Connect with us

Michelin Pilot Challenge

Ten Manufacturers Victorious in “Tighter Than Ever” Season

All but one brand has visited victory lane this year in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Of the 11 manufacturers represented in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge’s GS and TCR divisions there have been wins by ten different car makers this season, owing to the level of parity in the highly competitive series.

In the most recent round at Lime Rock Park, Chevrolet (GS) and Audi (TCR) joined the others at the winner’s table.

“Having raced in the GS class for years now, there are some years when it’s like this,” said Will Turner, whose Turner Motorsport fields a pair of BMW M4 GT4 cars. “It’s hard to win a race and there’s no real dominant car. Last year and this year seem to be tighter than ever.”

John Wright’s group runs the operation this year for the No. 7 VOLT Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4, which leads the GS championship, after years of running the Wright Motorsports Porsche in the class.

He said the difference between the Michelin Pilot Challenge cars is like the width of a whisker.

“For us, our antennas are up all the time,” he said. “You don’t go into one of those races assuming you are going to dominate. The driving is really hard, the wheel-to-wheel racing that is going on from start to finish.”

When Frank DePew and Robin Liddell pushed the No. 71 Rebel Rock Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R across the line first at Lime Rock, it added Chevrolet to the list of 2022 GS winners along with Aston Martin, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche.

Three races remain for Toyota, which has a pair of podium finishes this season, to join the group.

Bryan Herta Autosport fields a combined six cars in the TCR class, but it was the No. 17 Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS 3 LMS TCR that snagged first place at Lime Rock.

“We came in with a really strong program with Hyundai (in 2019) and I think it woke up other competitors and manufacturers,” BHA team owner Herta said.

“Racers are innovators by nature and I think they have taken the challenge and said, ‘OK, we’re going to be the ones to put you on the back foot now.’ We welcome that. It’s hard to win a race in the TCR class now. When you win a race, that’s really something.”

Tim Lewis and Roy Block broke the seal and set the tone for the 2022 season by winning the season-opening TCR class at Daytona International Speedway in the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR.

In Round 2 at Sebring International Raceway, another single-car team stole the show when Karl Wittmer and Victor Gonzalez took the No. 99 Victor Gonzalez Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R TCR to victory lane.

“This type of racing is more than muscle,” said Gonzalez. “You have to work your brains out there. You have to work a strategy. You have to work the fuel runs. You need to conserve tires.”

Herta said he welcomes the competition.

“It’s good,” he said. “We relish the challenge. It’s obvious the level of competition has risen across the board. We are working hard to raise our level as well.”

Turner, meanwhile, had a similar opinion.

“IMSA has done a good job of having a series that allows all these manufacturers win races,” he said. “That just shows the strength of the series.

“I think this attracts more competition moving forward because who doesn’t want to enter a race where you have a chance to win it? That’s what everybody wants and that’s kind of where we are at with all these different winners.”

On deck this week is the four-hour Road America 240, part of the IMSA Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America. The race streams live at 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Click to comment

More in Michelin Pilot Challenge