Jeff Westphal says that he’s been “anxiously awaiting” CarBahn with Peregrine Racing’s step up to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as the team takes on the first round of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
The 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge Series championship-winning squad will be making its GT Daytona class debut in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by TLX Type S with Westphal and Richard Heistand at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
Westphal, who teamed with Tyler McQuarrie for the GS class title, makes his series return after multiple previous seasons with Scuderia Corsa in the GTD ranks, most recently as the team’s Michelin Endurance Cup driver last year.
The Steve Dinan-led CarBahn squad has been campaigning GT4-spec Audis in Pilot Challenge since 2018.
“The team and I have been anxiously awaiting this challenge,” Westphal said. “As most people in the paddock know, we relish tough competition.
“We have been analyzing the speed per mile of our peers at many of the IMSA tracks, as well as completed a shake down of our Audi R8 LMS GT3.
“We did systems checks with the new car, pit equipment and telemetry as well.
“It’s not quite as simple as put fuel in, turn the key, and hit the gas pedal because the level of detail in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship is world class.
“Beyond that, I have been spending a little time on the simulator at Mid-Ohio to make sure the flow of the track is sub conscious, that way I am firing on all cylinders when we arrive for Practice 1.”
Heistand, who took part in the Michelin Endurance Cup races last year in a Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, switches to a Sprint Cup-only program with the sister Audi brand.
He said they’re heading into the first weekend together with “realistic expectations” given the lack of track time.
“What’s clear is that we have a very talented group of people and long term I’m really excited about what we can achieve together,” Heistand said.
“Having said that we need to have realistic expectations going into Mid-Ohio. With just two one-hour practice session and [three] classes on track this will surely favor those who have been there and done it before together in a car they know well.
“While I still expect a solid result due to the quality of the people on this team, make no mistake, this is an abnormal and massive challenge to start the year off with.”
Westphal believes the Audi will be well-suited to the 2.258-mile 13-turn circuit.
“Mid-Ohio is a track that is friendly to the Audi R8 platform as it’s generally a track that produces understeer in most cars,” he said.
“Platforms that lack understeer or behave more ‘free’ are usually strong at Mid-Ohio.
“The Lexus is exactly that, so I expect them to be quite strong. Porsche has a great BoP currently so I would also expect the 911s to be sharp around Mid-Ohio, but only time will tell where we land in that hierarchy.”