Gentleman Racer Mark Kvamme completes unlikely IMSA mission at Petit Le Mans

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  • Mark Kvamme started an intriguing sports car challenge as a gentleman driver in 2014.
  • Kvamme has driven a car currently used in all classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge classes, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Ferrari Challenge North America, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Porsche Carrera Cup North America.
  • “I got hooked and I love it,” Kvamme said of the IMSA race.

    Mark Kvamme is making up for lost time in a sports car… any sports car.

    Last weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the 61-year-old gentleman racer ticked the last box needed to race in all available classes in the seven IMSA-sanctioned series.

    Considering he didn’t even begin what has become this quest until his debut as a gentleman driver in 2014, the feat is all the more incredible. Since then, Kvamme has driven a car currently used in all classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge classes, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Ferrari Challenge North America, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Porsche Carrera Cup North America.

    The last series to face for the Columbus, Ohio native was the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. On September 29, Kvamme finished 20th out of 24 in the Mazda MX-5 Cup race at Road Atlanta to complete the quest.

    kvamme brand imsa
    Mark Kvamme ticked all the available boxes for a gentleman racer in IMSA.

    IMSA

    “I got hooked and love it,” Kvamme said of the IMSA run, “and the show is so well done.”

    The journey began with a dream Kvamme held to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. A former motocross and off-road truck racer, the opportunity presented itself in 2014 with Muehlner Motorsports in a Porsche GT Daytona (GTD) class, the first of five GTD races for him that season.

    The following year, Kvamme found his way into a Daytona prototype owned by Columbus friend Rob Gerwitz at the Rolex 24 and raced the entire Ferrari Challenge season. Then in 2016 there was a full WeatherTech Championship campaign in the Prototype Challenge class, where future star Renger van der Zande was a Starworks teammate.

    The following year became an inflection point for Kvamme. “I started to improve and started to take it more seriously and did more races,” he said of his 2017 campaign.

    It paid off. Racing for BAR1 Motorsports in a team that included 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, they finished on the Rolex 24 podium in the Prototype Challenge class.

    In addition to competing in the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup USA (predecessor to the Porsche Carrera Cup) from 2017 to 2019, Kvamme has added the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and Michelin Pilot Challenge Touring Car (TCR) categories to the WeatherTech Championship.

    Kvamme has truly spread his driver’s wings in 2021, driving a Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) in the WeatherTech Championship, a Mercedes-AMG in the Grand Sport (GS) category of the Michelin Pilot Challenge and winning the LB Cup championship with co-driver. Terry Olson in Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

    This year, Kvamme took the Porsche Carrera Cup Am class standings with 10 class wins, including the season-ending race at Road Atlanta on the final weekend. He added that to a previous start in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series in addition to appearances in the WeatherTech Championship LMP3 and the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS.

    Kvamme fulfilled another dream when he raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, teaming up with van der Zande in a Ferrari 488 GTE that would be the equivalent of the old GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in the WeatherTech championship.

    “Running Le Mans and finishing Le Mans was completely believable with Renger,” Kvamme said. “It was amazing. In the IMSA paddock, it was obviously amazing to be third at Daytona (in 2017). Getting third place at Watkins Glen (in 2016 with Maro Engel) was a big challenge. Frankly, winning the LB Cup last year with Terry was a lot of fun.

    24 hours of Le Mans
    Mark Kvamme and Renger van der Zande raced at Le Mans earlier this year.

    Ker RobertsonGetty Images

    Along with the special results, Kvamme said he really enjoyed racing with the roster of co-drivers, including van der Zande, Engel, Felix Rosenqvist, Randy Pobst and Earl Bamber, the latter being his teammate when Kvamme made his debut. in 2014.

    “I’ll never forget going over the data with Earl and literally thinking he was speaking a foreign language,” Kvamme said with a sheepish laugh. “I had no idea.”

    After adding the MX-5 Cup to his list, Kvamme has no intention of slowing down. He launched his own team (MDK Motorsports) in the Porsche Carrera Cup this year, with plans to expand with an entry into the WeatherTech Championship GTD in 2023.

    “Looking at all of this, I thought to myself, ‘You know, there are a lot of great teams, but I think for the gentleman driver, I would like to do something different,'” he said. “That’s why I decided to create our team.”

    If he takes the start in January’s Rolex 24, it will be Kvamme’s 10th consecutive year in the iconic race.

    “What’s really fun is that my 10th next year,” he said, “will be with my own team in my own car.”

    About Frances R. Smith

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