Podium Finishes At International GT Sebring 2019

Rob Blake Porsche RacingSEBRING, FLORIDA – Summer like temperatures across all four days of International GT Sebring Round 1 were an unexpected and sharp contrast from a year ago as a 35 car field took on the bumps of Sebring.

In Q1 and Q2 Juan Lopez-Santini topped the time charts in the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R. Rob Blake landed P3 for the Sprint Race Grid on Saturday morning, placing the #24 Porsche 991 GT3-R right behind Lopez-Santini at the race start. P2 was secured by the #76 Audi R8 Ultra driven by Alex Welch.

Saturday morning’s Sprint Race was incident free and the top 3 finished just as they qualified. Lopez-Santini, Welch and Blake quickly separated from the rest of the field and maintained a fairly uniform gap between each other until Lopez-Santini stretched his lead a bit more halfway through the race. Blake gained momentum late in the race, closing the gap between his 991-R and the P2 Audi to 0.87 seconds with one lap to go until a mistake in T5 cost some time and any chance to challenge Welch was gone.

“After the first few laps (Alex) and I were pretty much maintaining the same gap so I had to try something different to knock it down…and it worked. My crew was telling me the spread between us each lap so I was digging to make it close at least at the end. The last lap I knew I had to get a really good launch out of T5 but I pushed too hard (Blake laughing)…I’m pretty sure Alex looked in his rear view and saw me drifting thru T5 and that was it. No catching him after that, but boy it was fun having Alex and his R8 here.”

Rob Blake Racing Porsche 991 997 GT3-R
Pictured Left to Right: Rick Capone, Elliott Skeer, Rob Blake, Juan Lopez-Santini, Rodger Hawley, and Anthony Guida.

Juan Lopez-Santini enjoyed a comfortable 6 second gap and cruised to victory overall, and in class, proving the 997 GT3-R is still a very competitive platform.

The grid for Sprint 2 changed due to the lap times from Sprint 1. Blake edged Welch by a tenth putting the #24 P2 at the Start. Blake’s co driver for the event, Elliott Skeer, is no stranger to motorsport competition and was slated to run the second race solo for additional seat time and not scored in the official results. Skeer is the 2015 Porsche GT3 Cup IMSA Champion who was supported by Wright Motorsports.

Official scoring for Sprint 2 put Lopez-Santini P1 again, followed by Welch, Mark Greenberg in the #421 Porsche 991.2 Cup, Tom Pank piloting the #42 Porshce 997.2 Cup and Matt Joffee in his newly acquired #99 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup MR making up the Top 5.

Porsche 997 GT3-R 991 GT3-R Audi R8 UltraSunday’s Endurance Race started bright and early. Blake and Skeer had a risky pit strategy to employ, influenced by the lack of incidents for the previous races.

When the Green flag waved things got interesting very quickly as Blake glued himself to the bumper of Lopez-Santini through T1 moving him to P2, while the co driver of the #99 Porsche 991 GT3-Cup MR Lonnie Pechnik made a signature move on the outside thru T1 to quickly pick up three positions with Welch next in line.

For the opening 2-3 laps, Lopez-Santini, Blake, Pechnik , and Welch were virtually connected nose to tail. The leaders then began to separate as Lopez-Santini, Pechnik and Welch found their groove and Blake ducked in the pits early to get one of the two required 5 minute pit stops out of the way.

The field shuffled as a FCY on Lap 8 occurred and the #24 of Blake/Skeer found themselves being able to complete both required 5 minute pit stops in the first 16 minutes of the race. Full of fuel and Skeer now at the wheel, sights were on the overall win.

Skeer worked through traffic at a blazing clip; setting the fastest time of the weekend at 2:02.1 ET. It was only on the last lap that an Audi LMP1 was able to pass Skeer and take the overall race win. A gap of only 2.8 secs separated the Porsche and Audi, but the effort secured an overall P1 for Blake/Skeer in the IGT race.

Lopez-Santini would finish P2, followed by Matt Joffe / Lonnie Pechnik in P3 to round out the Top 3 of the International GT Sebring Enduro.

“Growing up in the mid 2000’s and watching Audi R8s, Astons…and to actually be on track with them…this is unreal. This is some of the most fun I’ve ever had in racing,” Skeer remarked as he and Blake accepted the first place Enduro trophy on the Podium.

As the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R heads into a maintenance cycle, Blake and Lopez-Santini will rejoin in a single car entry for the #24 991 GT3-R at IGT Round 3 / Road America May 16-19, 2019.

IMSA Champ Skeer Makes IGT Debut @ Sebring

2015 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Champion Elliott Skeer is set to make the trip from his home in Carlsbad, CA to Sebring International Raceway to pilot the #24 Porsche 991 GT3-R with Rob Blake on March 3rd for Round 1 of International GT.

