DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kellymoss with Riley’s Riley Dickinson, Michael McCarthy and Brady Golan managed to be the only team to make their fuel last to the end Friday (Jan. 26) in Daytona. Dickinson took the lead at the white flag and held on to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW M Endurance Challenge.
Kellymoss by Riley’s margin of victory was 1.936 seconds over Winward Racing’s Daniel Morad and Bryce Ward. TeamTGM’s Matt Plumb and Owen Trinkler were third, then Turner Motorsport’s Dillon Machavern and Robert Megennis. Robby Foley and Francis Selldorff in the second Turner BMW were fifth.
CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing’s Sean McAlister started from the pole in his BMW after having dominated the weekend. However, practice is not the race. McAlister’s chances at victory didn’t last long.
In the opening 10 minutes, McAlister was forced to make an unscheduled stop that dropped him way back. Later on, the right front suspension failed on the BMW M4 GT4. Debris from the car brought out the first caution of the race.
For Bubba Wallace, the race was always going to be a tough one. The Smooge Racing team was found to have worked on Wallace’s car during qualifying. That is forbidden and cost Wallace his qualifying times.
Wallace had to start 27th as a result. In the race, he ran well early to move up into the top 15. However, on the first restart, he ran into JMF Motorsport’s Jesse Webb under braking for the International Horseshoe. The contact resulted in a flat tire for Wallace. The pit stop put the team a lap down.
While John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim ran competitively in their Toyota GR Supra GT4, they were never able to make up the lost lap. They ended up dropping out late with mechanical issues and were classified 19th in Grand Sport, 27th overall.
As the race continued on, Turner Motorsport’s BMWs came to the front. Machavern and Selldorff ran one-two for a significant amount of the race.
The Turner teammates led until Robert Wickens suffered a significant issue under the hood of his Hyundai to bring out the yellow with 100 minutes to go. The pit strategy split, putting JMF Motorsport’s Michai Stephens in the lead.
On the restart, Random Vandals Racing’s Kenton Koch was able to go from fourth to second with a three-wide move on the backstretch. A lap later, he took the lead away from Stephens, then held off the Turner BMWs.
Greg Liefooghe was up to second overall until his car shut off and stalled on the backstretch with a little over an hour to go. The strategies were all over the place as at best, heavy fuel conversation would be required to go the distance.
Smooge Racing’s Corey Lewis chose not to stop and took the lead by staying out. Rennsport One’s Trent Hindman waited two additional laps after the rest of the leaders to stop to give himself that much more fuel.
Lewis held on for a few laps before Koch was able to take the advantage away. The Turner BMWs of Foley and Megennis were right in tow. With 35 minutes to go, Foley was able to get around Koch to take the lead.
The closing minutes saw a number of the leaders come into for extra fuel. Megennis pitted from third with 11 minutes to go. Foley stopped a lap later, giving the lead back to Koch. Morad pitted the lap after Foley, then beat the Turner BMWs out of the pits.
Koch was able to get himself to the beginning of the final lap before having to stop for a splash. That gave the lead over to Dickinson. Dickinson was able to save enough fuel to bring home the win. Koch and Paul Sparta had to settle for 13th
In TCR, Bryan Herta Autosport’s Harry Gottsacker started from the pole in his Hyundai and led early. However, the driver on the move was Eduardo Gou in his family-owned Audi. Gou was able to drive up from third on the grid and snatch the advantage early on.
That advantage ended up being short-lived as Gou’s engine expired in turn 1 of the tri-oval on lap 6. Gou was forced to pull off and retire his car.
That allowed Road Shagger Racing’s Gavin Ernstone to move up into the class lead after starting in eighth. Ernstone stated on Peacock that his car was handling like a dream.
However, Ernstone’s Audi had a fuel pickup issue. That led to him stalling at the Le Mans chicane. He attempted to restart the car more than a dozen times before enough fuel reached the combustion chambers to restart the car. By that time, Ernstone was already a lap down and the yellow was out.
Ernstone’s troubles and a round of stops saw Montreal Motorsports Group’s Daijiro Yoshihara stay out and take the lead. However, while in the lead, Yoshihara took the wave around. This is forbidden as he ended up three-quarters of a lap ahead of the field. A stop and four-minute hold put him a lap down and out of the hunt.
Morley was able to race all the way back up to Taylor’s rear bumper, but a mechanical failure put the team out with 40 minutes to go.
Being able to win under these circumstances was extremely unlikely. In the post-race press conference, Taylor indicated that the team had been unable to start their car for 36 hours before the race.
A spare ECU had to be acquired from Mexico. Taylor drove to Orlando International Airport to snag the ECU, then booked it back to Daytona Beach to get the part installed in the final minutes before the pre-grid.
Miller and Taylor’s margin of victory was 20.408 seconds over Dupont, Preston Brown and Nick Looijmans. BHA’s Mason Filippi and Mark Wilkins were third, then Rockwell Autosport Development’s Tom O’Gorman, Doug Oakley and Erik Rockwell. Racers Edge Motorsports’ Tazio Ottis and Daniel Wu were fifth in their Honda.
Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will be off for the next few weeks. The second race of the year will be the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway. That race is scheduled for March 15 and will be streamed live on Peacock.
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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