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Third event of PSCNEZ season 2023 showed everybody how little it takes to lose advantage at any point of a race. Thomas Kangro (Porsche Estonia) was expected to be the strongest competitor at Porsche Ring but the other two Junior Drivers surely would not let him take any easy points.

Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ was once again the main race class of Porsche Festival Estonia, the largest gathering of Porsche owners in Estonia. 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one man's dream of creating the world's best sports car and this year Porsche Estonia had set the bar higher than ever before. Porsches were not only raced on track but also enjoyed around coastal roads of Estonia ending the Classic Road Tour at the race track.

All teams were speculating about the weather before the race. Wednesday thunderstorms would have made racing impossible and on Thursday and Friday practise sessions were rainy at times. Forecast showed dry conditions for qualifying, so rain tire testing was mostly race preparation. First big surprise of the weekend was Matias Salonen having problems with his rear hub during final moments of free practise. The team worked as fast as they could, but could not get the car ready for beginning of Q1. This meant last place in the grid for Salonen and a big disadvantage for defending his points lead in the series.

Q1 should have been routine work for top drivers, a reasonably fast lap with used set of tires would be enough to advance. The brutality of changing track temperature and weather brought the second big piece of news this weekend, Junior Driver Valters Zviedris was eliminated and would start from P11 in the grid! Zviedris did not seem too worried in the Parc Fermé though. ”I could not get tires to work and felt the lack of grip immeditialy.” Best course of action was to keep a cool head and save new tires for the races.

Q2 with top-10 drivers from the first session was a thriller. Everybody would start with a clean slate and the fastest lap times of the weekend would surely be seen here. Henri Tuomaala had pole position in his hands briefly but Thomas Kangro showed that speculations about his abilities were completely right. 1:13.583 beat Tuomaala´s best by just 1/100th of a second, but that was enough. Alex Reimann had not taken part in the first two events but started his season finishing third in qualifying. Winner of race 2 from previous event Jani Käkelä took fourth place in the grid but fifth place went to a rookie driver in PSCNEZ. Eduardas Klepikas was only ninth fastest in first part, but his performance in the final qualification was admirable. Both fastest laps of the session would have given him P5, so this was not just a stroke of luck and one dream lap.

Race 1 was started in difficult conditions. Strong gusts of wind brought dust to the track and made it hard to judge the grip even within the same lap. First to fall victims were Reimann and Käkelä. Reimann had understeer in the fastest corner of the track and dropped a wheel to the grass. Käkelä saw his chance and took inside line. Unfortunately this meant he was on the dusty side and misjudged his braking point. Small visit to the damp grass meant lots time lost and Käkelä could only climb back to P9. Story of the day were Juniors Zviedris and Salonen. Race leader Kangro had to defend against Tuomaala and lap times plummeted. This meant Zviedris was able to catch up to take P3 and Salonen P5! Reimann had podium position in his hands, but had to settle for 4th in the end.

Race 2 grid was determined by fastest laps of race 1. Zviedris and Salonen had clean laps and conquered the front row followed by Käkelä who made the most of his mistake. Tuomaala, Kangro and Reimann had managed to get a reasonable lap time in the pack so everything was still possible. Tuomaala and Käkelä had a huge moment on lap 2, both locked right front tire braking into turn 1. Tuomaala got the position after racing side-by-side for half a lap but the flat spot on his front tire would eventually drop him from podium. Most interesting situation in the midpack was Daniel Skurnik. He could open up a gap to Tomas Svindinskas, but lap after lap the drifts out of the last corner of the track showed he was right at the limit. Later 992 generation 911 GT3 Cup has the advantage over a longer race distance due to less heat generated in the rear tire surface. Svindinskas knew he could start closing the gap later by just driving smoothly and that´s just what happened. Skurnik commented he could check the race clock the first time on the last lap after Svindinskas had passed him. He could have held the position for 18 minutes but this time Svindinskas took advantage of the strenghts of the newer generation car perfectly.

Last laps were surprising to say the least. Tuomaala had a sudden drop in performance losing two positions on lap 12. The flat spot on his tire had created a vibration and he had to pit to change a tire. If this was not enough, the crowd went quiet on lap 16 after Kangro spun in turn 3 and could not get back to speed. He had cut the apex too much, bent the right rear wheel and lost pressure in the tire. Zviedris and Salonen had missed qualification and therefore top point in race 1, now they were leading race 2! The cat and mouse game at the front made it again possible for Käkelä to be in the pack right behind Salonen. In the end it was Reimann who almost got the position from Käkelä in the tightest margin of the year. Käkelä had to start defending on lap 17 and could not get a good exit from the last corner. Reimann had forced the best possible situation for him, late apexing and being clearly faster on the final straight. Käkelä will forever be happy that the finish line is not painted 10 metres further. Gap at the line was 0,02 seconds, about the lenght of front bumper. Reimann was visibly disappointed, 4th in both races despite a perfect chance for a podium both times.

Top 5 drivers are still contending for the overall victory in the second half of the season. Porsche Club Festival Finland will be held in Alastaro  28.-29.7. Club Festival is the only time this year tickets are free, there is no excuse to miss this event!