On a steamy Friday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway, Carbahn Motorsports clinched its first victory in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge the way every team wants to do it: in dominating fashion.
Starting third on the grid for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120, the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4 driven by Tyler McQuarrie pushed past the front-row starters and quickly settled into a lead over the pole-winning No. 46 Owen Trinkler/Hugh Plumb Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4.
The battle on the racetrack carried over into the pits, with both Carbahn and TGM pitting 1-2 on the same lap, McQuarrie handing over the reins to co-driver Jeff Westphal and the Audi keeping its lead out of the pits and back on track.
The team would eventually lead 42 of the race’s 49 laps on route to the overall victory.
“From the start, we knew we were going to have a hot race and would have to manage the tires,” said Westphal, who will be also be competing in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“We worked really hard, and it all came together — a team effort. Tyler drove an amazing opening stint and I can’t thank him enough. It’s a great feeling to put together our first W!”
Not only was this Carbahn’s first Pilot Challenge win as a team, it was also a first in the series for McQuarrie and Westphal who brought home five top-five finishes in 10 races last year, but no wins.
The team was running second at Daytona in January before running out of fuel on the final lap.
Second at the finish was the BimmerWorld Racing duo of James Clay and Devin Jones in the No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 — fourth and Daytona and another team hungry for a win.
Finishing third for the second consecutive race was Motorsports In Action’s No. 69 McLaren GT4 driven by Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus.
A lap 36 accident dropped the No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 from third back to 23rd, but co-driver Hugh Plumb charged back to 13th despite damaged suspension.
In TCR, meanwhile, Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock are now two-for-two in 2019 at two very different racetracks.
Indeed, the only thing similar about the team’s two season-opening victories was that it was their No. 37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic surviving a tough Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR race in which very few cars finished on the lead lap (just six at Sebring).
Both drivers credit the manufacturer for the car’s back-to-back wins.
“We got away with it at Daytona, not having the car figured out, because there’s not a lot of turns and we just stayed in the draft and raced the car,” said O’Gorman, whose victories at Daytona and Sebring came in his first starts at the two Florida circuits.
“Here, we got a lot more figured out. It’s cool that Honda put together a car that handles the bumps — and everything this track challenges you with — so well.”
“We’ve covered the spectrum now, and that’s what says the most about LAP Motorsports, LA Honda World, Honda and HPD,” added Blackstock. “The car was competitive [on two very different tracks], and that right there says so much.
“We’re ecstatic right now. Where do you go from here?”
Arguably the strongest TCR-class contender was the No. 17 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS of Britt Casey, Jr. and Mikey Taylor. Second at Sebring, they will return to the series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.
Making it two Hondas in the TCR top three was the No. 89 HART Civic driven by Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger.
The Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 will air on NBCSN on Thursday, March 28, at 3pm ET. The next race for the Michelin Pilot Challenge takes place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday, May 4.