Sprint Wins at Road America for Blake / Santini

Last season was a year of “firsts” for Rob Blake and Juan Lopez-Santini, to include their 2018 International GT effort at Road America that resulted in a triple podium appearance. It was the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R as the weapon of choice a year ago, but due to a scheduled maintenance cycle on the #74, both Blake and Lopez-Santini would wheel the #24 Orbit Racing Porsche 991 GT3-R for Road America 2019.

Leaving the humid, 90-degree Fort Lauderdale mid week would quickly be contrasted by a 40-degree overcast and rainy Elkhart Lake. Thursday’s Test Day was mostly a washout with only three of eight available sessions dry enough to start collecting data. On the bright side, the #24 was at the top of the time sheets for the day by six tenths of a second over the #58 Porsche 991 GT3-R of Mark Sandridge / Joe Varde.

Friday was Qualifying Day with a morning and afternoon opportunity to secure a good starting position for Sprint 1 on Saturday. Thankfully, the rain stayed away overnight and throughout Friday. Finally the track was absolutely dry. Blake was on track for Qualifying 1 and ended up P1 with a 1.5 second gap over the next fastest car of Sandridge.

Porsche Movie
Rob Blake (#24 991 GT3-R) looks for a way around Mark Sandridge (#58 991 GT3-R) on Lap 1.

Lopez-Santini would take the afternoon Qualifying 2 session in the afternoon and the team was confident he would log even quicker times than Q1, but an unfortunate electrical issue kept Lopez-Santini from getting a lap under full power. Fortunately, the Orbit Racing crew quickly resolved the issue….but the session had expired, and the #58 Porsche 991 GT3-R of Mark Sandridge / Joe Varde gained 6 tenths on Blake’s Q1 time, earning the #58 Pole Position Saturday morning. Making things even more interesting was the weather called for rain overnight and into Saturday.

Race Day brought with it a wet track, overcast skies, and 40 degree weather. A constant mist fell that seemed like it could turn to snow at any moment…but it wasn’t raining.

Sprint Race 1 had a clean start, with Blake being conservative on the start and not pressing Sandridge through T1. The rest of the field behind followed suit and maintained the starting order. Out of T3 Blake and Sandridge are virtually connected forcing Sandridge to take a defensive line braking into T5. The running order is unchanged through The Kink, but Blake has closed any gap present between the front running GT3-Rs as they run through Canada Corner.

Powering out of T14, Blake and Sandridge are nose to tail and its an ideal draft setup scenario for Blake as they head onto the front straight. Blake pulls out to get along side Sandridge before Start/Finish and its a drag race at this point. The pass attempt sticks with Blake taking P1 into T1. Pass for the lead video.

The rest of the race was incident free with Blake taking the checkered flag 5.7 seconds ahead of Sandridge.

Rob Blake Porsche Racing 991 GT3-R
International GT Victory Lane at Road America

Lopez-Santini would be in the #24 for Sprint Race 2, and inherited pole position due to Blake having the fast lap of Sprint Race 1. Lopez-Santini took command early and piloted the Porsche 991 GT3-R flawlessly despite T11/12 being in less than optimal shape. An incident during the race preceding IGT Sprint Race 2 resulted in heavy amounts of oil dry being laid down, requiring everyone to drive off line. The race concluded with Lopez-Santini having a 3.8 second gap on the #58 car.

Porsche 991 GT3-R at Road America Art of Racing In The Rain

An interesting note about the #58 Porsche 991 GT3-R owned by Mark Sandridge is not only its history with Wright Motorsports last season, but the car’s starring role in the soon to be released movie The Art of Racing In The Rain. 

Pictures below credit: Patrick Dempsey.

Road America Sprint Races

[Sprint Race 1 Live Blog]


Looks like we had some rain overnight as we are greeted by a wet track at sunrise. Our first Sprint Race isn’t until 11:30AM so we are hoping things dry up. Still chilly here at 59 degrees with completely overcast skies.

OK…looks like we are set to roll to grid. Things have dried out mostly and the word is the track is good to go / no issues at all for Sprint 1.

UPDATE 11:27 / Rob is on grid set in pole position #74 Porsche GT3-R, sharing the front row with Boden #46 in the GT3 Cup. Row 2 is a pair of IGT regulars Tom Pank in his #42 GT3 Cup and Steve Hill in the Norwood Auto Italia #33 F458C. Row 3 is another GT3 Cup #44 driven by Kezman and another familiar Ferrari #43, also from Norwood Auto Italia, driven by Barry Fromberg.

UPDATE 11:34 / Cars are rolling and about half way thru the pace lap a we expect a green flag to drop in about 90 seconds.

UPDATE 11:36 / We have a green flag. It looked like Rob may have spun the tires on the start as Boden and Hill immediately launched ahead. Rob is P3 thru T1. Hill leads.

How things looked on Lap 1 as the field came down into T5.

UPDATE 11:39 / One lap complete after a clean start from the entire field, and track position has not changed for anyone. Boden is applying the pressure to Hill. Rob is less than a second behind Boden.

UPDATE 11:41 / Boden gets by Hill braking into T8 . Top 3 Boden, Hill and Rob coming thru Canada Corner in a pretty tight group.

