|Full-Season Competitors Looking to Build Results toward Championship Bid|
March 13, 2023
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 Entry List
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s time to get down to the serious business of seeing who will contend for the season championship in the Grand Sport (GS) class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. That task begins Thursday in the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway.As is typical, the season opener at Daytona International Speedway included a number of GS cars not running the full schedule – including three of the top five finishers. With those one-offs not entered at Sebring, the focus for those racing this week turns to the “big picture” and piecing together consistent results over the remaining 10 events to build that championship profile.
The slight early advantage in that scenario goes to Thomas Collingwood and Spencer Pumpelly, who along with third driver Jeroen Bleekemolen finished second at Daytona in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport. Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak are in the thick of the hunt as well after placing fourth at Daytona in the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4.
And don’t overlook Michelin Pilot Challenge veteran Chad McCumbee, the defending Sebring race winner who was highly competitive at Daytona in his own team’s No. 13 McCumbee McAleer Racing with AEROSPORT Ford Mustang GT4 before he and co-driver Jenson Altzman finished a lap off the pace due to a punctured tire.A hefty field of 27 GS cars from eight manufacturers is entered at Sebring, led by six cars apiece from Mercedes-AMG and BMW.
Parity Thy Name is Touring Car
The highly competitive Touring Car (TCR) class features 15 entries for Sebring. That’s up one from Daytona, where the tight field was exemplified by the fact that each of the four participating manufacturers led at least 20 laps in the race but none led more than 35 laps.
Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley captured victory in the opener in the No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS SEQ by a mere 0.427 seconds over William Tally and Mike LaMarra in the No. 73 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic FK7 TCR.
Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian is chasing its fifth straight TCR driver and team titles, as well as the fourth in a row for Hyundai. Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi handed the team a third-place finish at Daytona in the No. 98 Elantra N TCR, but it will be interesting to see how two-time defending class champions Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler rebound from an eighth-place Daytona result in the No. 1 Hyundai.
Victor Gonzalez and Karl Wittmer, who share the No. 99 Victor Gonzalez Racing Team Honda, won the 2022 Sebring TCR race.The condensed Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule this week finds two practices and qualifying on Wednesday. The two-hour race starts at 1:20 p.m. ET Thursday with a livestream available on Peacock.