IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season at halfway

July 17, 2019

IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season at halfway

July 17, 2019

The IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series is at the halfway point of the 2019 season, with five races complete and five races to go beginning with this weekend’s race at Lime Rock Park (11 a.m. EDT, IMSA.TV).

So what is this series, how has the year played out so far, and what lies ahead as the series heads into the second half of the first year under this name?

Let’s explain.

WHAT IS THE MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE?

Think of IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge competitors as the top “farm team,” where you can watch homegrown talent and teams compete before they graduate to the “major league” of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

You can see more here but basically, the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge is one of IMSA’s two Challenge series, which serve as a ladder and support series to the WeatherTech Championship.

Michelin serves as both the Official Tire and title sponsor of the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge. The naming convention for this series refers to the MICHELIN® Pilot® line of tires. This is the first time the Pilot® line has been utilized within a series name.

In the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, there are two classes of production-based cars: GS, which features GT4-specification cars, and TCR, which features TCR specification cars.

The eight GS cars running include the Ford Mustang GT4, Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, BMW M4, Audi R8 GT4, Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, Mercedes-AMG GT4, McLaren 570S GT4 and Aston Martin AMR Vantage. The four TCR cars include the Audi RS3 LMS TCR, Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai Veloster N TCR and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

HOW HAS THE SEASON PLAYED OUT SO FAR?

So far, there’s been a wealth of parity and variety among race winners with the different brands represented in the series.

Teams that run a McLaren, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Chevrolet have won the five races in GS. In TCR, Honda, Hyundai and Audi have won races. So all told, that’s eight different brands who have stood atop a victory podium this year.

The parity in the series is revealed within the championship standings at the halfway point, with the top three pairings in each class separated by only a handful of points.

Just two points cover the top three in GS. Devin Jones and James Clay lead the GS standings in their No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 with four top-six finishes in five races. Sebring winners Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal are just one point behind in their No. 39 Audi R8 LMS GT4. And Canadian team MIA Racing is third with Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus two points back in the No. 69 McLaren 570S GT4.

Four manufacturers are covered by just two points in the manufacturer standings. Audi leads Mercedes-AMG by one point and McLaren and BMW by two.

In TCR, back-to-back wins to open the year have helped propel Shelby Blackstock and Tom O’Gorman to that class points lead in their No. 37 Honda Civic Type R. With three straight podium finishes, Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley are second in their No. 61 Audi RS3 LMS TCR, five points back. Six points back in third are Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis in their No. 98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR.

WHY IS LIME ROCK SO INTENSE?

Laps click off quickly at the only track on the schedule where the lap times are less than one minute. This makes traffic management intense between the two classes even more than at most track. Mistakes and green flag pit stops are penalized heavily.

The track, which has six right-hand turns among its 1.474-mile length, places maximum stress on the left-side MICHELIN® tires. Teams should run 50 or more laps on a single set of tires, with more than 60 possible depending on how yellow flags fall around the first pit stop window.

RECORDS SO FAR

In 18 dry weather sessions, IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge competitors have gone faster than in 2018 in each qualifying and race session. The only session where this wasn’t applicable was qualifying at Mid-Ohio, which took place in the wet.

The average qualifying marks better than 2018 are 1.67 seconds in GS, and 1.99 seconds in TCR.

The best race laps are on average, 1.88 seconds faster in GS and 1.26 seconds faster in TCR.

THE FINAL FIVE RACES

Lime Rock kicks off a stretch of the final five IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge races this year. All are run in conjunction with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Two-hour races lie ahead at the shortest track on the schedule (Lime Rock, 1.474 miles), the longest (Road America, 4.048 miles), then to VIRginia International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca before the season finale takes place at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in October.

Latest Tweets

Latest Photos

Latest Video

IMSA at Road America Recap

Tuesday August 6, 2019