Michael Dinan has found himself thrown right into the thick of it in his move up to GT3 after capturing the GT4 America Pro-Am title in 2020 with Robby Foley. While Foley has a wealth of experience in racing GT3 in the Turner Motorsports BMW M6 paired with Bill Auberlen in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with Dinan in Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS, it’s a different ballgame.
The pair finds themselves competing against K-PAX’s quartet of pros in brand-new Lamborghini Huracan Evos, who have so far proven themselves the squads to beat. The other Pro team, Winward Racing, was competing in Pro-Am last season, and Russell Ward and Phillip Ellis have a 2021 Rolex 24 GTD victory in hand with Indy Dontje and Mario Engel in their new Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. And while this season wasn’t Dinan’s first laps in a GT3 car, the learning curve is steep.
“We did a few GT3 tests a few years ago and made the decision that it would be worthwhile to race in GT4 before going to GT3,” says Dinan. “The transition after running two years of GT4, going back to GT3 was way smoother and easier than the first time I jumped into a GT3 car for our testing program three years ago. I think all the seat time in GT4, just getting more comfortable… obviously the cars aren’t as quick, but when I started testing with Turner earlier this year, I was on the pace a lot faster, and I felt a lot more comfortable driving the car at the limit than I did in the past.”
The pair had originally targeted Pro-Am, but winning the GT4 championship meant that Dinan was graded Silver by the FIA. Then the Silver Cup, which was an option in 2020, was the idea, but with only two Silver and two Pro full-season entries, the two were combined for 2021.
“They had Silver last year, or we were going to try to be Pro-Am,” says Foley, “but to be fair, Michael is driving well enough, driving above his experience level, which is great to see. So it’s fair enough to be in Pro one way, but he’s also inexperienced in the same way. So, yeah, we’re in Pro, and we’ve got some tough competition. We’re ready for it, and doing our best to get some podiums and hopefully win at some point.”
Dinan and Foley have two thirds in four races, at tracks – Sonoma Raceway and Circuit of the Americas – where the BMW may not be the best tool for the job. Foley says while he feels the car needs some Balance of Performance help, he also thinks it will do better at fast circuits, and better as the team gets a better handle on the car with the Pirelli tire. Foley has a lot of experience in the BMW, and his association with Turner, along with an abbreviated off-season, made going with the team the best option. Plus, as Dinan notes, “Will [Turner] likes tacos, and so do I, so that kind of sealed the deal.”
Dinan just wrapped up his student life, completing his senior year at the University of Pennsylvania just after the COTA weekend. Foley is studying business online at Auburn, but originally started in engineering, and hopes to eventually compete both degrees. That means that for the first two races of the season, they were the only GT World Challenge America pairing both in college.
So they’re young, and both have clearly demonstrated talent at the wheel, so likely have bright futures ahead of them in motorsports. Foley has won in GTD competition in IMSA, they have the GT4 title… what’s it going to take to make the next step to GTWCA winners?
“We’re trying to improve constantly with this car on this tire in this series, and we’ll probably need a little bit of help from the series,” Foley says. “Michael is doing a great job over one lap, his speed is very good. It’s about managing tires, managing stints, and as we get better with the car, we’ll continue to improve. [K-PAX] have a very strong lineup; I’ve raced against a lot of those guys in other series. For us, we have to do our best and keep pushing forward, and Michael will keep pushing forward and we’ll try to get there.”