There are few defining moments in a career more memorable than those that are most trying. Ashley Freiberg would probably agree. RACER has learned that Freiberg and EFFORT Racing have parted ways, effective immediately. Freiberg went from leading the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge points championship a week ago to sitting on the sidelines fourth in series points.
“There have been some basic underlying differences in the approach to my career,” said Freiberg, when asked about her relationship with her former team.
The only female making a pass at a career in sports cars became the first woman to claim an overall GT3 Cup Challenge victory in North America with her win at Watkins Glen International less than a month ago. With the win, she sat atop the points and seemed on top of the world. A trip to Canada would change all of that.
“I was looking forward to going to Mosport because I had never been there before, and based on its reputation it sounded like an incredible track to drive,” said Freiberg. “The weekend started out strong and by the end of practice I thought we had a chance to win. Qualifying was very wet, and I made a mistake that damaged the car to where it was not repairable at the track.”
After her car was tubbed, she sat out both races watching her points lead dwindle right before her eyes.
“There were other options that might have worked to get me back in a car [at Mosport], but the team made the decision to have me sit out the races for the weekend,” she said.
She'll now also presumably sit out the balance of the 2013 season.
“Right now I am working hard on finding a team and funding to continue racing the rest of the season,” added Freiberg.
Testing at Road America is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Aug. 8, just after sunrise. The first race of the weekend follows on Saturday and should she sit out both of the races at Road America, her hopes of regaining the points lead will hypothetically be out of reach.
“I can't really say how realistic it is, but I know that I will be trying to make this happen until the green flag waves for the race at Road America,” she said.
Perhaps others will be trying too. The 21-year-old is represented by BRANDed Management and while ALMS and Grand-Am were both congratulatory towards Freiberg on Twitter after her win at Watkins Glen, Freiberg says she isn't looking for any special treatment. IMSA Series partners including Porsche and Yokohoma will presumably be in her corner given the attention she has brought to the sport.
In June of this year, Sports Illustrated named her a “Face in the Crowd” and after she took over the series points lead, the publication then invited her to New York to appear on their talk show SI NOW. Her manager, Klint Briney, also mentioned a budding relationship with Lady Gaga's Born this Way Foundation.
“We're going to keep doing what we do to build her profile to keep her out there,” said Briney. “Ashley's such a likeable driver and it's unfortunate to be in this situation so late in the season. We've all seen it before and we'll put our heads down and move forward.”
Moving forward will include securing additional funding to get back on track. Her sponsors including TRUECAR are undoubtedly watching her situation closely.
“For a young racer like me with no personal funding backing me, the situation is always the same,” said Freiberg. “I just need to keep focusing forward while looking for sponsorship.”
With Freiberg now on the outside looking in, sidelined by an unfortunately situation, time will tell if she chooses to return to her open-wheel racing roots where most recently she competed in IndyCar's Star Mazda Championship (2012). Before that she racked up five national karting championships and became the first woman in history to win an overall Skip Barber Racing Series Championship with 25 wins.
“There are a lot of factors that need to come together to achieve goals in this sport,” she said. “I'm staying open to any options.”
Those could include either the IndyCar ladder or the new United SportsCar Racing.