Pilot Challenge wraps 2019 with Michelin Raceway thriller

October 11, 2019

Pilot Challenge wraps 2019 with Michelin Raceway thriller

October 11, 2019

The inaugural IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge champions were crowned on Friday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, with a pair of intriguing race winners in the Fox Factory 120.

Second generation drivers Austin Cindric and Seb Priaulx, the latter in his series debut, scored the overall and GS win in their No. 15 Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4.

TCR saw Bryan Herta Autosport’s pair of Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis double up, claiming both the race win and season championship in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR.

Merely by starting, Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal claimed the GS class championship in their No. 39 CarBahn by Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4. This proved fortunate because early race issues resigned them to a finish outside the top 20.

Today’s results cap off a season of Pilot Challenge competition where eight (McLaren, Audi, Porsche, Chevrolet, Mercedes-AMG, Ford, Honda, Hyundai) automotive brands won at least one race and two more (Aston Martin, BMW) also scored at least one podium finish.

The young drivers who won in GS, Cindric and Priaulx, have famous fathers (Tim Cindric is Penske Racing president and Andy Priaulx is a veteran factory driver having been with Ford Performance and BMW).

But they made their own mark today with the younger Priaulx having driven most of the race before handing off late to Cindric, who brought the car home to the finish.

Cindric, now 21, reflected on his first series win since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2015 and how far the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series has advanced in that time.

“When I drove in this series again years later, with the things I’ve developed, some of the NASCAR stuff is racecraft and that’s helped now,” he said.

“I’ve been with other cars in tough situations. I’ve done some endurance races off and on. This is the core group of people and feels like you’re riding a bike. It’s why you get out of bed.”

While the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 finished second on the road, a minimum drive time violation knocked them down the order off the podium. Past Michelin Raceway winners Motorsports In Action finished second with its No. 69 McLaren 570S GT4, and Team TGM was third with its No. 46 Mercedes-AMG GT4. That result netted Mercedes-AMG the manufacturer’s championship.

For Wilkins and Lewis, a late pass of the sister No. 21 car driven by Mason Filippi and Harry Gottsacker netted the race win. Hyundai came up marginally short in the manufacturer’s championship by one point to Audi, who netted second and third with the Nos. 17 and 23 cars from JDC-Miller Motorsports and FAST MD Racing.

“Yeah today was a pretty great race to watch,” Lewis said. “On old tires and sliding around. Today is an example of what Mark is awesome of doing. Yeah we’re going for the championship, but we’re trying to win the race too.”

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