IMSA will welcome a new GT Daytona team to its WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock this week at Mid-Ohio when the championship-winning CarBahn with Peregrine Racing outfit steps up from the Michelin Pilot Challenge series.
Led by a pair of Californians in Steve Dinan and Jeff Westphal, the No. 39 Audi R8 LMS GT3’s Mid-Ohio outing will be the starting point for a GTD Sprint Cup campaign that will take in the rest of the non-endurance rounds.
“The CarBahn with Peregrine Racing team is a joining of two forces,” Westphal told RACER. “It’s Mark Siegel, Samir Gandhi, and myself with Peregrine, and the CarBahn side is Steve Dinan. He’s been behind the team’s operation for three seasons, helping us to build a brand for ourselves that could attract an auto manufacturer.
“So we joined with Audi, had some success with them in GT4, ended up securing a championship in Michelin Pilot Challenge in our second season as a team, and then started looking forward to the next step. The Sprint Cup championship made a lot of sense for us to get started in GTD competition.”
CarBahn with Peregrine Racing will be the only GTD team making use of Audi’s GT3 model at Mid-Ohio, and while the chassis has not featured among the front-running cars in the class for a few years, Westphal is confident he and co-driver Richard Heistand will have something to show the GTD field.
“We’re confident that the Audi is going to be a very good platform for us; we have in-depth understanding of how the car works and what it needs,” he said. “I think a lot of teams have tried to run the car and struggled with it both in GT3 and GT4 in the last couple of years, but we have a pretty good understanding of what the car wants and how to make it sharp and pointy and compete at the right end of the field.
“Ultimately, what this whole program is about is to do not only a good job, and do a professional job and represent our partners in the way they should be, but also to demonstrate the engineering that goes into the program and marketing the car’s capabilities. For us, it’s very much a partnership.”
Having raced and won for the Scuderia Corsa GTD team from 2013-2020, Westphal will get his first chance to work with Heistand, whose open-wheel and sports car background should complement his teammate who spent time on the Road To Indy ladder before making the same turn to GT competition.
“We have a similar backstory with Richard doing some Formula Atlantic in the past years ago, and then came back into racing with sports cars, which is close to my own story,” he said. “In the last three or four years, he’s raced in GTD at Lexus, and then he’s done the endurance rounds with Grasser in a Lamborghini, so for us, Richard made a lot of sense.
“He’s experienced in the Lamborghini – most people don’t know that Lambo and the Audi share the same platform. The chassis are the same; the engines and gearboxes are the same, the suspension geometry is the same. But the bodywork is different. And there are subtle differences, but a lot of what he’s going to see in the Audi is going to be what he’s just seen the last 18 months with Grasser.
“So as far as finding someone who could help contribute to the program, in many ways, he ticked a lot of those boxes. He has experience on the Michelin tire, and I’m excited to work with him. I think he’s going to be a great asset for us.”