McLaren has already made plenty of headlines in the world of motorsport, but earned another one Friday at Circuit of The Americas.The manufacturer, competing in just its third IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race since joining the series at the beginning of the 2017 season, picked up its first series victory in the Circuit of The Americas 120 courtesy of co-drivers Matt Plumb and Paul Holton in the No. 76 C360R McLaren GT4.
In addition, it was Plumb’s 23rd Continental Tire Challenge victory, moving him into a tie with Billy Johnson for the most wins in series history.
It was a banner day in total for McLaren and C360R, as Holton put the car on the pole position for the first time in qualifying Friday morning. Holton then led the race throughout his opening driving stint in the two-hour race before handing the car over to Plumb in a pit stop just past the 50-minute mark.
Plumb was eighth in the field after the pit stop, but gradually worked his way forward through the second half of the race. He moved into the top three with 36 minutes to go, and took the lead in a thrilling, three-wide pass in Turn 1 around Trent Hindman in the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 and Robin Liddell in the brand-new Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
“I just closed my eyes,” Plumb said. “Those guys had been battling in previous corners and I knew getting by one at a time would be difficult because they were running nose to tail. The Porsche dove down to the inside and slowed them both up and I got the best run I possibly could.
“Our car was great on the brakes in Turn 1 and I had seen that lap after lap and so it was just the perfect situation. They slowed each other down, I knew I was going to outbrake them and it worked.”
When the dust settled, not only was Plumb the leader, but his C360R teammate, Nico Rondet, moved into second place in the No. 77 McLaren. Plumb went on to lead a 1-2 McLaren sweep, winning by 3.676 seconds. It was the 15th Continental Tire Challenge win for the C360R team and the second in the series for Holton.
Rondet and co-driver Mathew Keegan were second, followed by Hindman and No. 12 Porsche co-driver Cameron Cassels in third. Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott were fourth in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR, with Liddell and co-driver Matt Bell fifth in the Camaro.
In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Eric Foss and Austin resident Jeff Mosing earned their second straight COTA victory in a nail-biter over defending ST co-champions Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante.
Foss, driving the No. 56 Mosing Motorcars/Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman, withstood heavy pressure from Pumpelly in the No. 17 RS1 Porsche for much of the final hour of the race. Pumpelly closed right up on Foss several times but ultimately settled for second, 0.568 seconds, behind Foss.
“Honestly, it’s always great to race here at COTA in the Continental Tire Challenge and I was a little pessimistic maybe this morning,” Foss said. “We had been really fighting the setup. We came here and tested about a month ago and we thought we found something new that was going to work out for us and then we got here for the race weekend and we just found we just really struggled in practice.
“I know we showed some times in the practice that looked promising but ultimately we felt that we were struggling at that point. Ken Murillo did his magic, the Continental Tires were phenomenal and I think we had a little luck there but whatever it is, we’ll take it. To win back-to-back here, I wouldn’t have even thought that was remotely possible even three hours ago.”
While C360R celebrated a 1-2 overall and Grand Sport (GS) class result, the team also had a podium in ST. Pierre Kleinubing and Roy Block took third in class driving the No. 75 Audi S3.
The next round of the 2017 Continental Tire Challenge – the Continental Tire 120 at The Glen – is Saturday, July 1.
Race results are available at results.imsa.com.