At the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, EFFORT Racing lived up to their namesake this weekend at Rounds 3 & 4 of the sports car championship. Following a monumental effort to rebound from a difficult race weekend, the team bounced back to not only earn both pole positions and both race wins with Porsche Young Driver Academy racer Michael Lewis.
Following Round 2 at Circuit of the Americas, the team had their work cut out for them when the one week old No. 31 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long suffered heavy damage, retiring from the race early. The team outfitted the transporter with two drivers in order to make it from Austin to Alex Job Racing’s shop in St. Petersburg by the following day. With half of the crew repairing the car at the AJR shop, the other half of the team journeyed to St. Petersburg to continue the racing efforts with the No. 41 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Michael Lewis.
In the Race 1 qualifying session, Lewis earned his first ever GT class pole position, the second this season for the team. That day, after over two hundred man hours, the repaired 31 made its way back to the track, but with plenty of work to be done before starting the race the following morning. With repairs and one hardship lap complete, the car made it to the grid, starting the race from the back of the pack. Lewis led the field to green and dominated every lap, pulling away from the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren with ease. He led green flag to checker flag, not only earning his first ever GT class win, but the second world wide win for this generation of Porsche.
In addition to a standout performance from Lewis, teammate Patrick Long put on a show just as impressive. The Porsche Works Driver started in 19th position, in the first three laps, he gained three positions and continued to work his way through the field. Although the goal was to finish 10th, Long continued his climb, making it to the top ten at the halfway point. As the checker flew, Long crossed the line in 7th, gaining a total of 12 positions on a street course known for its difficulty to pass on. The run earned Long the Hard Charger of the Race, an award given to the competitor with the most race passes.
Lewis set the fastest lap in race one to again earn pole position in Race 2, with teammate Patrick Long starting in 7th position. A repeat from the day before, Lewis led every lap of the second race, an event plagued by two yellow flags. He dominated the restarts, each time pulling away from the Nissan of James Davison. He crossed the finish line in first, earning his second career GT class win, and the third ever win for this generation of Porsche.
In the opening lap, Long and the No. 31 Porsche jumped from 7th to 4th, and a lap later passed Alvaro Parente in the McLaren to take 3rd. He chased down James Davison in the Nissan, and took the white flag in third position. In turn one of the final lap, Michael Cooper in the Cadillac got by, resulting in a 4th place finish for Long.
After investing over 200 man hours to get the No. 31 back on track, EFFORT Racing and Porsche gained a considerable amount of driver, team and manufacturer championship points heading into Round 5 on the streets of Long Beach California, April 15-17th.
“We can’t thank Alex Job Racing and Porsche enough for all of their help,” said Team Manager Erin Gahagan. “This definitely wouldn’t have been possible without them. We’d also like to thank the other teams within the Pirelli World Challenge who offered their support. That just goes to show the respect between competitors in this paddock.”
Michael Lewis // No. 41 Porsche 911 GT3 R
Victory number two for the EFFORT Racing Curb Records Porsche 911 GT3 R. This car was hooked up on those restarts. It was pretty much a restart game the whole race. There were two incidents during the race and I’m glad to see those drivers were pretty much okay after. It was just head down, trying to get to turn one first. After that, our car was on rails and we could beat everybody on lap time. It was just a restart race and that final restart was hairy. The car behind me had a run with his turbo, and I was just hanging on. Everything worked out from there. Big thank you to the team for working the long hours. That’s two for two.
Patrick Long // No. 31 Porsche 911 GT3 R
The goal was just to pull my weight for the long days that these guys put into rebuilding this car. I’m really proud of the whole group. Congratulations to Michael. It’s great to see him progress as a driver and a person. Race two was a tough race to not have many green flag laps. It really made it a race of restarts. I got some good timing on the initial restart and Johnny O’Connell ran me clean. I had good pace and was able to make up a few spots. I spent the rest of the race under yellow. On the second restart, I thought I had Alvaro cleared, and then I saw him sort of drift into me and that put me up over the curb. I feel bad that we had contact, but in this series, they ask for four wheel racing room. If that had been a wall, I would have been head on into it. I’m trying to race as clean as I can, but we have to co-exist out there. Past that, I went to the white flag and made a mistake into turn one and Michael Cooper got me. For as few laps as we completed, it was pretty adventurous. I’m glad to have recovered some points after what has been a forgetful and yet memorable week altogether.