This weekend’s Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring International Raceway will bring some big-name drivers and IMSA champions onto the racetrack for Sunday’s four-hour race.
One of the bigger names expected in Sunday’s field is 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class runner-up Katherine Legge, who is entered alongside Keith and David Grant in the No. 40 Polestar Motor Racing Inc. Ligier LMP3 Nissan in the LMP3 class.
Legge won two GTD races this season in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 at Detroit and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca en route to a second-place finish in the championship. She has been confirmed for 2019 as a full-season co-driver of the No. 57 Caterpillar-sponsored Acura alongside series newcomer Jackie Heinricher as part of an all-female driver lineup.
Legge initially made a name for herself in open-wheel racing, having competed in both the Champ Car World Series and the IndyCar Series. She’ll be joined in the field by a couple of other drivers who have followed a similar path, namely Bruno Junqueira and Jan Heylen.
Junqueira is an eight-time winner in Champ Car World Series competition and the pole-sitter for the 2002 Indianapolis 500. Heylen competed in Champ Car in 2006 and 2007, with a best run of second at Assen in The Netherlands in 2007. Heylen and Junqueira are slated to share the No. 19 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier LMP3 entry with Canadian driver Bradley Baker.
Yet another open-wheel veteran, Alex Barron, is entered in the No. 64 K2R Motorsports Ligier LMP3 with co-driver Naveen Rao. Barron had 34 career Champ Car World Series starts and 62 IndyCar Series appearances with IndyCar victories coming at Michigan International Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.
One of Legge’s top competitors in the 2018 GTD class, Canadian driver Kyle Marcelli, also returns to Sebring this weekend looking for his second win this year at the venue.
He won the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class in March alongside co-driver Nate Stacy, with whom he will share the No. 60 Roush Performance/KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 again at the Encore.
Marcelli and Stacy – who also won 2018 GS races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – will be joined by KohR Motorsports owner Dean Martin as a third driver. Marcelli also won a pair of WeatherTech Championship GTD races in the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 in 2018 at Mid-Ohio and VIRginia International Raceway.
This weekend’s field will include a pair of 2018 IMSA champions in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Platinum Cup titlist Zacharie Robichon of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and the final MPC class champion in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, Jon Brownson from Breckenridge, Colorado.
Robichon – who won 11 of 12 races in GT3 Cup Challenge Canada and seven of eight starts in a partial Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season – is entered to share the No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3 in the LMP3 class with co-drivers and fellow Canadians Michal Chlumecky and Dean Baker.
Chlumecky also was a 2018 race winner, taking the IMSA Prototype Challenge MPC class win at Barber Motorsports Park in April.
Brownson will race as a teammate to the Robichon-led squad in the No. 2 ANSA Motorsports Ligier. He claimed the MPC title with a victory in the season finale at Road Atlanta earlier this month. It was the last race for the Mazda-powered, open-cockpit Élan race car, which was a mainstay of the series for 13 seasons. Brownson also was in the field for the car’s first race at Road Atlanta back in 2006.
Canadian teenager Roman De Angelis won races in three different IMSA series in 2018 and finished second in two different championships.
He took the season opening IMSA Prototype Challenge race victory in January at Daytona International Speedway, won twice in GT3 Cup Challenge USA competition at Barber and Watkins Glen and was the only driver other than Robichon to win a GT3 Cup Challenge Canada race this season at Montreal.
The runner-up in both the GT3 Cup Challenge USA and GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Platinum Cup championships will be back behind the wheel of an LMP3 car at the Encore in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports Ligier.
One of the top stories of the year in IMSA was when paraplegic driver Michael Johnson co-drove to the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class victory in July’s race at Lime Rock Park alongside Stephen Simpson in the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS TCR.
The two drivers will be reunited again in the No. 54 at the Encore. Simpson also was a winner in three IMSA series this year, taking the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen overall victory in the No. 99 JDC-Miller ORECA LMP2 car and an IMSA Prototype Challenge win at VIR.