Five Shift Up Now Athletes, in three different cars and classes, collectively completed the winningest day in Shift Up Now history. Driving for Round 3 Racing, Hagerty Motorsports and Team Cooper Tire, the Athletes earned five wins and one podium at the season finale of the World Racing League (WRL) Eastern Championship at Sebring Raceway on October 28-30, 2022.
The event also featured an all-female lineup for the first time, with Sabre Cook, Loni Unser and Erin Vogel sharing the wheel of the Team Cooper Tire Cayman in the GP1 class. In addition, after taking the lead early on Saturday, they would become the first all-female team to win in WRL’s GP1 class on their first attempt.
During practice and qualifying on Friday, Cook and Vogel took their first laps in the Team Cooper Tire Cayman. Alongside Unser, the trio qualified third for their first race together as teammates.
The Hagerty Drivers’ Club Porsche Boxster, driven by Hannah Grisham and teammates, qualified fourth in the GP3 class. With a proven race-winning car at last year’s 24-hour Sebring race, the team felt strongly that the race could be won from their second-row starting position.
In the GT0 class, Sarah Montgomery and her teammates earned a sixth consecutive pole position in the Hagerty Motorsports BMW M4 GT4.
On Saturday morning, the green flag flew at 9:00 a.m. ET for eight hours of racing. Montgomery took the start, leading the field into turn one, with a double stint to start the race.
In the GP1 class, Cook was first behind the wheel, also starting the Team Cooper Tire Porsche Cayman with a double stint.
A long red flag interrupted the flow early in the race, followed by a lengthy safety car period where driver changes interfered with strategy calls. But as the race settled into a rhythm, the Hagerty Motorsports BMW M4 GT4 remained in the top three. Meanwhile, the Team Cooper Tire Cayman and the Hagerty Drivers’ Club Boxster both took the lead in their respective classes.
With 90 minutes left in the race, the Hagerty Motorsports BMW M4 GT4 had dropped to P5. But when a late-race safety car closed the field back together for a sprint to the finish, Montgomery’s teammate, Cole Loftsgard, made the most of the opportunity. He was able to pass his way back to the front of the pack, taking the lead with approximately 20 minutes remaining. This marked the third victory of the season for Montgomery and her teammates.
Grisham and her teammates also brought home their Porsche Boxster in first place, creating a race-winning sweep for Round 3 racing and Shift Up Now. This just added to the historic weekend, where cars with Shift Up Now Athletes and Round 3 Racing drivers won every class they entered on the same day.
“What a truly amazing weekend,” said Montgomery. “Everything was completely put together, from the cars, team, drivers and weather. Both days were fantastic for the team and it could not have gone any better. You may have seen my new Bell Techlogix stickers on my helmet, so I’m going to guess that’s what brought me the good luck. Thanks so much to the team and crew for an unforgettable weekend.”
Sunday’s starting grid was set by the fastest lap times from race one on Saturday.
Montgomery’s M4 GT4 would again start on the front row, this time in second place. Cook, Unser and Vogel would again start P3 in the Team Cooper Tire Cayman. And Grisham’s Hagerty Drivers’ Club Boxster rolled off in P4.
Montgomery’s teammate Loftsgard took the start with blistering race pace in his three-hour stint to kick off a second eight hours of racing. He quickly settled into the top three, looking after the car and tires while turning fast times. Team owner and teammate Brad McCall drove the middle stint, then Montgomery was tasked with bringing the car home. Without a working water bottle, it was a tough and hot three-hour stint. But the Louisiana native toughed it out, showed strong pace and helped the team lock down second place.
Vogel took the start for the Team Cooper Tire Porsche, her first start in WRL. She made the move from third to second in class during her double stint. Unser was next in the car, taking the wheel in Sebring Raceway’s notorious mid-day difficult and greasy conditions. With one hour to go in the race, Cook took the lead in the GP1 class. She would hold it to take the trio’s second victory in two days and sweeping the weekend for the all-female driving team. The winning weekend would also secure the Eastern Championship for the car, and full-season driver Unser.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better first weekend back in the driver’s seat thanks to Round 3 Racing,” said Cook. “The team environment is so wonderful to be a part of. Everyone is there to give their best, but also remembers the reason we all started racing: To enjoy it.
“I was obviously nervous to see how my body would deal with the strain of racing again. I was so excited and relieved to feel strong and pain-free in the car, thanks to OrthoIndy’s amazing surgeons and the healthcare professionals that helped me during my rehab. Then to go out and take the win both days, and do it with my fellow Shift Up Now Athletes… what an incredible feeling and experience. Erin and I were so proud to also play a small part in helping Loni and the 701 sew up the Eastern Championship. I cannot thank Hagerty and Shift Up Now enough for the support in getting back behind the wheel.”
In the GP3 class, Grisham started the race with a double stint. She wasted no time taking the Hagerty Driver’s Club car back to the lead of the class. They would continue to lead the entire race, with a commanding margin over their nearest competitor of several laps by the time the checkered flag fell. This would also mark a weekend sweep, and Eastern Championship for Grisham and her teammates.
The Shift Up Now Athletes are now looking ahead to the season finale, and United States Endurance Championship finale. Montgomery, Unser, Cook and Grisham will all return to action at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on December 2-4, 2022.