Cool, calm McQuarrie, Westphal claim Pilot Challenge GS crown

October 16, 2019

Cool, calm McQuarrie, Westphal claim Pilot Challenge GS crown

October 16, 2019

Successfully being “California cool” takes a level of ownership, swagger and impressive performance possessed by few.

In this year’s IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, no one embodied that term better than GS class champions Tyler McQuarrie (Danville) and Jeff Westphal (San Mateo), two California natives who made smooth work of the incredibly deep competition.

Steve Dinan’s CarBahn by Peregrine Racing Audi team looked every bit a championship contender in 2018, but never won and always came up fractionally short of the ultimate result. A 16th-place finish in the 2019 season opener at Daytona nearly threatened to derail this year’s campaign too, before it even got going.

But that’s when the “cool” kicked in and McQuarrie and Westphal, and the CarBahn team, went on an absolute tear.

The biggest key to success in the GS field is avoiding a roller-coaster type of year. Winning races but finishing outside the top 20 won’t keep a team in championship contention. Finishing in the top-five every race will nearly guarantee a championship, provided someone else doesn’t do the same thing.

As McQuarrie and Westphal proved starting at Sebring, the results would follow with simple, cool, execution. The pair delivered the No. 39 Audi R8 LMS GT4 its overdue first win in dominant fashion there, which kicked off a run of eight straight top-four finishes between there and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Save for Watkins Glen, practice at Monterey, and the start of the race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the season was incident-free. Even after a minor collision in Monterey the team hunkered down, repaired the bit of damage and turned the car over to McQuarrie who put it on pole by a considerable margin.

McQuarrie’s other standout drive of the year came at Road America, starting on slicks on a first wet, but soon-to-dry, track. As others faded trying to hang on to the Michelin® Pilot® Sport GT Rain tires, McQuarrie excelled on the commercial S9M slicks, and ascended back to the lead.

Westphal, who endured some good-natured ribbing on the Friday Monterey episode of The Torque Show presented by Michelin for his “David Beckham-esque good looks,” just stayed calm and cool all year.

On the race weekends when he raced both the CarBahn Audi and the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3, Westphal just did what he does: podium in both, which he did at both Sebring and Watkins Glen.

#82 BimmerWorld Racing BMW M4 GT4, GS: James Clay, Devin Jones, #39 Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8, GS: Tyler McQuarrie, Jeff Westphal, #69 Motorsports In Action McLaren GT4, GS: Jesse Lazare, Corey Fergus, podium

Throughout the year, the Motorsports In Action (MIA) Racing McLaren and Bimmerworld BMW both put up valiant fights, and through Road America remained within single digits of CarBahn as their results were consistently in the top-10.

But brutal VIR races halted both their charges, and opened the door for McQuarrie and Westphal to all-but-clinch the title on home soil in Monterey. They officially did so upon starting at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, and so the finish (21st) didn’t matter.

Speaking after Friday’s race and before the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge championship celebration Friday night, McQuarrie and Westphal reflected on their achievements.

Let the good times roll. Photo by Levitt/IMSA

“The plan was, ‘Give us two years and we’ll give you a championship.’ And now here we are,” McQuarrie said.

“I think for Jeff and I, you have moments where you need to pull back the reins, and others where you need to attack. This year as you know there were a lot of mixed conditions, (sometimes) being out on slicks (on a wet or damp track), and in those moments we pulled back the reins and accepted a fourth place.

“That balance helped us get those results.”

Speaking of balance, McQuarrie noted how working with Michelin was key to the team’s success.

“Last year we were always with our backs to the wall on set-ups,” he explained. “The change to Michelin really livened up the car and gave us more flexibility on set-ups, and the tech support from Michelin was great.”

McQuarrie said the team is “working on all kinds of stuff for 2020” and looks forward to whatever comes next.

“No matter what we do, we are keeping this team together,” he said.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years. I’m old! But this has been the most enjoyable season. The team has gelled so well. We enjoy being with each other.

“When you find people like that, you try to keep them together, because it is so hard to find a group that gels so well.”

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