IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Review: Mid-Ohio

May 4, 2019

IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Review: Mid-Ohio

May 4, 2019

The weather was dreary, but the racing was superb in Saturday’s Mid-Ohio 120 for the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

In the GS class, co-drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman teamed to take the overall win in the two-hour race in the No. 7 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 for Park Place Motorsports. 

In the TCR class, a three-car battle saw numerous lead changes in the final laps, as the victory went to teammates Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis, marking the first-ever IMSA victory for the Bryan Herta Autosport team and manufacturer Hyundai. The pair drove the No. 98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR.

SLICKS PAY DIVIDENDS ON SLICK, MISTY TRACK IN GS

Alan Brynjolfsson, Trent Hindman, No. 7 Park Place Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Photo: Michelin North America

The race began in dry conditions, but light rain began to fall at the halfway point of the race. This created a dilemma for the teams: pit for Michelin® Pilot® Sport GT Rain tires or stick with the slicks. The winners chose to gamble by staying on the Michelin slick tires, and it paid off as Hindman held the lead in the final 50 minutes.

“We saw what our competitors were doing,” said Hindman. “We saw that there was quite a bit of rain forecasted, and the temptation is to give in and to do what everybody else was doing. But, once we got running, the rain never really came and we were able to hold on to the lead.

“It did get a little wet and I had to put the car in some weird spots on the race track to find grip. The Michelin tires held up beautifully on the Porsche Cayman GT4, and definitely treats them well and the team had it hooked up all weekend.”

“This was a classic ‘everything needs to go right’ win,” Brynjolfsson added.  “It’s a real team win. When you have this level of competition in IMSA, that’s required. Everything happened in our favor. We had great strategy, the car was set up beautifully, and there was rain all around us. If that rain had hit, it would have gone against us. Both drivers did great, the car was setup perfect, the strategy went well and that’s how we got the win.”

Behind the winning Park Place Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Audi completed the podium.

Dylan Murry delivered a hard-fought drive to second place in the No. 35 Riley Mercedes-AMG GT4 he shared with James Cox. After a tough qualifying session, Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal soldiered forward in the No. 39 Carbahn Audi R8 LMS GT4 to finish third after starting 20th in class.

Class points leaders MIA Racing and Bimmerworld, who entered the day tied with 60 points, ended seventh and ninth, respectively. The No. 69 MIA McLaren 570S GT4 of Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus now unofficially holds a one-point lead.

HYUNDAI EMERGES FROM CLASSIC TCR BATTLE

First win for Hyundai and Bryan Herta Autosport in IMSA competition. Photo: Michelin North America

In the TCR class, the winning team also chose to stay on slick tires, and waged a crazy battle in the top-three. Michael Lewis made an impressive three-wide pass in the final minutes to grab the victory.

“The last few laps, the Hyundai Veloster had great grip,” said Lewis. “I was confident in the car and the only thing I was thinking about was where to place my car Nothing but just pure driving, and with two laps to go, I thought I had to make one move. I might have crashed – you know, it happens – but it was what I had to do to win. It was pure driving and that is touring car racing at its very best.”

“This is great for Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai,” said Wilkins, about the team and manufacturer winning in only their third race. “Our car was very strong here in mixed conditions this weekend. We really, really wanted to win and this feels great.”

The closing stanza of the race saw the eEuroparts team advance to second and third in class. The Roadshagger Racing-entered No. 61 Audi RS3 LMS TCR of Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone finished second, ahead of the No. 12 eEuroparts Audi of Russell McDonough and Ryan Nash

Ending a hard-luck fourth was the No. 81 Mark Motors Racing Audi driven by Remo Ruscitti and Marco Cirone. Ruscitti and Lewis exchanged the lead several times in the closing laps, before slight contact between Morley and Ruscitti sent him off track at Turn 12. IMSA Race Control reviewed the incident with no further action taken.

The Mid-Ohio 120 airs on a tape delay on NBCSN on May 11 at 11 p.m. ET.

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