Late puncture ruins Notlad Racing's Michelin Pilot Challenge podium run at Road America

Sunday, August 08, 2021


The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge never fails to disappoint in terms of racing excitement and last night’s seventh round of the season so far from Road America proved itself to be no exception to that rule.

Having earlier Qualified their cars on a damp track, last night’s two-hour race would see the combined GS and TCR grid take the start on full wets as more than one weather system of constant rain was expected over the Wisconsin circuit at some point over length of the race.

Three Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4’s entered again onto this event with one each from the Volt Racing, Notlad Racing and Automatic Racing AMR stables. Qualifying earlier saw Pat Gallagher secure another front row start aboard his #23 car – missing out on pole by only the slightest of margins whilst Alan Brynjolfsson’s #7 car claimed another P6 starting slot and Ramin Abdolvahabi a P21 in the #99 Invisible Glass liveried car.

As the cars took the flag to start the race, rain wasn’t falling too hard but there was still a significant amount of standing water on the flatter parts of the track plus along the tree lined sections, spray from the cars hung in the air, effectively reducing visibility.

Despite the poor conditions, the race was well driven by the thirty-seven cars with only one or two cars getting caught out by the conditions in the early stages. Both Gallagher and Brynjolfsson initially lost ground in the opening laps but by the time of the first Full Course Yellow for a stranded Audi, Gallagher was back up in P2 before taking the lead in an ‘elbows out’ move on the #95 BMW on the restart lap.

Whilst the Notlad and Volt Aston’s were battling out front, the #99 Invisible Glass car was doing what he could in track conditions that obviously didn’t suit Abdolvahabi’s strengths, circulating just ahead of the front TCR runners in P20.

Just before the top of the first hour, contact with another car for one of the Porsche’s had that left at the side of the circuit trying to get it restarted and fearing another FCY many cars elected to pit early as minimum drive time had been completed. With a lead of just over 2.5 seconds, Gallagher had already missed pit in by this point so had to go around one more time but at least he got in before the double yellow was waved.

Stops over, and the #23 car had again dropped behind the #95 BMW as well as the #4 Mercedes to come out in P3 with Stevan McAleer now behind the wheel. Trent Hindman was now also aboard the only bright yellow entity about in P6 some ten seconds back from the leader.

Now raining harder than before, the pack was showing signs of catching the #23 car (now in P2 some 8.0 seconds behind the leader) and with only thirty minutes remaining, there was time to consider yet another podium for the Notlad Racing team. Then came disaster for the #23 car!!!

Debris on track sliced into a rear tyre forcing McAleer to pit, luckily he had less than half a lap to complete before the pit lane but at those lower speeds – the damage was already done. Changing that tyre with a top of fuel saw the #23 car emerge P19.

Notlad’s loss was initially Volt Racings gain as Hindman moved up a slot to claim P3 with little over ten minutes remaining however, fuel concerns for them forced them to pit for a splash saw their Road America effort petter out in P11 by the time of the chequered flag. An IMSA MPC debuting Michael de Quesada saw him ending his first experience within an AMR GT4 car with a drive through penalty for having left pit lane the last time with equipment still attached!!

Finishing under near darkness because of the rain, the #7 Volt Racing Aston would head the AMR trio finishing P8 whilst McAleer would eventually finish P11 as several cars ahead of them on track ran out of fuel on the final lap. The #99 car would end their race in P20.

Whilst it was obviously disappointing about the results for the Aston Martin teams, the race itself still delivered everything that we have become accustomed to.

The next round of the series will be from Laguna Seca in mid-September where we already know that the #23 car will be missing from the entry list.

Photo credits – IMSA / Teams / F Lagunas / CSJ Motorsport
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