McLaren, Honda win inaugural MICHELIN Pilot Challenge race

January 25, 2019

McLaren, Honda win inaugural MICHELIN Pilot Challenge race

January 25, 2019

Co-drivers Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer dominated today’s inaugural IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series race at Daytona – but it was anything but an easy overall victory. 

The No. 75 Compass Racing McLaren GT4 team started the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona from the pole position, and Holton and Wittmer dominated the first two-and-a-half hours until the team was assessed a penalty for jumping a restart. The penalty dropped the team to 23rd place in the Grand Sport (GS) class, but Wittmer and then Holton drove through the field to take the victory. 

WITTMER, HOLTON REFLECT

Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer. Photo: Michelin North America

“It was a dream to drive with new tires, the whole entire package,” said Wittmer. “It was deemed that we jumped a restart… You just take [the penalty] and move forward. 

“The biggest thing for us was seeing how well the car performs on Michelin tires. Having done five years in [the GTLM class], where we only drove on Michelin tires, being back on Michelin is like being back home. Everything worked perfectly well.”

“The car was the easiest thing I’ve ever driven,” added Holton, who set a GS lap record in qualifying. “The racing out there was extra tough. We were three-wide through the tri-oval, three-wide through Turn 1 and three-wide through Turn 3. It was really good, respectful racing, hard racing. It was some of the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time.”

Holton and Wittmer crossed the line with a 6.931-second victory margin as the battle for second place ended in a photo finish. 

The No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of co-drivers Gary Ferrara and Kris Wilson tipped the No. 69 MIA Racing McLaren GT4 of Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus by a margin of 0.007 (seven-thousandths of a second). Holton recorded the best lap of the race at 1:37.656, more than 3.2-seconds quicker than the best lap of last year’s race. In all, 33 of the 35 GS class entrants lapped quicker than last year’s best lap.

L.A. HONDA WORLD CLAIMS TCR

Shelby Blackstock and Tom O’Gorman led a L.A. Honda World 1-2 in TCR. Photo: Michelin North America

In the TCR class, close and exciting racing for the entire four hours saw the No. 37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR with co-drivers Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock win the race, followed by their teammates in the No. 73 Honda with Mat Pombo and Mike LaMarra in second. James Vance, Nick Galante and Jay Salinsky drove to a third-place finish in their No. 23 FAST MD Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR. 

“I started 12 years ago with Honda,” said O’Gorman. “I’ve been with Honda in the lower levels for years, winning a couple of championships. To have the opportunity to step up to TCR and then bring the first win for Honda TCR… I couldn’t tell you how exciting it is.” 

“It’s always been nice to go back to the IMSA paddock, for sure,” said Blackstock. “I’m always having a blast here and I’ve had great success here at Daytona. I’m so happy it continued. We had a plan and everything fell into place. The last 10 minutes of the race were the most stressful time of my life!”

The next round of the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series takes place March 16 at Sebring International Raceway. 

Here are official race results.

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