Skeer will co drive the 90 minute race on Sunday March 3rd at 8AM EST. Testing/Practice for the event begins Thursday February 28th with Qualifying Friday March 1st.

International GT is home to the Ferrari/Porsche Racing Series where participants compete for the Maranello Cup Championship on the Ferrari side, and the Porsche Mission Foods GT3 Cup Trophy on the Porsche side. The two marques compete on track at the same time.

International GT will also hold two Sprint races on March 2nd at 10AM and 2PM. Each of the three races are for Championship points.

Live timing and scoring can be found on Race Monitor, with possible live streaming from inside the #24 Porsche 991 GT3-R and the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R driven by Juan Lopez-Santini on both race days.



Preparing for Sebring 2019

In 2018, Juan Lopez-Santini and Rob Blake teamed up for a single car effort running the #74 Porsche 997 GT3-R with International GT. In 2019, things get a little more interesting as the team adds the #24 Porsche 991 GT3-R to make this season a two car team – and ultimately competing against each other!

Sebring Test / January 25, 2019. Pictured: Ricky Capone & Mike Colucci (Orbit Racing), Juan Lopez-Santini, Brady Refenning & Chris Prince (901 Shop Racing).

The 991 GT3-R was acquired in December 2018 from Pfaff Motorsports; the home of 2018 PWC Sprint Champ Scott Hargrove. We are very thankful to have a machine with such a Pedigree, driven by not only Scott Hargrove, but Wolf Henzler as well.

Juan will be piloting the 997 and Rob will take on the 991. As both a teammate and Rob’s coach in 2018, Juan will now become a moving target for Rob’s development.

Pictured: Anthony Guida (Orbit Racing)

With only one test day to get comfortable with the 991R before the IGT Season opener, the team took both cars to Sebring on January 25th and gained valuable information on Rob’s new car, while also dialing in the 997 for Juan….who is expected to excel at his home track on March 2nd / 3rd. The combined efforts of Orbit Racing and 901 Shop made for a successful outing and we look forward to racing in just a few weeks.

Early Morning Endurance Race @ Sebring International Raceway

[Endurance Race Live Blog]


Good Morning! Brrrrrrr…we aren’t sure what the temperature is this morning,  but it is not immediately obvious that we are in Florida right now. Despite the chill, we are all ready to go for the 90 minute Enduro race with both Rob Blake and Juan Lopez-Santini sharing the driving duties.

Two pit stops are required, and each much last a minimum of five minutes. Rob will be starting the race.

UPDATE 8:02 / The Field is rolling now for the pace lap and no doubt everyone is working the brakes and tires hard to get some heat going due to these chilly temperatures. Its a split start with the Prototypes half lap ahead and will take the green flag first.

UPDATE 8:05 / Green Flag for IGT cars…Rob gets a good start and maintains P1 thru T1 followed by Steve Hill in the F458C, then its Barry Fromberg in another F458C as they come go into T3. Good clean start for the entire field.

( video credit: International GT / Mission Foods )

UPDATE 8:06 / Everyone maintains position into T7.

UPDATE 8:06 / Top 3 are real close. Rob still P1 thru T10.

UPDATE 8:07 / Steve Hill makes an aggressive move into T13 and the F458C is now P1. Rob is P2 as they head toward Bishops Bend.

UPDATE 8:08 / Steve Hill still in P1 as Rob keeps less than a second between them as they pass the line. Lap 1 is in the books.

UPDATE 8:12 / Things are unchanged as the F458C of Hill and Rob’s GT3-R basically check out from the rest of the field.

UPDATE 8:15 / Steve Hill P1, Rob P2….still less than a second behind.

UPDATE 8:17 / Hill and Rob are catching traffic now.

UPDATE 8:22 / Traffic is still in play as Hill gets some good breaks and increases the gap as Rob manages the back markers.

UPDATE  8:24 / Rob has closed the gap to almost nothing as they come thru T17. Rob gets a great launch out of T17 and they are running nose to tail down the front straight. Hill P1, Rob inches behind.

UPDATE 8:25 / Rob tries and inside pass into T1 on Hill that doesn’t stick. Both are about to hit traffic again.

UPDATE 8:26 / Rob is all over Hill as they come out of T5 down to the hairpin.

UPDATE 8:26 / Full Course Yellow.

UPDATE 8:27 / Looks like Rob will pit to complete one of the 2 required 5 min. stops.

UPDATE 8:29 / P1 Hill comes into the pits, immediately followed by Rob.

UPDATE 8:31 / No fuel going in the #74 Porsche GT3-R, but it looks like Juan is getting in to drive now. The Zotz Racing crew has 3 GT3 Cup cars in the race today – pits are very busy and nearly everyone is taking advantage of the full course yellow.

