For what nearly was at Watkins Glen in Michelin Pilot Challenge

Monday, June 26, 2023


Missing any round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series is never a good thing but missing out on what become just another classic round of the inter GT4 and TCR classed series from Watkins Glen at the weekend was certainly at our loss.

Four rounds of the season crossed off already before the thirty-five strong grid made their way up to the up-state New York circuit for what was already then being forecasted as a potentially wet race. 

The first race for the Van Der Steur team was however, to rebuild their #19 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 after that chassis was written off after a robust interaction with a BMW M4 GT4 contender last time out a Detroit. A new chassis was eventually sourced by the team leaving them just enough time to deliver it to circuit for their drivers (Rory Van Der Steur and Austin McCusker) to shake down during the preliminary sessions.

We also welcomed back the #009 Stoner Car Care Aston from the Automatic Racing team with drivers Rob Ecklin and Ramin Abdolvahabi venturing something of a differing pathway this season, dipping in and out of the IMSA series now as they see fit with the remainder of the AMR powered grid again being taken up by the two Team AGM cars of Hugh/Matt Plumb (#46) with Ted Giovanis and Owen Trinkler (#64) alongside the #88 Archangel prepared car of Todd Coleman and Billy Johnson.

Within the red flag shortened Qualifying session on Friday and despite many TCR cars clocking laps faster than their GS class peers, it would be a great display from the AMR runners with the #46 TGM car finishing highest in P2, the #19 Van Der Steur next in P3 with the #009 Automatic car a very credible P9 ahead of what was being scheduled as another two-hour affair. Both the #64 and #88 cars got caught out by the incidents on track at the time, leaving them back in P15 and P16 respectively in class.

Come Saturday afternoon and (as predicted), the heavens opened which delayed the start still further after earlier delays on track but once underway the old adage of rain being the great equaliser again proved its point.

What happened next on track is now only our regret in not being around to see but somehow the #64 Team TGM car turned things about once Giovanis had handed over to Trinkler to the end. Cycling through the field for what was still a highly caution affected race with six periods of intervention – all at least 15 minutes long, saw the #64 car take (on track) the chequered flag to finish what appeared to be P3 overall.

Despite visiting the podium for the usual celebrations and whilst timing results were adjusted on-line, there appeared to be little understanding of the race results being adjusted for post-race technicalities. Eventually the news broke that both the #64 and #88 cars had been removed from the results for post-race infringements with their cars leaving the #19 car the highest placed finisher in P6 for a well-deserved boost of championship points for their efforts.

The #009 Automatic crew also had cause to celebrate as their P11 in class finish was enough to secure them the Bronze Cup win with the #64 being the last of the Aston Martin finishers in P9.

The next stop for the series will be from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in just over two weeks’ time.

Photo credits – Teams / Series
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