Race Weekend Central

Rebel Rock Racing Wins Alan Jay Automotive Network 120

Rebel Rock Racing’s Robin Liddell took the lead away from Baby Bull Racing’s Michael Cooper with 35 minutes remaining Friday (March 15). From there, he was able to make his fuel hold out to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 with teammate Frank DePew. The win is the very first victory worldwide for the brand-new 2024-spec Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

“We all but won the championship [last year with the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R,] but it was really important for us to prove that we could win with another manufacturer,” Liddell told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum in victory lane. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to do that today for Aston Martin. Can’t think the team and Frank [DePew] enough.”

DePew and Liddell’s margin of victory was 1.817 seconds over van der Steur Racing’s Valentin Hasse-Clot and Rory van der Steur. McCumbee-McAleer Racing with AEROSPORT’s Jenson Altzman and Chad McCumbee were third. TeamTGM’s Paul Holton and Matt Plumb were fourth, while Random Vandals Racing’s Kenton Koch and Paul Sparta recovered from an early penalty to finish fifth.

Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare started from pole in his McLaren Artura GT4 and led early. Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer was right behind in his Porsche.

Josh Green, making his debut for Thaze Motorsport, fell back sharply at the start, but was able to recover to third. Together, the three drivers pulled away from the rest of the pack.

Grand Sport cars cannot go a full hour under green on fuel, so everyone was desperate for a yellow. That caution came 29 minutes into the race when Archangel Motorsports’ Todd Coleman had fluids coming out of his Aston Martin that eventually caught fire. Coleman was ok, but was out of the race.

The yellow resulted in a split strategy as Lazare came in from the lead for tires and fuel along with nearly all of the GS cars. McAleer chose to stay out and took the lead with JMF Motorsports’ Michai Stephens behind. Of those who pitted, a chunk of them made a second stop to top off and change drivers (since minimum drive-time had been satisfied by this point) before the race went back to green.

Almost immediately once the green came back out, CDR Valkyrie’s Amir Haleem and Baby Bull Racing’s Michael Cooper had contact exiting turn 1. That resulted in debris from Haleem’s Supra coming off and bringing out another caution. This allowed McAleer and Stephens to save more fuel. Cooper was eventually given a drive-through penalty for the contact.

The race restarted right at the halfway point with Lazare breathing down McAleer’s neck. A few laps later, Bryan Herta Autosport’s Taylor Hagler had contact with Montreal Motorsport Group’s Louis-Philippe Montour in turn 1. Montour spun and hit the tire barrier. He would continue with a shredded left rear tire.

Hagler didn’t come out of the incident clean as she had a flat right front tire. Mark Wilkins ended up with the lead, while both Hagler and Montour were out of the hunt after having to limp for more than three miles to get back to the pits.

What saved Hagler and Montour from losing multiple laps is that the carcass of Montour’s tire came off in turn 14, drawing the race’s third full course caution.

The caution really hurt McAleer, who had not stopped to this point in the race and needed a full tank of fuel to make it to the finish. When the pits opened, everyone came in. After a driver change to Trent Hindman, Rennsport One was buried back in 18th. Motorsports In Action, after switching from Lazare to Michael de Quesada, was also out of the top 10.

Cooper served his penalty before the yellow came out. That allowed him to stay out and take the lead with Robin Liddell and Valentin Hasse-Clot giving chase.

With 35 minutes to go, Liddell got a run on Cooper exiting Sunset Bend. Cooper tried to come back while Hasse-Clot tried to go three-wide into turn 1. Liddell was able to sweep around from the outside to take the lead.

Once in the lead, Liddell was able to open up a small advantage over Hasse-Clot. However, Liddell, Hasse-Clot and Cooper were running slower than some of the best drivers that stopped under the yellow. The final 20 minutes saw Chad McCumbee and Jeff Westphal (despite rear bumper damage) close in.

Further back, de Quesada and Hindman were quickly trying to work their way back up through the field after restarting outside of the top 15. Hindman had moved up from 18th to ninth with 28 minutes to go, while de Quesada was up to seventh.

Unfortunately, neither driver would factor at the finish. De Quesada was penalized after spinning out Westphal in the closing laps. He would finish 13th.

Hindman got up as high as sixth before having to make an unscheduled stop with seven laps to go. He would finish 19th in class, 29th overall.

Cooper threatened Liddell in the final couple of laps, but ran out of fuel with two laps to go. When that happened, Liddell was home free to take the win.

In TCR, Bryan Herta Autosport’s Harry Gottsacker started from pole and held off JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller in the opening laps. Despite their battling, Gottsacker and Miller pulled out a nearly five-second advantage over Mason Filippi in third.

Miller was able to eventually make the move for the class lead in traffic. A couple of laps later, turnabout was fair play as traffic helped Gottsacker get back out front.

For TCR teams, they could easily go the full distance on just one stop. Regardless, most of the class pitted during the first yellow 37 minutes into the race. Gottsacker was able to win the race off pit road.

The second yellow resulted in a strategy split. Gottsacker brought his Hyundai in for tires, fuel and a swap to Robert Wickens. That gave the lead to Hagler. A couple of laps later, she collided with Montour. Teammate Mark Wilkins was able to take advantage of the contact to put his No. 98 in the lead.

Wilkins stopped during the third caution to top off. That allowed Mikey Taylor in the JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi to take the class lead by staying out.

When the green came out, Taylor slowly but surely pulled away from the rest of the field. Despite having to conserve fuel, Taylor was able to hold on to claim his and Miller’s second straight class victory. Miller and Taylor’s margin of victory was 3.271 seconds over Victor Gonzalez Racing Team’s Morgan Burkhard and Chase Jones.

However, the VGRT No. 80 was moved to the back at the TCR class two hours later. The Hyundai Elantra N TCR was found to be too low in post-race inspection.

StarCom Racing’s Andy Lally inherited a good position on the final restart and was able to get past HART’s Chad Gilsinger on the last lap to put himself and Nick Tucker on the podium in the team’s first Pilot Challenge start. VGRT’s penalty elevates Lally and Tucker to second.

Gilsinger and Steve Eich‘s Honda Civic Type-R TCR also came up low in post-race inspection and were moved to the rear. That means that Wickens and Gottsacker are being credited with a third-place finish. Preston Brown and Denis Dupont in BHA’s No. 76 are now fourth, while Road Shagger Racing’s Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley are fifth in their Audi.

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 Unofficial Results

Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will be off for the entire month of April. They will be in action next for the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 on May 11.

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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