Not AMR powered teams day again at IMS for Michelin Pilot Challenges penultimate 4hr round

Sunday, September 17, 2023


Last nights extended IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series event from Indianapolis Motor Speedway sadly proved itself not to be the one for any of the four Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 powered teams despite their promising start during Qualifying.

With both the #19 Van Der Steur of Austin McCusker and the #88 Archangel car of Billy Johnson starting from the second row of the grid and another (#46 Team TGM of Hugh Plumb) for yesterday’s four hour long, penultimate round of the season, the race sadly saw more indiscipline, incident and accident that eventually put paid to their chances.

Despite the threat of rain, it was a good start from all concerned as the Johnson quickly moved up to second overall with both McCusker and Plumb battling between themselves for P5 and P6 but as the race settled, the #88 car would drop one place but would run comfortably between the pair in front and the group battling behind.

An early incident for the fourth Aston of Ted Giovanis aboard the #64 car saw him pushed wide into turn 1 only to return to the track just as those who pushed him wide collided with the overall race leaders also passing by at the same time.

With everything otherwise running smoothly, just half an hour in saw the #46 TGM car tapped into a spin by the #95 BMW and whilst the offender was awarded a drive through penalty for his efforts, the time lost by the Aston appeared longer as Plumb was forced to wait for a gap in the traffic not to mention the damage to the suspension that would haunt them for the remainder of the race.

Moment later had both Team TGM cars pit for fuel only just as the first Full Course Yellow was issued for a stranded TCR car which then allowed both the #19 and #88 cars pit for full service and their first driver change to Rory Van Der Steur and Todd Coleman respectively. That glitch in the strategy saw the #46 car to soon pit again for a driver change – something that lost the Plumb brothers even more track time!

Just as the first hour was passed, effective disaster struck as first the #46 was given a drive through penalty of their own for leaving their pit box with pit equipment still attached, a brave move from Van Der Steur in the #19 car saw him lose more places that he won and the #88 of Todd Coleman now aboard had an off-track excursion, losing his then P10 position.

Second hour completed and the next round of stops were now due as Johnson took back the reigns of the #88 car and Valentin Hasse-Clot got his first racing action aboard the #19 car having left the pit lane also with pit equipment still attached to leave a huge fuel puddle in their pit box and a rendezvous back through the pit lane for their efforts! The #88 car would also disappear behind the wall for unknown reason.

Beyond the halfway stage, the #19 car was still the lead Aston Martin but well down now in P12 as the Frenchman looked to make amends with what he had underneath his right foot. With the Mercedes AMG GT4 and BMW M4 GT4 still the dominating forces within the GS class, any resurgence on race position would be difficult for any of them.

As the light continued to fade and the rain continued to threaten, the IMS circuit was still being problematic for the remaining AMR runners as both the #19 and #46 cars reported damage. Whilst the #88 car would return to the track after affecting the necessary repairs but some twelve laps down, the #65 of Own Trinkler would have to make the opposite journey through pit lane for repairs to the rear end of the car with just an hour to go.

Now effectively a night race, the final sixty became as equally as balmy as the opening sixty minutes as all used the opportunities of the ensuing periods of caution for their benefit. Ultimately, the earlier suspension damage to the #46 car eventually saw them forced into retirement before similar events befell their sister #46 car after that incident that Giovanis had to deal with earlier with the TCR cars.

Whilst the #88 was again circulating on track after their earlier issues, it was just the #19 Van Der Steur car that remained technically still within the race, still on the lead lap in seventh and with just minutes to go. That, however, also didn’t go to plan as the car was pushed off track before recovering to finish back in P12 for their efforts.

Its certainly not been the year of the AMR Vantage GT4 within the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series this season, a year that rounds off at Petit Le Mans in four weeks’ time.

Photo credits – Team / Series / Michelin / social media
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