UPDATE 11:43 / P1 thru P3 come by Start/Finish all within a second. Lap 2 complete.

UPDATE 11:44 / Boden, Hill, Rob down into T5 literally nose to tail.

UPDATE 11:44 / Boden is strong in the T6 section on thru the Kink and makes a gap.

UPDATE 11:45 / Rob is very close to Hill as they come out of T14. He’s catching a draft as they come up the hill to S/F. Now pulls out for a pass. Wow… both Hill and Rob brake very deep going into T1. Hill wasn’t going to give the position up easily, but Rob gets by and gains P2. That looked like a game of “chicken” to me!

UPDATE 11:47 / Rob is trying to catch the #46 GT3 Cup now and gets within 0.5sec out of T5, but Boden is strong from here thru Canada.

UPDATE 11:48 / Rob has closed the gap Boden created thru the Carousel as they come into T14. Its still Boden, Rob, Hill Top 3.

UPDATE 11:51 / Things are unchanged as P1, P2 come into T14 again. P3 Hill has fallen back some.

UPDATE 11:51 / Correction, Rob pulls out for a pass coming out of T14 onto the front straight…it sticks. Now, P2 Boden is stuck to Rob’s rear bumper as they run thru T1.

UPDATE 11:53 / Rob maintains the lead for now by 4.1 secs. Running order has shaken up a bit behind the leaders. Its now Kezman, Hill, Pank making up the Top 5.

UPDATE 11:55 / A mistake in T6 at the top of the hill shrinks Rob’s gap to 2 seconds now.

UPDATE 11:56 / White flag is out, one lap left. Lead is still just over 2 secs. The rest of the running order is unchanged.

UPDATE 11:59 / Rob takes the checker with a 2.2 sec gap, followed by Boden, Kezman, Hill, and Pank. Closest in class car is the #81 991 GT3-R finishing P7.



[Sprint Race 2 Live Blog]

*Sprint Race 2 was broadcast at the track by Road America – see video at the bottom of this page.


Gearing up here in Elkhart Lake for Sprint Race 2 where Juan Lopez- Sanitni will be the designated pilot of the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R, starting from pole. Weather has cleared somewhat but the good news is rain shouldn’t be an issue at all.

The Zotz Racing Crew (Orlando, FL) making last preparations for Juan Lopez-Santini at Road America Saturday afternoon.

The grid is staged and a beautiful long line of Porsche GT3 Cup and Ferrari F458 Challenge Cars are waiting for the pace car to stage and get this race going.

UPDATE 4:28 / The field is out on the pace lap…we are about 45 seconds away from the green flag for Race 2.

UPDATE 4:30 /  Green flag and a clean start. Boden puts an inside pass on Juan into T3, but Juan tucks under and takes the spot right back. Classic over and under.

UPDATE 4:31 / Boden passes Juan under braking into T8. Hill, Kezman close behind. The entire field is really tight as they come thru The Kink with Hill glued to the back of Juan’s bumper.

UPDATE 4:35 / No changes other than everyone is starting to spread out a little behind the Top 3, Boden in the GT3 Cup, Juan, then Hill in the Ferrari 458C. Good racing up front. Boden is very good in the back half of the track and it’s clear he has a lot of time here.

UPDATE 4:43 / Juan takes P1 again on the front straight, but Boden is right on his bumper coming thru T1 and isn’t going to let the position go easily.

UPDATE 4:48 / Looks like Juan hit the “go” button as he has significantly gapped Boden and Hill at this point. Juan’s fast lap so far is within a few hundredths of Rob’s fast lap in Race 1.

UPDATE 4:51 / Hill has taken P2 from Boden. Juan has checked out – running by himself. One thing we have noticed is that the much larger tires of the GT3-R seem to take much longer to heat up than the Cups or F458C. All the other cars in the field seem to have MUCH more grip than us early in the race.

UPDATE 4:54 / Juan is now 15.6 seconds ahead of P2 Hill. P3 is now Tom Pank. P4 Boden. We aren’t sure if something happened to Boden as he clearly has skill and experience at Road America.

UPDATE 4:59 / Race complete. Not much to report from Lap 4 onward as Juan had no other cars around him. P2 goes to Steve Hill  / Norwood Auto Italia #33 F458C, P3 the Ultra Performance / GT3 Cup #42 driven by Tom Pank, P4 to Mark Boden #46 / Fall Line Motorsports GT3 Cup, and P5 to Juan Gonzalez in the Mission Foods 991 Gt3-R. Enduro tomorrow!

First Visit To Road America

We’ve always heard this was a great track, and Road America has not disappointed. Today is test day prior to tomorrow’s Qualifying session and races on Saturday and Sunday. The weather is beautiful and Juan and Rob are coming along nicely in their first laps in Elkhart Lake, WI. It’s good to see the other competitors and we look forward to an exciting weekend. So far, the forecast looks like it will cooperate! We need to go find some brats and be like the locals. Juan and Rob have a best lap time competition going among themselves…its a tight race so far.

First impressions of the track are: Elevation changes! Huge hills!!! It’s an absolutely beautiful setting for a racetrack. We are already talking about coming back and we’ve only been here a few hours.