Team TGM take a double as the Michelin Pilot Challenge returns to action from Daytona

Saturday, January 27, 2024


Yesterday saw Team TGM stand tall and proud within Victory Lane at the end of the opening round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series from Daytona as both their #46 and #64 crews overcome personal injuries as well as circumstance upon track to claim class silverware between them.

It was however, the #46 car of Owen Trinkler and Matt Plumb who stole the headlines after Trinkler came back from serious injury sustained within a testing accident late last year to pilot his Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 for twice as long as expected to give his co-driver their best shot at a GS Class win at the end of the four-hour opener.

Within a combined GS (GT4) and TCR grid of forty-five cars, Trinkler headed the seven strong Aston Martin pack out of Qualifying on Thursday to start the BMW M Endurance Challenge from the front row in second whilst the next Aston was just outside of the top 10.

Having struggled for laps during last weekend’s Roar before the 24 Test, the #09 Automatic Racing AMR of Brandon Kidd would start from P11, just ahead of the #19 Van Der Steur of Dominic Starkweather and the #88 Archangel of Todd Coleman in P13 and P14 respectively. Frank DePew would qualify their all new 2024 AMR Vantage GT4 in P25 (after those at Rebel Rock Racing also experienced limited running at the Roar due to technical issues) with Ted Giovanis rounding off the AMR Qualifiers in P26. 

The debuting #16 Skip Barber Racing AMR crew would sadly suffer from an irreparable incident on track during an earlier Free Practice session and would not be able to start their first MPC race of the season together.

Come the start of the race, it was Trinkler aboard the #46 TGM car who publicly declared his intentions first as he rounded off the opening lap of the race at the front having passed the Pole sitting BMW on the banking as they experienced issues with their cars bodywork and whilst he made some air at the front, the #09, #88 and #19 Aston Martin’s were having to argue over their own real estate on track in the midst of the GS pack.

With various TCR cars suffering varying ill effects of racing out on track, the circuit stayed green long enough for the GS leaders to start passing through what was left of the class before the first caution period came about after the pole setting BMW suffered contact out on track.

Once pit lane was opened, all Aston Martins except for the all new #71 Rebel Rock Vantage pitted for service as some were just ten minutes short of their minimum drive time. The trouble with cautions being that they tend to breed cautions nearly came about as the #19 Van Der Steur of Starkweather and the #88 Archangel car of Coleman appeared to each miss their braking point into the International Horseshoe to bump each other wide and off track – no major damage to either but both suffered a heavy drop in running position as a result.

With the #71 eventually pitting for Andrew Davis to take charge, the #46 TGM car of Trinkler was back into the lead but with still nearly three hours, the race sadly unravelled for the #88 Aston Martin of Coleman. Suffering further side to side contact and a resulting puncture, that damage, speeding within the pit lane and having too many operatives working upon the car in pit lane – well, that just added at least four to five drive through penalties to their ongoing woes which effectively ended their race there and then.

They however were not the only ones to receive penalties as Davies was soon back along the pits after the #71 car allowed its wheels to spin whilst upon their jacks at the last service. With second drivers now aboard the #19, #09 and #64, it was time to see what Rory Van Der Steur, Ramin Abdolvahabi and Kris Wilson (respectively) could do about their mid to lower GS track positions.

Passed halfway and it was soon to be another blue-on-blue contact as a charging Wilson aboard the #64 unfortunately nudged the #19 car of Van Der Steur into a spin going into turn 1 – whilst the #19 obviously lost both time and positions, Race Control did not impose any sanction onto Wilson for that incident!

More Full Course Cautions for thankfully non major incidents on track later and the race was shaping up nicely into a final hour dash to the flag. With all six remaining Aston Martins still circulating (although the #88 was by now well out of contention being 8 laps down), the #46 of Plumb was still holding robust P3 but with the #19 and #71 cars up to P10 and P11 before a small gap to the #64 and #09 in P14 and P15.

With fuel strategy now playing a significant impact on the front runners, Rebel Rocks own strategy was again compounded by a second DTP – again for wheel rotation at their last stop. Oh, what might have been had these two simple errors in pit lane had been avoided!!!

As the race entered its final ten minutes, both leading BMW’s blinked first and pitted for fuel whist Plumb, and the third leading BMW stayed out as each driver effectively played Russian roulette with their fuel numbers. Eventually and with just two lap to go Plumb pitted for that splash of fuel that would be enough for that car to secure a magnificent P3 overall at the chequered flag.

Robin Liddell brought home their new #71 AMR home in P9 whilst Valentin Hasse-Clot was unable to haul his #19 Van Der Steur car higher than P11 at the end whilst the #64 TEAM TGM came home P14 overall but also first within their own Bronze Cup class to make for a great day for the Giovanis owned team. The #09 Automatic Racing car of Rob Ecklin would eventually come home P15 in class with the #88 Archangel car of Coleman and Aaron Telitz rounding off the AMR contingent in P20.

Another epic Daytona opener for the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series that now moves onto round two from Sebring in March.

Photo credits – AMR / Teams / social media / H Pitman / D Gibson
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