After transitioning from open-wheel to sports car racing, young American Connor De Phillippi took full advantage of his newfound position within the Porsche Motorsport family, winning the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany Rookie of the Year title.
This time last year, if you were to tell Connor De Phillippi that he would be wearing that crown, he most likely would have laughed. As one of America's top young prospects in open-wheel racing, De Phillippi had his eyes set on moving up the Mazda Road to Indy program and eventually filling an IndyCar seat. However, in late 2012, De Phillippi was selected to compete for one of two positions as a Porsche Junior driver. After a rigorous selection process, De Phillippi was offered the role of a Porsche Junior driver.
Instead of aiming for a ride in the IndyCar Series, his new target was an eventual spot on the Porsche works driver team. However, he still had to prove himself in the Porsche Junior Program and that officially started in early May 2013 at Hockenheim.
From the get go, De Phillippi realized the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland was a premier championship, with some of the best sports car racers on the planet. Still, the young Californian, De Phillippi proved that he had the ability to compete with drivers who had upward of five years' experience in the Porsche GT3 Cup car.
Coming into the season finale at Hockenheim, De Phillippi had a 24-point lead in the Rookie of the Year classification and was the only driver in the series to complete every race of the season. All De Phillippi had to do was race like he had all season and the Rookie championship was virtually a done deal. However, Connor had another goal for the season and that was to stand on the podium before the end of the season.
For round 16, the FORCH Racing/Lukas Motorsport team handed over the reigns to a fast car and a highly motivated driver. De Phillippi was able to qualify the Roboscan Internet Security Porsche GT3 in P4, but race officials declared that a few drivers were guilty of track limit infringement and moved further back in the field. Unfortunately, this included De Phillippi. His P4 starting spot was negated and he was forced to start back in 16th.
During the weekend's first race, De Phillippi manages to claw his way up to 11th. However, the 25-minute sprint race ended under a yellow flag and the opportunity to gain more positions vanished. Despite the less than ideal results, De Phillippi managed to post a lap time quick enough to put him in P3 for the season finale the following day.
For the season finale, the drivers had not only each other to battle, but also Mother Nature. The forecast called for rain, something the Southern Californian had only raced in three previous times in his motorsport career. Regardless, with his starting position, De Phillippi was in an ideal position to not only seal the Rookie of the Year title, but also check off his other goal.
As the race unfolded, De Phillippi made his way into second but, on lap 10 of the 17-lap race, he made a mistake on the exit of Turn 1 and got onto the synthetic grass. In dry conditions, this would not have been an issue, but in the wet, this resulted in spin and put an end to a fantastic race and Connor's chance at the podium.
"There are certainly mixed feelings about today," De Phillippi reflected afterward. "As far as the championship goes, the team did an amazing job and we finished every race, until the final one today. We started P3 and I ran in P2 most of my race. However, with the tricky track conditions out there, all it took was one small mistake and my race and chance at a podium finish was over. It's frustrating to end the season with a my first DNF, but overall, my consistency over the course of the full season paid off and I was able to capture the Rookie of the Year championship.
"I have to thank my primary sponsor, Roboscan Internet Security for their support. Without them, the season may not have turned out as well as it did. Certainly, I have to thank Porsche Motorsport for their belief in me and taking me into their family. Wieslaw Lukas, Frank Funke and the whole Lukas Motorsport family proved they are a world-class team and they gave me a great car to work with each and every time out on track. A big thank you to Oakley, Bell Racing Company, Brett King Design, Justice Brothers, McKenna Porsche, Patrick Long and of course my amazing family for all of their support."
With his first full season of sports car racing under his belt, De Phillippi is set to return to the German Porsche Cup series in 2014, with the aim of contending for an overall championship.