A RACE win seems just around the corner as Aussie Thomas Sargent and McElrea Racing continued their impressive debut in the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America championship, leaving Long Beach with another pair of second-place finishes.
The reigning Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Australia champion remains second in the championship with four races complete in the 2023 North American season, having finished second in each of them.
A fighting weekend for Sargent saw him score his first pole position and lead his first laps in the top one-make category in the United States, closing the margin to championship leader Riley Dickinson in the process.
Starting second for the opening, 40-minute race, Sargent slipped to third in the early running in what was a Safety Car-afflicted race.
The New South Wales driver was, however, able to regain second following a late-race restart, which is where he ultimately finished for the third consecutive race, while Riley Dickinson claimed his third-straight win.
Sargent started the final race from pole position – his first of the season – and led the field into turn one, logging his first laps leading the 30-plus North America field this year.
An early Safety Car packed the field up, allowing British driver Will Martin to execute a bold move at turn one to wrestle the race lead away from the McElrea driver.
Sargent then went on the offense, trading quickest laps with Martin as they battled for the lead.
A second Safety Car was called at half-race distance as Sargent’s McElrea teammate, Thomas Nepveu, hit the barriers at turn eight.
The restart saw Sargent launch an attack down the inside at turn one where, with just 12 minutes remaining, he sliced down the inside of Martin to briefly grab the lead.
Martin, however, got the undercut and regained the lead while Sargent was forced to fend off points leader Dickinson, the pair spending several corners side-by-side before the Aussie prevailed.
The pair continued to duel aggressively in the closing stages with a final-lap lunge not enough to move the resolute Martin from the lead: Sargent ultimately settling for second position for the fourth-straight race.
With nearest title rival Dickinson third, it closed the margin to the championship lead to just 18 points heading into the third round of the championship, to be held alongside the Formula One Miami Grand Prix in three weeks time.
“Overall I’m pretty stoked – if you came into the weekend and told me I’d have a pair of P2s, having never been here, I would have been over the moon.
“But when you’re so close on both races, it hurts a little bit!
“We’ve never been here before, the team is brand new and we’re learning. -I’ve learned a lot race-craft wise and it’s been really good. I’ve learned from every race so far and that’s only going to make me better.
“We had the car speed, we had the fastest car here. I hit the wall pretty hard – very hard – on the second lap and from there the car wasn’t quite right, so I couldn’t force my way past Will.
“He defended really well and made it very hard for me. Awesome effort, a lot of work has gone into getting us here and making it happen, I’m pretty stoked and excited for the Miami GP.
“Everyone starts afresh there and it could be our best chance so we’re excited to go there.”
Team Owner, McElrea Racing
“It feels like a win is just around the corner now, that was a great weekend and even though we couldn’t quite seal the deal, there’s only positives to take away from it.
“It’s another circuit where we have shown our cars are as competitive as everyone else, and Tommy drove really well all weekend. Getting a pole position was a big box to tick for us because, as we know, qualifying is so important in Carrera Cup racing.
“We had the quickest car in race two but couldn’t quite get it done, in the end but it was an excellent race regardless.
“Thomas Nepveu had a challenging weekend but every time he gets into the car he is getting quicker and closer to the front and we can see that internally. The boys are working really well together.
“We’re here for the hard racing, we love the battle and this shows again we are extremely competitive. It feels like a big result is just around the corner for us.”