Motorsports In Action is set to return to full steam with this weekend’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge round at Watkins Glen, after a fire forced its No. 69 McLaren 570S GT4 to withdraw from the Circuit of The Americas race, prompting a total rebuild of both GS class cars.
The No. 69 McLaren, one of two cars for the Quebec-based team, arrived at COTA in May with confidence after a promising start to the season.
At the season-opening four-hour endurance race at Daytona, the car ran inside the top five and battled for the lead before late contact took the team out of contention. However, they quickly bounced back at Sebring to land on the podium in second place.
“For COTA, we were really confident going in,” said Jesse Lazare, who co-drives the No. 69 with fellow Canadian Chris Green. “That’s one of my favorite tracks and during the last of my short career of GT3 racing, I had a lot of success there.
“Chris had never been there, but he qualified second after only 13 laps on the track which, in my opinion, was amazing. So, the fact that if we would have started, he would’ve only gotten better. Chances are we for sure had a secure podium and a really, really good chance at a win there.”
But as it was rolled out onto the grid before the race, the car unexpectedly caught fire. The fire, caused by an oil leak, forced the No. 69 to withdraw from the race only minutes before the green flag waved.
The withdrawal was heartbreaking for MIA, which was looking to make waves in just its first year of competition in the Continental Tire Challenge. However, the team and McLaren were quick to regroup back in Quebec to ensure the incident doesn’t happen again.
“The good news is that we had all the McLaren guys from the factory come to our shop,” Lazare said. “We rebuilt both cars so our car, the 69, and our sister car the 68, were completely rebuilt from scratch. We tested both cars on our home track next to the shop and it works perfectly.
“I think for the next three races we’re going to have a very reliable car and I think we can do well in all of them.”
It’s more than apparent that Lazare, who just turned 20 in May, is excited for what MIA can bring to the table in IMSA.
Born and raised in Montreal, Lazare was approached by neighbor and MIA team owner Eric Kerub about starting an IMSA team with the new McLaren GT4.
“[Eric] has many, many years of experience in racing of all different levels and he also has an amazing relationship with the McLaren GT guys,” Lazare explained.
“His idea was to support McLaren, buy two McLaren GT4s and join the IMSA series because he liked the fact that it’s a two-driver team and short endurance racing.
“My teammate, Chris Green, I’ve known since I started karting when I was eight years old and that was a clear factor, too. I wanted him as a teammate if we were going to do this as a start-up team because I knew that was our best chance of winning this race series.
“It happened pretty quick. Eric got the cars as promised and we got to test two times before the Roar (Before the 24 in January) and it all worked out great.”
The No. 69 appears to have all the pieces in place to finish the year strong, and now with a completely rebuilt McLaren, they aren’t ruling out a more pleasant surprise than what they were dealt at COTA.
“I’m really confident we’re only going to get better and stronger as the season goes on,” Lazare said. “Our eyes are still on winning this championship no matter what happens and we still have seven races to go,
“Chris and I are going to do our best, the team is going to do its best, we’re only going to get better and I think we’re going to be fighting for it at the end.”