Wrong place at the wrong time for Kohr Motorsport at VIR

Sunday, August 23, 2020

In a change to customary IMSA proceedings, this weekends fourth round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge was swapped over to a Sunday Raceday to allow those competing in both the Weathertech Sportscar Championship and at the Indianapolis 500 to do both, allowing the highly competitive GT4 field to have a 'leisurely' race around the picturesque Virginia International Raceway a day later than usual.

Arriving into Sunday mornings Qualifying with not quite as much track time as they usually would have due to a serious accident for one of the BMW races during the second Free Practice, the Aston Martin Racing Drivers Academy driver of Nate Stacey still placed his #60 Kohr Motorsport prepared AMR Vantage GT4 onto the front row of the 32 car grid ahead of this afternoons two hour race.

Joining them from the AMR facility was again the Stoner Car Care sponsored Automatic Racing cars of Rob Ecklin Jnr/Ramin Abdolvahabi in the darker blue #09 car and team returnees Charles Espenlaub./Charlie Putman now aboard the lighter blue coloured #99 car. First time out in the new AMR Vantage for the latter pairing, they still managed to out Qualifying their team mates starting from P12 as opposed to P19 for the #09 crew.

Just like the GTD race of yesterday, the race immediately went from green to Full Course Yellow as two TCR cars came to blows with both requiring rescuing from the still wet grass infield of the 3.2 mile circuit as nearly fifteen minutes were lost to this caution period,  At the opening corner, the pole setter had also gone wide and off track and that allowed the Turner Motorsport BMW and Multimnatic Ford Mustang to muscle their way passed Nate Stacey for position but at least at the time of caution the #60 car was still holding P3.

At the restart, the #99 Automatic car of Putman was pushed into a spin from behind and that dropped them back down from P14 just before the caution to P25 by the time that the car had recovered itself back onto circuit. For the next ten minutes or so, Stacey was having to work out his methodology in passing the experience of Scott Maxwell ahead in the Ford Mustang which he finally managed to do in the final sequence of corners after thirty minutes of race time before his next target became Robbie Foley in the BMW ahead.

Hitting forty five minutes of racing, the BMW pitted early from the lead for their first full service stop but Stacey kept going as a good hour of capacity within the tank of the AMR Vantage but just having passed the pit entrance - a second Full Course Caution was called for a stranded Mercedes AMG on track. That spelled disaster for the #60 car as they hadn't pitted - pit lane was now closed and the six cars behind them up until then had pitted.

Pitting as soon as they were permitted to after that wasn't going to win them any track time as Kyle Marcelli emerged P8 in the GS train by the time the track went green. The #09 Automatic car meanwhile was having its own strife with being pinged for pit lane steed violation at their time of stopping for the first time - earning themselves a further Drive through penalty.

At the half way point, a third FCY was necessary for another TCR car that had nose planted into the tyre wall at T1 - fortunately without serious damage to the car or injury to the driver but still another ten minutes lost from the race clock.

At the restart, Marcelli had no option other than pushing the #60 car as far up the timing screen as possible. Any further podium finish was looking very distant - not through any fault of their own or the teams, just one of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the time counted down, the #60 car established P7 and then P6 but by then the gap to the next car was too large to overcome with just a few minutes remaining.

A provisional P6 finish it was for the Stacey./Marcelli AMR Vantage - their promising run of high podium finishes had come to an end. For Automatic - they just needed to find themselves some rhythm in the car from the midfield to rear of the pack in which they usually find themselves. The return of Putman and Espenlaub to the team and the new Aston looked promising depending upon where these guys now take themselves as they are more used to racing Porsches and Mercedes in Europe these days!

The only good thing for the Kohr Motorsport crew was that the Championship leading Audi faired worse than themselves so even this result has narrowed the gap to those ahead as the teams now look forward to the next round at Road Atlanta in two weeks time!

Photo credits - IMSA / Kohr / Stoner Car Care / CSJ Motorsport 

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