UPDATE 8:34 / The Norwood Auto Italia Team has timed Hill’s pitstop perfectly and Hill is back on track just before the pace car makes its way back around. This is going to be hard to overcome as it puts Hill’s F458C a lap ahead.

UPDATE 8:35 / Juan is back on track, still a full course yellow as an incident cleanup isn’t quite finished.

UPDATE 8:46 / We are back to green flag conditions and Juan is working his way around lap traffic.

UPDATE 8:53 / Juan and several other cars just went 4 wide past Start Finish…Juan is working on getting around the #25 991 GT3 Cup driven by Mark Sandridge. P2 at the moment.

UPDATE 8:56 / Juan just made it around Sandridge coming out of T17.

UPDATE 9:00 / We’ve got another yellow…full course yellow.

UPDATE 9:03 / Juan is entering the pits now. Not sure on a driver change as of yet but a refuel is expected.

UPDATE 9:08 / Pit stop complete. Juan remained in the car and we are going green shortly. Timing and scoring shows Hill’s F458C back a couple laps at this point; we are not sure what happened.

UPDATE 9:16 / Juan is solidly in P1 and just turned a 2:04 lap. Timing and Scoring shows nearly a one lap lead over P2: the #25 991 GT3 Cup driven by Mark Sandridge / Joe Varde.

UPDATE 9:20 / Juan has definitely settled in and in the zone; turning really quick times; 2:04, 2:05s…but he is about to come up on some dense lap traffic. P1 still by 01m:58s.

UPDATE 9:33 / We have a checkered flag and the #74 Porsche GT3-R takes P1 by a 01m:41s gap to the P2 #25 991 GT3 Cup of Sandridge/Varde. We have information that Hill’s F458C had a mechanical issue that forced them out of the race early. The great pit stop they had would have been almost impossible to overcome. P3 goes to the #36 F458C driven by John Patrick Mullaney/Chris Hall.




IGT Sprint Races Today @ Sebring International Raceway


[Sprint Race 1 Live Blog]


It’s a chilly Saturday morning at Sebring and Rob is on grid just about to roll out for the pace lap of Sprint Race 1. A little drama about 15 mins ago; After Rob was strapped in the car and ready to start up we found the battery was- dead! We will investigate what happened after the race but he literally made it to grid with a minute or two to spare, and the portable jumper box is still connected to insure we roll out.

UPDATE 10:03 / Rob just rolled out for the pace lap; pole position. No battery issues at all now.

UPDATE 10:07 / The green flag has dropped and Rob didn’t get the best start for some reason. Heading down to Turn 7 now on the opening lap, Rob is in P5 behind three GT3 Cup Cars and the leading Ferrari F458C driven by Steve Hill of Norwood Auto Italia.

UPDATE 10:13 / It seems Rob has settled in. His lap times on lap 4 and 5 are the quickest to date and he has gained back one position braking into Turn 7 overtaking Tom Pank’s Ultra Performance GT3 Cup Car. Edit: He is now in P3 as he was able to pass another GT3 Cup driven by Roberto Bengoa from Orbit Racing thru Turn 9. Two positions regained now from the start.

UPDATE 10:15 / Rob is closing quickly on the P2 991 GT3 Cup driven by Joe Varde. The field is passing thru T1 now with P1 Steve Hill well ahead in the Norwood Auto Italia F458C by 5.6 seconds.

UPDATE 10:17 / A pass attempt seemed to be made coming thru T17 on Varde but we aren’t sure why it didn’t stick. Rob in P3, Varde P2, and Hill running by himself out font in P1.

UPDATE 10:17 / Rob Passes Varde for P2 coming out of T5.

UPDATE 10:19 / Rob is 4.2 seconds behind P1 Hill.

UPDATE 10:21 / The gap between Hill and Rob is now under 2 seconds.

UPDATE 10:21 / A lot of the gap has been eliminated. Rob is now right behind Hill as they Exit T7… Still on Hill’s bumper thru T10… Exiting T13 there must be less than a foot between Rob and the back of Hill’s Ferrari approaching Bishops Bend.

UPDATE 10:22 / Rob seems to gets a good run off T16…

UPDATE 10:23 / In a drag race down the back straight, Rob goes inside Hill going into T17. It sticks! Rob is back to P1.

UPDATE 10:24 / Rob just turned two consecutive 2:06.8 laps in pursuit of Hill.

UPDATE 10:28 / P2 Hill is 2.7 seconds back. Rob is hitting some lap traffic now. White flag is out.

UPDATE 10:31 / Race over. Rob takes P1, followed by P2 Hill, P3 Varde, P4 Pank and P5 Bengoa for the Top 5.

[Sprint Race 2 Live Blog]


All systems, including the battery, are go for Sprint Race 2. Rob retains Pole Position after his P1 finish in Race 1. The #74 Porsche GT3-R will retain pole for tomorrow’s endurance race where Rob will be joined by Juan Lopez-Santini sharing the driving duties. Crew is rolling out to grid now for the countdown to the pace lap.

