Shift Up Now Athlete Ashley Freiberg earned back-to-back victories in the Porsche Sprint Challenge, sweeping the weekend in the 991 class at Sebring International Raceway on March 25-26, 2023.
The weekend kicked off Freiberg’s first full season of racing in seven years, and her performance emphasized her intention of winning the championship.
Freiberg’s 2023 program with MDK Motorsports was announced last Friday, just one day before the first race. The 31-year-old racer from Illinois received sponsorship from Yokohama’s “All-In” Campaign, aimed at promoting inclusiveness in motorsport. The goal is to give diverse drivers the opportunity to progress their racing careers.
Following Friday’s announcement, Freiberg wasted no time getting up to speed. During the second practice session, she was the fastest driver in a Porsche 911 991 Cup Car.
On Saturday morning, qualifying proved frustrating for Freiberg as she encountered traffic during her flying laps, when her tires were at their peak. Despite her effort to once again be the fastest car on track, she settled for second-quickest of the 991 cars. When slotted into the field with the newer-generation 992 Porsche Cup cars, she was P11 overall.
When the green flag fell for the first race, Freiberg made a strong start and moved into the lead on the first lap. She began passing the 992 cars to create a buffer between herself and the next 991 car.
A full-course caution late in the race bunched the field together for the restart and a sprint to the finish. Freiberg took the checkered flag in the Shift Up Now / Yokohama Tire / MDK Motorsports entry, capturing the win in the 991 class. She also earned the fastest lap in class and eighth place overall.
On Sunday, Freiberg’s goal was a repeat victory for the second race of the weekend. When the pole sitter had a better start, Freiberg was second in class but remained right on his rear wing for the first lap. Freiberg then spent the next several laps looking for an opening, forcing him onto the defensive line and working to make an over-under passing maneuver stick.
Midway through the race, she grabbed the inside line into turn 17, the final corner. Fighting for the lead in the class, the cars almost rubbed door mirrors at the apex, but with the infamous Sebring bumps in play, Freiberg had the better line off the corner. She was clear as the pair entered the front straight.
After her pass for the lead, Freiberg set about catching the rest of the 992 field ahead. She spent several laps working on the 992 in ninth place overall. But as the gap between her and her closest 991 competitor continued to stretch, she evaluated the risk. She chose not to push the issue trying to pass the faster-class cars, and brought home her second consecutive win in as many starts.
“Wow, what a start to the 2023 race season,” said Freiberg. “I am just so grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity to be back behind the wheel full time with a top-notch team. It was a super-hot weekend, which not only makes driving conditions challenging behind the wheel in extreme heat in the car, but Sebring is also a track that gets very greasy and slick in the heat.
“From the start, I knew that as long as I managed my tires properly over the course of the race, it would put me in a good position to win. I certainly had some challenges along the way that left a few battle scars on my car, but I’m so glad I was able to make my way to the front cleanly and hold it to the end of both races.
“A huge thank you goes out to my supporters at MDK Motorsports, Yokohama Tire, ShiftUp Now, Trakracer and Bell Helmets. I’m ready to make the most of this amazing opportunity and put the work in to go for the championship.”
Freiberg’s next event in the Shift Up Now / Yokohama Tire / MDK Motorsports 991 Porsche Cup Car will be at Barber Motorsports Park on April 28-30, 2023.