Michelin GT Challenge at VIR – Friday Notebook
Friday, August 23, 2019

Pilet Tops Michelin GT Challenge Practice at VIR in No. 911 Porsche 

Patrick Pilet and his No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR co-driver, Nick Tandy, have fond memories at VIRginia International Raceway.

Back in 2015, the duo dominated the two-hour, 40-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Michelin GT Challenge at VIR en route to victory. That win helped catapult Pilet to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship at year’s end.

On Friday, Pilet returned to the top of the time charts at VIR, turning a best lap of one minute, 41.234 seconds (116.284 mph) around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit. Pilet and Tandy head into Sunday’s race trailing their teammates, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche, by 14 points, 248-234, so a strong showing would be beneficial for their championship hopes.

“It’s a fun track,” Pilet said. “It’s always a pleasure to be here. I had a really hot moment, I have to say, in my long run in the exit of Turn 4 when I spun. Unfortunately, I had to change the tires for a set we were going to use in the morning, which is a reason, also, why we finished ahead.

“But the car was good. It’s quite a tricky track, especially with all the series running. A lot of cars running outside of the track, a lot of dust, a lot of grass, it’s easy to make a mistake. You cannot make any mistake on this track, because you directly pick up a lot of grass and you have to stop to remove the grass during the race. So, yeah, you have to find the limit in practice. It looks pretty good. We love this track, we have good memories here, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow when it will be a bit cooler.”

Weather Prevents IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Qualifying for Saturday’s Virginia is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix

All but one session was run as planned at VIRginia International Raceway on Friday, as the possibility of inclement weather loomed all afternoon but didn’t strike until early evening.

As a result, Saturday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race – The Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix – will be gridded by team points for both the Grand Sport (GS) and TCR classes as lightning and heavy rain cancelled the session.

Leading the field to green for the second consecutive race will be the No. 39 Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 GT4 of Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal, as the pair lead the No. 82 BimmerWorld Racing BMW M4 GT4 of Devin Jones and James Clay by nine in the standings.

For the third time this season, the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR of Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins will start from the pole position in TCR. Lewis previously scored the Motul Pole Award at Watkins Glen – the first pole of his career – and again at Lime Rock Park two races ago which they went on to win.

Rounding out the front row will be the winners of the first two races of the season, the No. 37 L.A. Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR driven by Shelby Blackstock and Tom O’Gorman.

The Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix goes green on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary. Join the conversation about tomorrow’s race on social media using the hashtags #IMPC and #LOVEVA.

Hawksworth Continues Strong VIR Performance for Lexus at VIR

The Lexus RC F GT3 has been strong at VIR the past couple of years and especially last year when Kyle Marcelli and Dominik Baumann won the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the Michelin GT Challenge after Jack Hawksworth put the team’s car on the pole position.

The car was strong again Friday in practice at VIR, as Hawksworth ended the day atop the GTD time charts. His best lap was a 1:43.783 (113.428 mph) in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus that he is co-driving this weekend with Richard Heistand.

“It’s been a productive day here for us,” Hawksworth said. “The Lexus RC F always worked well here the past two years. A win with the car last year, which was fantastic. Both years, the performance was pretty strong, so we were quite optimistic, coming into the weekend. Today, we looked quite quick. I don’t know if we’re quite fast enough yet, but we’re in the ballpark. I’d say we’re closer than Road America, so I’m looking forward to the race.”

Robinson, Aschenbach Confirm 2020 WeatherTech Championship GTD Plans with Riley

In addition to a busy day of on-track activity at VIRginia International Raceway on Friday, there was some breaking news made during Friday afternoon’s live Facebook stream of The Torque Show in the paddock.

Riley Motorsports Team Owner/Director Bill Riley was a featured guest on the show co-hosted by Tommy Kendall and Justin Bell. Somewhat surprisingly, so were co-drivers Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach, who announced their plans to join the Riley team next year in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class.

“It’s pretty incredible for me,” said Robinson. “I’ve known Bill since I was tiny, tiny, tiny. I’ve known Riley Cars since about the same time. We’ve had six cars over the years, everything from Trans-Am cars to WEC to DP cars.”

“This is fantastic,” added Aschenbach. “I’ve got to thank the two of them (Riley and Robinson) for the opportunity. This is any driver’s dream. You have two great families coming together to build a great IMSA program, and I’m just a fortunate bystander to be able to get in this car with Gar. Hopefully, we can have some great success next year and showcase what we’re all capable of doing.”

Robinson and Aschenbach will be competing in Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR in the No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, while Riley’s team will be fielding the No. 33 Mercedes for co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Keating and Bleekemolen recently confirmed plans to participate in the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.

Busy Weekend for Bell As He Divides Time Between No. 12 Lexus, NBCSN Television Booth

Townsend Bell is somewhat used to pulling double duty between co-driving the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 with Frankie Montecalvo in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class and providing color commentary for NBC Sports’ coverage of IMSA and IndyCar.

He’s taking it to a new level this weekend. On Friday, Bell was busy at VIR preparing for Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge. Saturday, however, he’ll fly to St. Louis to join Leigh Diffey and Paul Tracy in the NBCSN booth for Saturday night’s IndyCar race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

He’ll be back at VIR on Sunday in plenty of time for the race, which takes the green flag at 1:30 p.m. ET and will be televised live on NBCSN.

