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Michelin Pilot Challenge

CarBahn’s “Football Club” Mentality Paved Way to GS Title

Jeff Westphal, Tyler McQuarrie became first-time Pilot Challenge champions…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge co-champion Jeff Westphal says CarBahn Racing felt like a “football club that’s been together for five years” during its 2019 title run.

Westphal and Tyler McQuarrie clinched the GS drivers’ championship by rolling off the grid at the start of last week’s FOX Factory 120 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

While issues plagued their season finale, the pair had already done enough to win the title with a total of six podiums – including a win at Sebring International Raceway – across the ten-race campaign.

Looking back on the year, Westphal pinpointed the consistency within the Steve Dinan-led team, which had almost zero staff changes in the previous off-season, as the driving force behind its success.

“The lack of turnover helped with the trust and the continuity with everybody,” Westphal told Sportscar365.

“It helps with the communication because you start to learn how each person talks and what they’re trying to get across.

“Everything just happens more quickly and more fluidly when you have that consistency.

“If you look at a football club that’s been together for five or ten years, the guys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to play together. It’s the same format here.”

Westphal and McQuarrie ran most of the 2018 season together in CarBahn’s Audi R8 LMS GT4, and despite finishing in the top-five on five occasions they only scored one podium.

This year, their fortunes changed as the team learned how to tackle each weekend and improved internally to become one of the top teams in the GS paddock.

“I think we needed to build on some execution within the team. It’s not like we lacked it last year, but we were just finding our feet,” said Westphal.

“We communicated very well together but understanding what was happening outside of our car and how we adjusted our strategy relative to that was where we could have improved.

“And that’s what we did this year. Having said that, I think we can still improve a little bit. There were probably two races that we could have won but didn’t.

“That’s what the sport is all about – this constant state of micro improvements all the time. You fix one percent here, one percent there, and before you know it you have a five or six percent gain.”

Co-driver Relationship a “Catalyst” for Title Bid

Westphal added that his long-standing working connection with McQuarrie, who put CarBahn on pole at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, was another key part of the team’s successful year.

“Tyler and I’s working relationship was one of the few catalysts at the very beginning that helped this whole program get off the ground,” he said.

“We had been teammates before, about five or six years ago [at Insight Racing] and we’d known each other longer than that. I think I’ve known Tyler for 10 years.

“I regard him very highly as a driver. He’s always been one of the quicker drivers I’ve ever been around, so it was a pleasure to have him as a teammate and he obviously did a great job this year.

“Last year, we both knew we had the potential and could see that the car could be great, but we just needed some refinement within the team and some understanding of which surface at which track we need to set up which way for.

“Instead of getting there right before the race, we’re getting there when we offload the truck this season. We’re a little bit ahead of where we used to be.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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