Lazare Looks For Strong Start, Bit Of Luck In Push For Championship

It wasn’t the final outcome he wanted.

Jesse Lazare yearned for a championship in 2015. And for 11 rounds, it was well in his grasp until lady luck turned on him.
It would be easy to say Lazare could have held a champions’ trophy aloft last September if it wasn’t for a mechanical problem in Round 11 at VIRginia International Raceway or a sixth-place finish after contact in Round 13 at Circuit of the Americas. Instead, he finished second in the standings, 11 points out of first.
But Lazare, 18, isn’t saying that. Instead, he’s focused even more on the top prize in 2016: A Platinum Cup Drivers Championship in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
“Honestly, we knew what we had to do last year, and for the most part you saw that play out,” Lazare said. “But we know what we have to do to win this year. But we also hope that luck goes our way. We had some bad luck last year, but regardless I am very confident that we have a great chance of winning the championship.”
Lazare joined the powerhouse Kelly-Moss Road and Race team last year for his sophomore season in the International Motor Sports Association-sanctioned Single-Make Series. He’s back this year with the same team of engineers and coaches, eliminating the transition period he dealt with at the beginning of last season.
“Everything is exactly the same as it was last year,” Lazare said. “So there won’t be any getting used to anything or anyone. We can just focus on improving and doing what we need to do to win. We’re going to be prepared. You’ve seen that from Kelly-Moss every time they go out. Last year they made me a different driver than I was two years ago.”
Lazare, from Montreal, will be back in Platinum Cup in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. But it won’t be the exact same vehicle that helped him win five races, tied for a series-high in 2015, and finish on the podium 10 times.
He will have a new car starting at the season-opening Rounds 1 and 2 on March 16-18 at Sebring International Raceway. The legendary 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit is almost like a home circuit for Lazare, from Montreal.
“This is one of my strong tracks,” Lazare said. “There are other tracks that I’m not as strong on, but I seem to like tracks like this that make you put in that extra effort and work with what it gives you. I like the fact that it’s a little bit bumpy. It gives it character, and it adds a different aspect that you have to recognize on a track, and I really enjoy that.
“What’s cool about this track is that it’s very unique. You never go to a track and say, ‘Oh, this track is kind of like Sebring.’ It’s really in a league of its own when it comes to that. When we’re here, we know we’re at Sebring. There’s also a lot of history here, and it’s a good feeling to be fast on this track.”
History has shown Lazare is fast at Sebring. He started the 2015 season by sweeping the opening rounds, setting a winning precedent for the rest of the season.
“Sweeping Sebring last year was a great way to start the season,” Lazare said. “And the plan is to do the same thing this year.”
Lazare has high expectations as the top returning driver in the series. But he’ll also face tough competition with the move of Andrew Longe to reigning Platinum Team Champion Wright Motorsports and the return of Lucas Catania with NGT Motorsport. There will also be new blood in the Platinum Cup championship to contend with, including Jeff Mosing, the reigning Gold and Gold Masters Champion, moving up to battle for the overall podiums.
“When it comes to race weekend, of course you look around and see who you’re competing against, but it’s not something I think about or focus on before then,” Lazare said. “My goal every race has to be to score points, and you’re looking for the win.
“It doesn’t matter what race you’re at: You’re always going to have a competitive top field, and if I’m not at the top of my game, there’s no way I’m winning any big race. I’m always assuming there’s going to be those drivers that are just missiles, and I just have to do my best to be one, too.”
Adam Sinclair