“It’s a really fun weekend for me,” Bell said. “I hate missing IndyCar races to do sports cars and I hate the idea of missing a sports car race to do an IndyCar broadcast. So, luckily, my good colleagues at NBC have allowed me to miss today. My good colleagues at Lexus AVS have allowed me to miss tomorrow. Frankie’s going to qualify anyway, so it’s really not giving up much from a track time standpoint for me. So, I’m just really fortunate to have all the logistics worked out.

“To come back here to Virginia on Sunday, it’s like a dream weekend, frankly. This is one of my favorite tracks in the world. It’s a joy to drive in this race car. We’ve got a nice, consistent handling Lexus, and I feel like we’re kind of back in the groove. We had a bad couple of races with a bunch of little issues and things are running very smoothly now.”

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Points Leader De Angelis Paces Both Sessions at VIR

Eighteen-year-old Canadian Roman De Angelis – who currently is dominating both the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama – found himself in a familiar position at the end of each GT3 Cup Challenge USA practice session on Friday at VIR.

De Angelis led both sessions in the No. 79 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche, turning in the best lap of the day at one minute, 47.527 seconds (109.479 mph) in the morning session. His afternoon session-leading time was 1:48.862 (108.136 mph).

“We’re just trying to fight off the heat, I guess, right now,” De Angelis said. “It’s been a pretty good day. We always knew the Wright (Motorsports) cars were quick here. I think over the past three or four years, they’ve had cars that were on pole or really quick here. We saw it today with Max (Root) this morning, but hopefully we can keep it together tomorrow.”

Fred Poordad had the fastest lap in the Platinum Masters class for drivers 45 years of age and over at 1:49.142, while Rob Ferriol – who also is competing in this weekend’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race – led the way in the Gold Cup class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016. Ferriol’s best lap in the No. 5 Moorespeed Porsche was 1:51.487.

There are two GT3 Cup Challenge USA races on the docket this weekend at VIR, both 45 minutes in length. Saturday’s race starts at 11:20 a.m. ET, while Sunday’s race rolls off at 9:45 a.m. Both races will be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.

Chad Reed Leads Class in Both Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Practice Sessions

The only name at the top of two Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America practices Friday was a familiar one in the world of motorsports, but still a relative newcomer to the racing on four wheels.

Supercross star Chad Reed (No. 22 Dream Racing Motorsport, Lamborghini Atlanta) was the only driver to have the fastest time within his class in each session. In Practice 1, he turned a lap at the 17-turn, 3.27-mile VIRginia International Raceway circuit in one minute, 46.278 seconds (110.765 mph). That was eighth overall out of a 17-car field. In Practice 2 he was a just a touch off that pace at 1:46.804 (110.220 mph), but finished sixth overall.

The Australian native made his Super Trofeo debut at Watkins Glen two months ago and has one win and three podium finishes in four races.

“With time becomes more experience and each time I jump in the car, I feel like it is more mine,” said Reed, who is driving in the LB Cup class. “I did a test here on Monday and had the car to myself all day. That was probably the most significant gain that I had for today.

“I had to learn car racing over the last few races, but now I can minimize it down to just learning the racetrack,” he added. “For the most part, you know where the track goes, and it is more enjoyable. I can start to find the limit of the car, and that’s when it becomes fun.”

Other class leaders in Practice 1 were Richy Antinucci (No. 29 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte) in Pro, Patrick Liddy (No. 24 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini La Jolla) in ProAm and Steven Aghakhani (No. 6 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Beverly Hills). In Practice 2, class fastest times were put by Cedric Sbriazzuoli in No. 27 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Dallas (Pro), Jacob Eidson in the No. 09 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Vancouver (ProAm) and Madison Snow in the No. 63 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte (Am).

IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship Leaders Forty7 Motorsports Fastest on Friday at VIR

Following a month-and-a-half hiatus, IMSA Prototype Challenge contenders returned to the track on Friday at VIRginia International Raceway in preparation for Saturday’s penultimate race of the season.

Two practice sessions were on the docket for Prototype Challenge on Friday, with the championship-leading No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30 atop the leaderboard at the end of the day.

Rodrigo Pflucker’s fastest lap time of one minute, 41.160 seconds (116.369 mph) came during the morning session. Pflucker and co-driver Austin McCusker hold a 13-point lead in the championship standings.

Stevan McAleer in the No. 43 Robillard Racing Norma M30 was fastest in the evening practice with a time of 1.41.850 seconds (115.581 mph). The session was ultimately cut short by around five minutes due to lightning in the area.

Prototype Challenge cars will be back on track Saturday for qualifying at 10:45 a.m. ET ahead of the one-hour, 45-minute race at 5:55 p.m. The race will be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.

Tickets and Tune-In

Tickets for both Saturday and Sunday’s activities at VIRginia International Raceway are available for purchase at the gate. Additional information is available at VIRNOW.com.

Sunday’s main event, the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. Live IMSA Radio coverage also is available on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with a race broadcast also airing on SiriusXM Radio.

The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and IMSA Prototype Challenge races all will be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.