Michelin celebrates inaugural ‘Sparkling Cider Society’

June 28, 2019

Michelin celebrates inaugural ‘Sparkling Cider Society’

June 28, 2019

Champagne is a staple of victory podiums in IMSA. However, there’s a slight problem with that for some IMSA drivers.

They aren’t 21 years old yet. And therefore, they can’t drink champagne.

Luckily, there’s a special option awarded to these drivers to celebrate their success.

It’s sparkling cider, and here at Watkins Glen International’s victory lane, Michelin has inaugurated the first class of IMSA’s “Sparkling Cider Society.”

Six such drivers have been on the podium racing with Michelin, in its first year as Official Tire of IMSA, either before turning 21 or having turned 21 within the final few months of 2018.

PAIR OF PILOT CHALLENGE TEEN SUCCESS

Two teens have gotten off to a strong start in IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge competition.

The first is Dylan Murry, son of veteran sports car racing driver David Murry. The 18-year-old Georgian entered the “Sparkling Cider Society” at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a banner weekend in two IMSA series.

On Saturday, he finished second in the Pilot Challenge race, co-driving with James Cox in the No. 35 Riley Mercedes-AMG GT4.

A day later, he went one position better when he and Dakota Dickerson scored the IMSA Prototype Challenge win in their No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P3.

Dickerson, at 22, is just past the “Sparkling Cider Society” age range.

Stacy (far right) celebrated a class win at Sebring last November. Photo: Michelin North America

Meanwhile last November at the inaugural Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore, 20-year-old Nate Stacy shared the winning KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 with Kyle Marcelli and team principal Dean Martin. Marcelli was a podium contender in the American Le Mans Series years before he turned 21, but the Canadian is now 29.

“HERTA-MANIA 2.0” AT AGE 18

Colton Herta was widely celebrated as the youngest IndyCar Series race winner when he triumphed in Texas in late March.

But two months earlier, Herta had entered the “Sparkling Cider Society” in the first race to kick off the IMSA season, the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Herta (center, furthest right) celebrated a Rolex 24 At Daytona win at 18. Photo: Michelin North America

The 18-year-old shared the winning BMW M8 GTE for BMW Team RLL, and promptly set the fastest race lap in the process in the entirely stacked, factory backed GT Le Mans class.

He’s now 19, so he still has two more years embracing the cider when he makes the podium next. While he isn’t racing here at Watkins Glen, he is on site as the BMW reserve driver.

Colton Herta at Watkins Glen International. Photo: Michelin North America
THE INAUGURAL SPARKLING CIDER “AMBASSADORS”

Three drivers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP2 class, Kyle Masson, Gabriel Aubry and Matt McMurry, can serve as the “Sparkling Cider Society’s” first batch of ambassadors, having spent their formative years sipping the cider before their 21st birthdays.

McMurry set a record as the youngest starter in 24 Hours of Le Mans history in 2014, at age 16. So he’s spent the last five years of his formative sports car years working up to turning 21. He won the most recent LMP2 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Matthew McMurry, Gabriel Aubry, #38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Kyle Masson, Cameron Cassels, podium

His teammate with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, Aubry, noted how he had the cider when he finished second with McMurry at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. That was a month before he turned 21, and therefore, his last chance to enter the society. Aubry is a French driver who has made waves in LMP2 competition worldwide and will be one driver to watch in the future.

Masson made a habit of winning in 2017 endurance races. Photo: Michelin North America

And Masson, who turned 21 last August, spent his early years winning races before hitting that birthday. He won his Rolex 24 At Daytona debut as a 19-year-old in 2017 with the same Performance Tech team he races for today in the Prototype Challenge class. He also won at both Sebring and Watkins Glen that year, to establish his future credentials. This year, he got to race and podium with his dad, Dr. Robert Masson, in the team’s Oreca LMP2 at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

POTENTIAL NEW ENTRANTS

There are still several other drivers poised to join the “Sparkling Cider Society” if they finish on the podium this year.

#21 Bryan Herta Autosport W Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR, TCR: Mason Filippi, Harry Gottsacker

Herta’s dad, Bryan, runs a pair of Hyundai Veloster N TCRs in Pilot Challenge competition. The team’s second car, the No. 21 of Harry Gottsacker and Mason Filippi, has come incredibly close to the podium this year in TCR. They’ve finished fifth, fourth and seventh in three races. A fuel pump issue denied them a podium in Mid-Ohio. Filippi only just turned 21 to match his car number but Gottsacker, a Texan who has developed his career the last few years, is only 20.

Another TCR driver, Colin Mullan, is 17 and a potential podium finisher this year. The 2018 Team USA Scholarship winner looks for his first TCR podium during the season with the L.A. Honda World Racing team.

Gottsacker’s longtime friend and occasional co-driver Parker Chase, another young Texan, has scored podiums in other series but not yet in IMSA. He’s just 18 years old and together with Ryan Dalziel and Mike Skeen look to get on the podium in WeatherTech GT Daytona competition with Starworks Motorsport in their Audi R8 LMS GT3.

So, cheers to the new generation of IMSA podium finishers who look forward to a beverage on the podium.

They’ll be unique in being able to have sparkling cider first, before graduating to champagne.

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