Podium success for Kohr Motorsport at weather affected Sebring

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Yesterdays Advent Health 120's second round of the heavily revised 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge from Sebring in Florida again provided for some great GT4 inter class racing albeit interrupted with some timely and very seasonal Florida weather.

As previously reported, Thursdays Free Practice sessions didn't go exactly to plan for either of the Automatic Racing or Kohr Aston Martin Racing customer teams as errors and gremlins within the cars somewhat limited the track time of some before yesterday morning Qualifying.

Those gremlins certainly didn't affect the Kohr team with Nate Stacey and Kyle Marcelli putting their #60 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 on the front row of the grid with a P2 start. The two cars from local team Automatic Racing would start in P14 and P18 amongst the 35 car grid.

Originally starting under a patchy blue sky with dry track and an air temperature of 31dec C, Stacey was certainly keen to make up for the near six months of missed racing as he pushed the pole setting CarBahn Audi around the bumpy, partly concrete sectioned Sebring circuit before he soon lost P2 to Robbie Foley in his BMW. Eight minutes in and Stacey set the then fastest lap just before the race had its first Full Course Yellow for what first appeared to be for a minor shunt involving a GS and TCR car.

That turned out to be for a local weather warning for lightning that resulted in the race being red flagged, drivers allowed from their cars and circuit workers advised to seek shelter. With the race clock still counting down their would eventually be over forty minutes of race time lost whilst Race Control waiting for these weather cells to pass them by.

By the time of the restart, the track was now wet, temperatures had cooled and all cars had to be released back onto the circuit on the slick tyres on which they finished the starting portion of the race. The #60 car would retain its then P3 slot whilst the #99 Automatic car of Gary Ferrera would come out again in P12 and Ramin Abdolvahabi would return in P17 aboard his #09 car.

Two more laps around the circuit behind the Safety car with the clock again ticking left just over 65 minutes of race time - but race plans soon went south for both Automatic cars as both would suffer self induced spins on the wet track on the first two green laps. Fortunate neither to be hit, these spins left these two AMR's at the tail of the pack.

Fifty minutes to go, Stacey put a very forceful yet clean move on Foley's BMW to take P2 overall with P4 and P5 very close behind piling on the pressure. Minutes later that P1 turned into the race lead as the #60 car threaded the needle between the #39 Audi and a slower TCR car to take the race lead - and then to gap him by two seconds.

Eventually, minimum driver times had been served by the respective Am drivers and most cars elected to stop at the 40 minute remaining mark - not the #39 Audi however, who stayed out for another two laps on a quiet track to develop enough time to overcome their original time deficit to the #60 and then some so by the time the pit stop cycle was over the #39 CarBahn Audi was again in front.

With Kyle Marcelli now aboard the #60 car, he unfortunately had to spend of a lot of his immediate time and energy defending his position against a very fast Trent Hindman in the bright yellow Porsche Cayman behind. Lighter and with tyres already back up to temperature after their stop, Hindman pushed Marcelli hard and that lost him track time to the leader now breaking away ahead.

With seventeen minutes remaining the race was again neutralised with another FCY and again it was weather related. This time Race Control elected to keep all cars circulating out on track behind the Safety Car as track workers again took cover. Why?, we don't don't as their rules state that that kind of period of caution was for a minimum time period of thirty minutes so, as with any SC ruleset, that moment became the concluding part of an exciting and extra-ordinary return to racing for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Results are still provisional at the moment but they do confirm that the P2 finish for the #60 Kohr Aston Martin and Nate Stacey and Kyle Marcelli. The #99 Automatic car of Gary Ferrera/Kris Wilson finished just ahead of the #09 car of Ramin Abdolvahabi/Rob Ecklin in P18 and 19 respectively in class.

Next round is at another iconic US race track at Road America at the end of July.

Photo credits - IMSA / Kohr / Automatic

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