Head-to-head, equal footing, every driver for themselves… that is the foundation of Porsche one-make racing. The use of the same platform – the newest generation of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car – provides equal opportunity to reach victory lane. It is the driver and the team which sets apart the competitors in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands and the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America by Yokohama. The results reflect the performance of the human element.
In 2023, KellyMoss, one of the most successful North American Porsche customer teams in modern times, will set out to demonstrate that the car knows no gender. KellyMoss, the Entrant champion of the last two seasons of Carrera Cup North America, will field a 500 hp, naturally aspirated rear-engine race car for Sabré Cook (Grand Junction, Colorado), the winner of the team’s first Female Driver Shootout, with full support for every race on the 16-round calendar.
By virtue of winning the two-day KellyMoss Female Shootout, Cook has earned her spot behind the wheel of one of the most coveted rides in the paddock. The program includes funding for the 2023 race season, six tests, race entry fees, testing, Michelin Pilot race tires, fuel and a championship winning staff of professional driver coaches, engineers and technicians.
Cook was quick to recognize the magnitude of being selected. “Winning the shootout and thus the scholarship with KellyMoss is incredible. I’m eager to have the chance to run a funded season with a top team for the first time in my career. KellyMoss has a great group of people and I’m confident they can provide me with the tools to be successful. I cannot thank Victoria [Thomas], Andy [Kilcoyne]and the team enough for believing in me and creating such an amazing opportunity. I look forward to our future success together and breaking down barriers.”
The first steps began in late October, when the Madison, Wisconsin-based race team sent invitations to a dozen proven female race car drivers to gauge their interest in participating in the Shootout. All 12 immediately submitted their application and, after extensive consideration, three racers with the skillset and experience capable of competing for race wins and championships in the Porsche one-make category were invited to Putnam Park Raceway in Indiana.
Cook was joined by Loni Unser (Sun Valley, Idaho) and Sarah Montgomery (Lafayette, Louisiana) for the two days of on and off-track tryouts in front of an elite panel assembled by the team.
Cook was chosen from this select trio by committee which included oversight by 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, 24 Hours of Daytona (twice) and 12 Hours of Sebring winner Lyn St. James, KellyMoss owners, Victoria Thomas and Andy Kilcoyne, team Race Manager Ken Swan, Team Manager Will Alexander, Data Engineer Alex Stone and Pro class race-winning driver Riley Dickinson.
“Our focus goes beyond podiums,” enthused Victoria Thomas, CFO and co-owner of KellyMoss. “Our mission is to bring more women, and diversity as a whole, into motorsports: drivers, technicians, engineers, truckers and especially fans. Focus on the missing half of the population is a win for everyone: teams, vendors and the series.“
The KellyMoss Female Shootout fit perfectly within the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid as developed by Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) to progress talented drivers, teams, technicians and even marketing partners through the ranks of sports car racing. Each level corresponds with a platform for aspiring participants to learn, succeed and advance to the next tier of the program as talent, desire and funding allow. Through the introduction of this year’s Female Driver Shootout, KellyMoss – which has Porsche programs throughout the Pyramid – provides an avenue for a talented female driver to move up the ranks with a dedicated top-level program.
“Diversity in our sport is important to its future,” offered Volker Holzmeyer, President and CEO, Porsche Motorsport North America. “The foundations of the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid are about opportunity. These two things work in perfect harmony. In one-make racing, everyone has the same platform to demonstrate their talent. Motorsport is about performance. There are no physical barriers behind the wheel. What Victoria and Andy have done through the KellyMoss Female Driver Shootout is remove the remaining barriers, to level the playing field, to support a female driver to succeed based on their skill. KellyMoss has put the effort in to choose a talented young driver and now will give her the tools to succeed. This is a top seat with a championship team in the Carrera Cup. It is the top class of the highest level of one-make racing. This is the newest and fastest Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car. It will be professionally prepared and enjoy full engineering and coaching. We are in absolute support of providing this hand-up to Sabré, a truly deserving young talent who now has the stage to demonstrate that potential.
Porsche Motorsport North America One-Make and GT Sports Manager Troy Bundy sees the Porsche Carrera Cup North America a perfect proving ground for the KellyMoss concept. “Porsche one-make racing is where future Porsche factory drivers come from. The Porsche Motorsport Pyramid has been created to provide a clear path from karting up to our new Porsche 963 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship,” said Bundy. “We are proud to offer a platform where KellyMoss can provide an unprecedented opportunity for a driver the caliber of Sabré to show her skills not only in Porsche Carrera Cup North America but ultimately to the top of the Pyramid.”
The shootout at the Greencastle, Indiana race track was broken into two distinct portions to assess the drivers’ skill not only on-track but also the many elements required of a professional race car driver at this high level of competition.
Day One began with a physical fitness assessment by Jim Leo of PitFit Training – a top motorsport training facility in Indianapolis. In this session, the three were monitored on reactive skills, endurance and heart rate. The day concluded with an engineering overview of the latest Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, the type 992, a seat fitting and a track walk to familiarize themselves with the popular test track. In addition, a photo session was held to provide the trio a sense of the media and marketing demands associated with being a KellyMoss driver.
Day Two largely focused on in-car performance. With a baseline time and setup set by two-time Carrera Cup race winner Dickinson, each driver had 15 laps on used Michelin Pilot race tires and five laps on new racing slicks in a simulated qualifying run. Changing weather conditions challenged the drivers in maximizing performance while the varying circumstances also made it difficult to evaluate each on a head-to-head basis. However, the team used the data on hand to determine the overall best performer on-track while also using those challenges to determine the driver’s ability to adapt and maximize output.
Additionally, each driver went through a gauntlet of reviews by the panel of experts ranging from assertiveness, media awareness and interview skills as well as emotional intelligence. The team closely scrutinized the drivers for their consistency, coachability, understanding of debriefing with data and video as well as how they interacted with the other drivers and team as a whole. Following the weekend, the panel combined their insights and dug through the data which included not only lap times but a look at the errors, as well as successes, that each driver displayed, in addition to how each approached feedback and her overall confidences. Ultimately, the personal impression, the gut feeling each member of the panel felt, was the final factor in selecting Cook in the intensely competitive program.
“What an experience it was to watch these women exit the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car! All three were visibly and quite vocally exhilarated,” continued Thomas. “Although Sabré won the seat in Carrera Cup, Loni and Sarah not only have fans but champions in KellyMoss. We will absolutely do what we can to help them achieve their dreams. The whole team was incredibly impressed by all three.”
It was Victoria Thomas, speaking on behalf of KellyMoss, who wrapped the team’s first shootout with the best overview on not only this program but the move towards greater involvement by women in the motorsport paddock as a whole: “It really struck what a powerful thing we are tackling. The support from the industry has been incredible. Everyone is wanting to help how they can, with so many supporters in the paddock helping to make this happen.”