blue: run to remember here and see us fly their banner at the professional level, in a way that is respectful and spreads their message. I’m honored and humble that they chose me to help with that. There are a lot of positives to draw on, even if we didn’t get the results that we wanted.”
Dominic Starkweather, Driver, No. 96 Porsche Cayman: “If you look at the results, it wasn’t what we wanted. But if you look at where we started to where we ended, the car was on. We had the pace, the car was really fast. In race one, Chris did a good job and kept the car in front. Strategy wise, it didn’t work out, but when I got in the car we had great pace throughout the stint. Going to race two, I had a decent start after a not-so-good qualifying on Saturday. I picked up some spots on the start and we tried to chip away, but the yellows just didn’t go our way. So if you look at the big picture, we got a pair of sixth in class and a 12th overall out of 43 cars. That’s not bad for our first weekend in the new car. We weren’t happy after the test on Thursday, but the crew guys and our engineers went to work and gave us a tool to fight with on the weekend. They know who we are now, and the wear blue/Beacon Building Products Porsche showed we’re here to stay.”
Sean Gibbons, Driver, No. 97 Porsche Cayman: “It was a really good first weekend for the combined team. It was the first time we put the two organizations together, and the cars were good. We got them dialed in over the test days and they performed well. The yellows, it is what it is. Sometimes it’s just the racing god’s luck. Today went ok. We started further back, and if we don’t get a yellow when we get it we have a shot at the podium. There’s a ton to build on going forward, and I think everyone that was here as guests really enjoyed it. We got a ton of positive comments about the vibe and that they felt like part of the team, and we’ve got a lot to build on going forward.”
Sam Owen, Driver, No. 97 Porsche Cayman: “The weekend was great. I have no complaints. Any time you have a first go at something, the first race of the year, you’re going to have little things. But everything we dealt with this weekend is 100 per cent fixable. When we get to New Orleans, we already feel like we have a shot. We’ll make a couple of tweaks and debrief about what we can do better, and I think we’ll have a good showing.”