Stevan McAleer overtook Bill Auberlen with three and a half minutes to go to win the four-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge round at Watkins Glen International alongside his Notlad Racing by RS1 co-driver Patrick Gallagher.
McAleer capitalized on Auberlen running off-line through the Inner Loop chicane to plant his No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 down the inside of the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 into the next right-hand turn.
The Notlad by RS1 driver then kept Auberlen at bay for the remaining minutes to secure the win by a one-second margin.
McAleer and Gallagher won from third on the grid in an eventful race that included four full course caution periods in the opening half and a fifth in the final hour.
The last caution saw all of the GS front-runners make pit stops at the allocated window, except Trent Hindman who advanced to the lead courtesy of a swift call from VOLT Racing to bring its Aston Martin in just before the pits were shut.
McAleer also gained ground by taking on fuel only while most of the other GS contenders took tires. McAleer had pitted a few minutes before the yellow, giving him a shorter final stop and enabling his Aston to climb several spots to take the restart in fifth.
McAleer cleared Matt Plumb’s Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R on the first lap after the green flag, which flew with 38 minutes remaining after almost half an hour of barrier repairs due to an accident for Scott Andrews’ Toyota GR Supra GT4 at the Outer Loop.
Hindman led from Auberlen, Spencer Pigot in the No. 3 Motorsports In Action McLaren 570S GT4 and McAleer, but was forced to relinquish his position when he was given a drive-through for crossing the yellow pit entry line upon diving in at the final yellow.
This dropped the VOLT Aston several positions and handed the lead to Auberlen, whose co-driver Dillon Machavern had started from the fifth row of the grid.
Despite ultimately missing out on the win, Auberlen and Machavern provisionally came away with the GS drivers’ championship lead.
They were able to leapfrog former points leader and pole-sitter Kuno Wittmer who only finished 14th in class with his AWA McLaren driving partner Orey Fidani.
Pigot and Sheena Monk finished third, seven and a half seconds off the winning Aston, while Jan Heylen made a late overtake on Plumb to secure fourth for the Wright Motorsports Porsche that was also driven by Ryan Hardwick.
Team TGM’s Matt and Hugh Plumb completed the top five, ahead of the Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG crew of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss.
Andrew Davis and Michael McCann took seventh in their Audi R8 LMS GT4 Evo, one place in front of Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson’s Archangel Motorsports-run VOLT Aston which made up a couple of positions near the end after its penalty.
The race only settled into a rhythm in the second half as several incidents produced FCY periods in the opening two hours that caused regular positional shuffling and different strategy calls throughout the field.
The first yellow came after just 14 minutes when Frank Depew lost control of his Camaro exiting the Toe of the Boot and made heavy contact with the right-side barriers.
Three minutes after the green flag from that incident, Taylor Hagler’s TCR machine became stuck with two wheels in the gravel after contact with another car.
The second hour started with two big accidents at the exit of Turn 1 that contributed to the same FCY interruption.
First, the No. 83 Audi R8 LMS GT4 crashed heavily into the outside barriers. It was then followed by the No. 27 Hyundai Veloster N TCR which speared into the same section of perimeter after tapping a rival car whilst returning to the track from the run-off.
That incident resulted in a delay of just over 20 minutes, after which another yellow occurred just six minutes into the green flag spell when Nate Vincent spun going up the hill.
A round of green flag pit stops early in the third hour produced McAleer ahead of Hindman, Alec Udell, Andrews, Plumb and Auberlen in the net GS running order.
The fifth caution period enabled Auberlen to be in a winning position for Turner, but the experienced American was unable to hold McAleer back on this occasion.
Eversley, Lamb Win TCR in Atlanta Honda
Ryan Eversley and Todd Lamb claimed TCR class honors in their Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic Type-R TCR as Bryan Herta Autosport entries completed the podium.
Eversley seized the lead from BHA Hyundai driver Ryan Norman at Turn 7 at the top of the final hour, a few minutes after Norman had himself moved to the front past Brian Henderson at the wheel of the other Atlanta Speedwerks Honda into Turn 1.
Trenton Estep was the only driver not to pit under the final-hour caution and led at the restart as a result, but Eversley quickly regained the lead before going to win by 6.4 seconds from the Hyundai driven by Norman and Parker Chase.
Estep’s CB Motorsports Hyundai Veloster N TCR encountered a left-front wheel failure in the closing minutes, squandering his and Mark Kvamme’s chances of a podium.
Instead, BHA took second and third, with Michael Lewis crossing the line behind Norman after an exciting multi-car battle.
Lewis brought the No. 77 Hyundai back from a lap down after Hagler’s trip into the gravel earlier on. Henderson and Robert Noaker settled for fourth in their Honda.
RESULTS: Tioga Downs Casino 240 at The Glen