This is the second installment in a three-part series to examine some of the top IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge storylines heading into the series’ season finale at Road Atlanta on Oct. 10-13.
The 10th and final race of the Continental Tire Challenge season – the Fox Factory 120, part of the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend along with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – takes place on Oct. 12 at 1:25 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.tv. Tickets are also available at RoadAtlanta.com.
The introduction of the TCR class into the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in 2018 marked the first occasion the category has been fully integrated into North American sports car racing, and it sure has left an impression nearing the end of the season.
As new cars continuously joined the field throughout the first nine races, teams were required to stay on the top of their game to better the competition. Here’s a look at which ones found a way to do just that:
Thomson: No “Team Orders” for Top Three Compass Racing Cars at Season Finale
Fielding three cars for the duration of the 2018 TCR season – in addition to a McLaren GT4 in the GS class – Compass Racing was ready to come out swinging for the first TCR title in the Continental Tire Challenge.
The team’s three Audi RS3 LMS racecars have recorded a staggering seven victories, 16 podium finishes and five pole positions which, with one race remaining, has each Compass Racing car in the top three of the TCR championship standings.
With the team’s success this season, they rank as only one of six Continental Tire Challenge teams to have wins in three or more classes in series history and are also within two victories of tying Turner Motorsport for the most series wins by an entrant.
“It’s a dream come true to head into the final round with all three of our TCR cars having been so competitive all year,” said Compass Racing Team Principal Karl Thomson. “It’s a testament to our drivers and crew, who are all passionate about our sport and about winning. As you can imagine, there’s fierce competition between the other TCR teams, but also within our own squad to take the championship.
“It’s been a really tight fight all season between the No. 77 Audi of Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long and the No. 74 of Rodrigo Sales and Kuno Wittmer, with the 77 having a narrow lead [288-283] going into Road Atlanta. I’d love to see Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing in our No. 75 RS 3 take a win and solidify their third place in the standings.
“But in a situation like this, we firmly believe that there aren’t any “team orders” with the exception of the golden rule of not taking each other out. We’re all looking forward to a great finale to what’s been a fabulous season.”
Johnson Hits Stride with JDC-Miller Audi for Emotional Breakthrough Season
In his third season of Continental Tire Challenge competition, Michael Johnson has finally been able to show others what he’s had all along – true talent.
A paraplegic since age 12, Johnson previously tried his hand at the Street Tuner class alongside co-driver Stephen Simpson and JDC-Miller Motorsports, recording a best finish of fourth twice in a BMW 228i. However, it’s the move up to the TCR class for 2018 that seems to be the perfect fit.
After a late start to the season – as a result of an incident at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January during which Johnson broke his leg – the No. 54 JDC-Miller Audi wasted no time making its way to the front of the field. In fact, Johnson led laps in the team’s first race back at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May. They finished fourth at Mid-Ohio, third at Watkins Glen and then second at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
It was the next race at Lime Rock Park where the magic happened. Johnson and Simpson finally broke through for their first win together and Johnson’s first win as a professional race car driver.
“I have been thinking about this win, coming in professional car racing since I broke my back,” said Johnson after the victory. “This is all the hard work over the years coming together and everyone gets to see that. It makes me so proud that I can prove to everyone that I’m the same as everyone else and that I deserve to be here, and I love to be here.”
The success didn’t stop there – he and Simpson have twice landed on the podium in the three races since winning at Lime Rock in July – and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be contending for the final win of the season in two weeks at Road Atlanta.
“2018 has been a fantastic year,” said Johnson ahead of the season finale. “It started a bit rough breaking my leg in January, but the success I’ve had after the injury is everything I’ve been working for. JDC-Miller Motorsports is a championship caliber team and they’ve shown that this year as well as Stephen Simpson running this Audi RS3 LMS TCR car. 2019 should be another fantastic season.”
eEuroparts Makes a Fast First Impression Amidst Rookie IMSA Season
While this season was the first for TCR in the Continental Tire Challenge, it was also a first for Connecticut-based eEuroparts.com Racing.
Lee Carpentier and Kieron O’Rourke were brought in to pilot the No. 10 Audi RS3 LMS as a full-season entry, and eEuroparts soon added a second car – the No. 12 of Kenton Koch and Tom O’Gorman – for a handful of races beginning at Watkins Glen International in July.
It didn’t take long for eEuroparts to show that a rookie team could give veteran teams a run for their money. The No. 10 took a spot on the podium in the season’s second race at Sebring International Raceway and the No. 12 followed up by pulling off the underdog victory at VIRginia International Raceway in August. O’Gorman is also on a hot streak of four consecutive TCR pole positions.
“We’re excited to be wrapping up our first successful season of racing with IMSA,” said Team Owner Matt Moran. “With one race still to go we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to compete for both a podium finish in the race and in the season team points.
“Looking back, we certainly didn’t expect to already have four podium finishes as a team along with four Motul Pole Awards. It’s great to be racing with a series that rewards our hard work and perseverance throughout the course of a season. Racing with IMSA has met or exceeded every expectation we’ve had so far.”
Even more, Moran described his appreciation for how IMSA and eEuroparts have worked together this season in hopes of benefitting both the team and the series in the long run.
“We’re grateful to IMSA for the work that they’ve done to promote our team and company through the year and hope that the work we’ve done can help to grow the Touring Car field for the inaugural season of the Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2019.”