Disappointment for the Aston runners in Michelin Pilot Challenge at Watkins Glen

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The fifth round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge from Watkins Glen in upstate New York again didn’t disappoint in terms of excitement and intrigue, although this time the final excitement was sadly left to teams other than the three Aston Martin Racing runners.

Being run under high ambient temperatures and track temperatures even higher, it was to be a race blighted with technical and tyre related matters that stopped the Corsa Horizon, Volt Racing and Stoner Car Care with Automatic Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4’s off the winning steps, although some did come close despite these issues.

The opening news from race weekend was that of Pat Gallagher standing in for an absent Manny Franco aboard their #12 Corsa Horizon car, with Gallagher then placing that car highest of the three Aston’s after Qualifying in forth – reminiscent of his GT4 days with the RS1 Notlad Racing Aston Martin GT4 with Steven McAleer!! Alan Brynjolfsson then placed his #7 car a disappointing for him P11 whilst Ramin Abdolvahabi Qualified P24 in GS with his #09 Aston Martin.

Another fast and furious rolling start form Watkins Glen with a circuit that simply encouraged speed through its sweeping opening set of corners but with high track temperatures, that was always to come at a price.

Small early gains from the #7 and #09 cars were soon cancelled out by the first FCY after the #21 Toyota impacted heavily into the barrier having been battling the #09 of Abdolvahabi just moments before with that car electing to take service at the re-opening of the pits whilst the #21 and #7 passed the pit entry by on a strategic decision for both.

At the restart, a determined Brynjolfsson passed Gallagher for position, but it quickly became apparent that the #12 car was in trouble with what appeared to be another nearside puncture. Getting the car back to the pits, that would be the last we would see of the #12 car as that, and other engine related issues forced the Gallagher/Josh Hurley driven car into retirement.

Moments later, the #7 car would also get a nearside front puncture (about the fourth of fifth of the race so far) with still another quarter of an hour to go to the midway points of the two-hour race and which would cost the Volt crew the lead lap in limping back for repairs.

Luckily for them, the FCY’s just kept coming as debris and stranded vehicles forced race control to neutralise the race and allowing the #7 car to get the wave around back onto the lead lap. The #09 car meanwhile had found itself up in the top ten thanks to the sequence of the caution periods although that wasn’t their true running position at the time.

The end of the fourth FCY left just twenty minutes remaining for Trent Hindman to catch and pass the GS car ahead of him if he wanted a podium finish from his then P13 position on track. As the laps counted down, his position on track improved by time this time was not to be their friend as they crossed the line down in P6 overall at the end.

Not the finish or indeed the race they had hoped for but a decent points finish non the less having been leading the GS class coming into the event. The #09 Stoner Car Care car of Abdolvahabi and Rob Ecklin would finish P21 overall at the end, thanks in part to an intermittent power steering issue adding to further discomfort for the drivers inside an already hot cabin.

Their next round will be a relatively short trip north and across the Canadian border as IMSA revisits the Canadi an Tyre Motorsport Park for the first time since lockdown in 2019.

That’s another day – another race!!

Photo credits – Teams

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