Michelin Pilot Challenge doesn't disappoint again at VIR

Monday, October 11, 2021

It was both sides of the racing coin again last night at the penultimate round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series as three Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4’s battled it out around the picturesque setting of the Virginia International Raceway.

With the #09 Stoner Car Care AMR of Rob Ecklin and Ramin Abdolvahabi stepping back into the series after their brief mid-season break as well as the return of the sensationally quick #23 Notlad Racing AMR of Pat Gallagher and Stevan McAleer, VIR was an important round for the third AMR runner – that of the #07 Volt Racing car of Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman as they had points to make up before the final round in their GS Championship next month.

Having missed the last round at Laguna Seca last month, the #23 as well as #07 car (who were at Laguna Seca) were both on something of a mission from the start and despite the early inclement weather that the circuit could throw their way, Hindman claimed top spot in FP2 and with the #09 Stoner car joining in the fun in the top 10 as well.

An interrupted Qualifying session completed and the #7 would start Sunday’s two-hour race from the second row in P3 with the #23 just a row back in P5 whilst the #09 car would start fourteenth in a GS grid of twenty cars.

As with most of the Michelin Pilot Challenge races so far this year, the start was another explosion of intent going into the tight first corner as Gallagher nipped at the ankles of Brynjolfsson right from the off to final take P3 from the bright yellow Volt car before the end of the first lap and as the opening laps ticked by, Gallagher continued with that racing demeanour looking for P2 whilst the #7 car hung on in there at the back of the breakaway group of five.

Half an hour in and Gallagher finally succeeded and got P2 overall as Abdolvahabi was busy fighting his own battles lower down the order, just ahead of the ultra-competitive TCR class leaders. P2 down to P3 , up to P2 and back again was the order of the day as the #23 fought hard with the #56 Murillo Mercedes for track position as the #7 car had by now dropped off the front group by just a couple of seconds.

First caution of the day (for debris and a stranded car) came just short of the first hour but notably after the first round of stops as the minimum drive time had been served by the starting driver. The pivotal point of the race however occurred just as the pit lane opened up behind the Safety Car as the #7 car pitted again for more fuel (and tyres) but the race leading #96 BMW and the P2 #23 Aston didn’t.

Going back to green with just fifty minutes remaining it appeared to be a straight run to the flag – or at least that what it appeared to be as the #96 car pitted, sacrifising their lead for an additional splash of fuel. The wait was then on to see just when the #23 car (now leading the race) would do the same or if they would do the same?

Another FCY at the thirty-minute mark helped the #23 to conserve more fuel but having pitted at the seventy-seven-minute mark, just how long could they go on a tank of fuel?

Twenty minutes, fifteen minutes – the #23 car of McAleer held onto the lead, even posting the fastest lap of the race so far but eventually, McAleer succumbed to the pressure of the chasing #16 Porsche to drop back to P2 with just minutes to go.

With certainly enough fuel this time and with the benefit of fresher tyres, Hindman made a last gasp move on the #93 Audi to secure for them what appeared to be a great P3 finish as the #07 car took the chequered flag just behind the #23 Notlad car. 

What a great result! - Or so we thought!

Post-race scrutineering proved that the #23 had indeed been running virtually on fumes as the two-hour race ended but the car failed a post race fuel capacity audit due to an additional volume being permitted against that was allowed by homologation and was sadly omitted from the results. That of course raised the #07 up to P2 overall in the race and has narrowed their points deficit in the Championship to just 280 with a race maximum of 350 being available next time out at the season finale at Road Atlanta in four weeks’ time and with five crews still mathematically possible of taking the GS title.

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

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes