With just under 20 minutes to go, Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley was able to get past Murillo Racing’s Christian Szymczak for the lead. From there, Foley and Vin Barletta held on to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway Thursday (March 16).
“We found a good [setup] compromise for this weather,” Foley told NBC Sports’ Hannah Newhouse in victory lane. “Awesome to get the first win for [the new car BMW M4 GT4] in [Grand Sport] and can’t thank the guys at Turner enough.”
Foley and Barletta’s margin of victory was .601 seconds over teammates Cameron Lawrence and Robert Megennis. Rebel Rock Racing’s Frank DePew and Robin Liddell were third, then Lone Star Racing’s Scott Andrews and Anton Dias Perera were fourth. Adam Adelson and Elliott Skeer were fifth.
By virtue of a very unusual qualifying session on Wednesday, BGB Motorsports’ Thomas Collingwood earned the pole by virtue of finishing second in Daytona. On the start, he held onto the advantage for half of the first lap before Murillo Racing’s Kenny Murillo was able to sweep past entering turn 10.
Murillo was able to pull out a small lead before a big crash involving Road Shagger Racing’s Gavin Ernstone, Deily Motorsports’ Jacob Deily and Rockwell Autosport Development’s Nick Looijmans brought out the caution. Ernstone appeared to get loose exiting turn 1 and spun into Looijmans. All three drivers were ok, but out on the spot.
On the restart, Winward Racing’s Bryce Ward got into both Motorsports In Action’s Alex Filsinger and Wilsports’ Gary Ferrara in turn 7, spinning both drivers out. The contact damaged Ward’s Mercedes and sent him into the tires shortly afterwards to bring out another yellow.
The man on the move early on was Rennsport One’s Eric Filguerias. After a crash in Daytona, he started 22nd and quickly made his way forward. After the yellows, he was able to move into the top five, then methodically pick drivers off until he got to second.
When the third yellow flew, nearly everyone rushed into the pits for tires, fuel and a driver change. Turner Motorsport’s Cameron Lawrence won the race off pit road as his No. 95 BMW was the best running team that had pitted during the second yellow. As a result, they could short-fill their tank.
On the restart, Szymczak was able to sweep past Lawrence and take the lead, while Lawrence’s teammate Foley followed past. Another caution for Crucial Motorsports’ Michael de Quesada going into the tires exiting Sunset Bend closed the pack up.
It took only a couple of laps for Foley to make the winning move on Szymczak. However, the stalled cars of Toby Grahovec and Karl Wittmer brought out a yellow to set up a one-lap shootout. Foley was able to hold on from there.
In TCR, LA Honda World Racing’s Mat Pombo started from the pole and led early on. The two early cautions meant that his stint in the Honda was quite relaxing. 35 minutes in, Pombo led roughly half the class to pit road, splitting the strategy.
Bryan Ortiz ended up in the lead by staying out in his Elantra, but Harry Gottsacker put immediate pressure on him. Despite his inexperience in TCR equipment, Ortiz held on for 20 minutes before Gottsacker took advantage of Greg Liefooghe‘s BMW opening the door to slip past into the lead right before halfway. When Gottsacker made his only pit stop to hand over to Robert Wickens, Pombo swept into the lead.
Then, heck broke loose. HART’s Steve Eich was going for the lead when contact with Pombo broke the rear suspension and filled the car with smoke. Eich pulled off-course and drew the third caution of the race. Pombo also ended up out with suspension issues.
The Honda issues gave the class lead to Wickens, but he had to do battle with KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. Lewis was able to snag the lead away from Wickens with 11 minutes to go just as the final yellow was displayed. Lewis was able to hold on for the win.
Lewis and Roy Block‘s margin of victory was 1.671 seconds over Gottsacker and Wickens. Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi were third, then LA Honda World Racing’s Mike LaMarra and Dr. William Tally. Defending champions Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis were fifth.
IMSA MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE ALAN JAY AUTOMOTIVE NETWORK 120 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will be off for quite a while. The third round of the season is scheduled for May 13 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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