MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season set for busy stretch ahead

June 26, 2019

MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season set for busy stretch ahead

June 26, 2019

After racing just three times for eight hours in 22 weekends to open 2019, IMSA’s MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series kicks its season into high gear starting this weekend at Watkins Glen International.

The series now has five races over the next nine weekends, for a total of 12 hours of racing.

This stretch from Watkins Glen the last weekend of June through VIRginia International Raceway the last weekend of August will define the championship contenders in the GS and TCR classes.

The GS class has its planned switch to the MICHELIN® Pilot® Sport GT S9M commercial tires this race, the hard specification compound.

GS WITH THREE DIFFERENT WINNERS THUS FAR

Three different teams with three different cars have opened the season winning GS races. Compass Racing (McLaren) claimed the first four-hour race of the year in Daytona, with Carbahn Motorsports (Audi) winning in Sebring and Park Place Motorsport (Porsche) scoring the Mid-Ohio win.

However none of these three entries lead the championship. Consistency has determined that.

#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

So far MIA Racing with Corey Fergus and Jesse Lazare, in their McLaren, and Bimmerworld with Devin Jones and James Clay in their BMW, are 1-2 in the points standings.

MIA has two third place finishes in the first three races while the Bimmerworld pair has a best result of second. Just two points separate them.

The Tyler McQuarrie/Jeff Westphal Carbahn pairing is third, two further points back. Then it’s Trent Hindman/Alan Brynjolfsson in fourth with Kenny Wilden/Rod Randall in fifth.

All told, just 14 points cover the first five driver pairings.

With finishes of fourth and second in the last two races, Riley Motorsports is hitting its stride with young Dylan Murry and James Cox in their Mercedes.

Last year’s champions Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb have had brutal luck in their Team TGM Mercedes, and haven’t yet had a result to match their potential. Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy, second last year with KohR Motorsports, have finished fifth in both of the last two races and are back up to eighth in points.

TCR WITH GREAT MIX AND RACING
#37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR, TCR: Tom O’Gorman, Shelby Blackstock

The L.A. Honda World Racing Honda of Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock opened the year with a pair of wins in Florida at Daytona and Sebring.

But then Michael Lewis’ Bryan Herta Hyundai battled Remo Ruscitti’s Mark Motors Audi in a titanic scrap for victory in the damp, drying conditions at Mid-Ohio. Lewis prevailed, ensuring he and Mark Wilkins delivered Hyundai’s first IMSA win.

#98 Bryan Herta Autosport W Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR, TCR: Mark Wilkins, Michael Lewis

TCR action has been pretty strong through the opening three races this year and only figures to intensify from here.

Just looking at the winners excludes other contenders, such as the HART and Atlanta Speedwerks Hondas. HART’s Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger have a podium (Sebring) and a pole (Mid-Ohio) in class; Gilsinger’s pole time at the latter was actually the fastest overall as TCR cars had better track conditions compared to GS cars.

The eEuroparts Audi team is hitting its stride too, with two of its affiliated cars on the podium at Mid-Ohio.

A LOOK AHEAD

With races at Watkins Glen, CTMP, Lime Rock, Road America and VIR to come, the strengths and weaknesses of this strong 35-plus car field figure to be on display in different places the rest of the way.

Saturday’s Tioga Downs Casino Resort 240 kicks off the action at 1:45 p.m. EDT with live coverage on IMSA.TV, featuring IMSA Radio commentary.

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