UPDATE 2:02 / Pace lap is underway. Rob is sharing the front row with Steve Hill in the Norwood Auto Italia F458C. Right behind Rob is Joe Varde in the 991 GT3 Cup #25, who shares row two with Tom Pank also in a GT3 Cup #42.

UPDATE 2:06 / The green flag has dropped and again Rob didn’t get an optimal start. It looks like Steve Hill’s F458C and Tom Pank’s GT3 Cup are out in front, Rob P3.

UPDATE 2:07 / Rob is going to work and makes a move into T17, inside Pank, still on lap 1.

UPDATE 2:10 / The pass was made on Pank / P2 was gained but the race is now under RED FLAG condition as Steve Hill, Rob Blake, and Joe Varde come to a stop at T16 and await instructions. It is reported a car went hard into the tire wall in Turn 17 on the first lap.

UPDATE 2:21 / The race has been called. There is a mess in Turn 17 that will require too much clean-up time to resume the race. Race Director Ken Fengler declares it a non-race; no points, no podium. Our day has unfortunately ended early.

Steve Hill Rob Blake Sebring Race Porsche Ferrari International GT
Steve Hill and Rob Blake share some laughs at the conclusion of Sprint Race 1 @ Sebring International raceway. Photo Credit: Chris Green.


Sebring Qualifying IGT 2018

Qualifying Session is complete. Rob qualified the car for the two Sprint races tomorrow and earned pole position, but catching traffic at critical points of the lap didn’t add up to the best lap time. The session was also ended 15 mins. early due to an incident in Turn 17. Race times should be much quicker and Rob reports the car feels very good overall. Juan will use qualifying session #2 to scrub in a set of stickers to be used for Sunday’s 90 Minute Enduro Race.

Tomorrow We Race! Sprint Race 1 starts at 10:05AM with Rob at the wheel.

UPDATE: Juan’s Qualifying session was cut short due to a significant oil spill on track in T7. Juan was still able to scrub in the new Pirelli slicks for Sunday’s Enduro.

Data Crunch

March 1st has crept up quickly…the first practice day of the International GT Round 1 Races at Sebring International Raceway is underway. After making some subtle setup adjustments to the GT3-R, both Juan and Rob agree the car feels more responsive and some, but not all, of the under steer they encountered back in February is gone. Rob prefers to drive a car with a little push, while Juan’s driving style is more suited to a car with a little over steer…so the crew was trying to find the right balance for both. Not an easy task.

Very little of the test day was spent actually driving when you compare it to the time going over data. Numbers don’t lie, and MOTEC doesn’t either. Interestingly, Juan was quicker on the front half of the track, and Rob was quicker on the back half of the track. What began as a joke of fusing Rob and Juan together became the ultimate goal in terms of lap times because if they could;  the lap ET would be very really close to what the reported capability of the car was at Sebring….and far quicker than the GT3 Cup cars lap time both were used to. Qualifying is tomorrow, and the competition is stiff with some excellent drivers in the field.

Porsche GT3-R Test Day @ Sebring

Juan climbs into a GT3-R for the first time.

As a new car to both Rob and Juan, they needed at least a full day of testing to get to know the Porsche 997 GT3-R. Both came from racing 997 GT3 Cup cars, which the GT3-R is based off of, but clearly much different. There is a significant amount of aero grip available with the GT3-R. From the huge rear wing, to the flat floor and intimidating bodywork, there is a good deal of “faith in equipment” needed to reach close to the car’s potential. Perhaps the most difficult thing mentally is sitting in the car and knowing you have something entirely different than a 997 GT3 Cup wrapped around you; the cockpit is the same, the seat is the same, dash, steering wheel….everything. It’s not until you hear the different tone from the Porsche GT3-R’s gearbox that you can begin to accept the fact that the car is not a Cup Car. Then, you can begin to test the waters in terms of grip. In addition to the obvious visual aero enhancements, the GT3-R has a much wider track than the Cup Car as well. The front tires of the GT3-R are just about the same size as Cup Car rear tires. Neither Rob nor Juan had driven such an aero grip GT3 Spec car before this day.

At the conclusion of a fairly crowded test day, both drivers felt reasonably confident they had a handle on the car’s potential, but were experiencing significant under steer, especially in low fuel conditions. Adjustments had to be made before the first race where limits would have to be pushed well beyond the test session. A lot of good data was logged that Juan and Rob made good use of in preparation for the March 2018 Sebring race – just a month away. Stay tuned for more…..

While at the track, Rob and Juan were joined by DRIVE Coffee for a little photo shoot and media gathering for their new marketing materials. Check out DRIVE Coffee’s signature blends online at www.DriveCoffee.com and on Instagram / Facebook. It’s the coffee for car people!