Jan Heylen and Max Root claimed a pivotal victory in Saturday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in a race that saw the GS championship-leading Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 hit trouble.
Heylen drove his No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport to a 4.563-second win over the No. 4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Indy Dontje following an intense battle with Bill Auberlen in the final hour.
Auberlen took over the lead after the final round of scheduled green flag pit stops in his No. 95 Turner BMW and enjoyed a duel with Heylen until suffering a right-rear puncture with 38 minutes to go.
The stop for four fresh Michelin tires dropped Auberlen to 17th in class at the time.
It gave clear sailing for Heylen, who entered the weekend trailing Auberlen and co-driver Dillon Machavern by 260 points, to claim his first victory of the season.
Pole-sitter Root led from the green in commanding fashion until the race’s one-and-only full-course caution that led to the first round of pit stops just past the 40-minute mark.
Winward Racing finished second and third, with the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes of Eric Foss fading to fourth on the final lap.
Dontje managed to get around Foss, which then also led the No. 57 Winward entry of Alec Udell by, with both Winward cars benefiting from fresh Michelin front tires on their final stop.
The No. 7 VOLT Racing by Archangel Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson completed the top-five.
Auberlen ended up finishing 14th and has seen his and Machavern’s points lead reduced to 40 points ahead of teammates Robby Foley and Vinny Barletta, with Heylen now only 80 points behind in third.
Hyundais Dominate in TCR
Mark Wilkins made a late-race pass on Parker Chase to take top class honors in TCR in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR, in a podium sweep for the Korean manufacturer.
Wilkins finished 2.303 seconds ahead of teammate Chase and Ryan Norman in the No. 33 BHA Elantra in second.
Wilkins shared top class honors with co-driver Harry Gottsacker.
A late charge by Michael Lewis saw the class championship-leading No. 77 BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCR complete the podium in third.
Six of the top seven positions in class were taken by either Hyundai Elantra or Velosters.
RESULTS: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120