It wasn’t just the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that saw a lengthy delay in racing due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has affected all IMSA series.
And while the WeatherTech Championship restarted its season this past weekend with the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona, it’s time to bring out the green flag for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge.
The Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring weekend on July 16-18 will host the second race of the season for both series as Pilot Challenge last raced on January 24 in the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona. It’s been an even longer drought for Prototype Challenge, which opened its season on January 4 during the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
Thirty-five cars are entered for the Advent Health 120, which will feature the Pilot Challenge race cars at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17. Thirteen LMP3 machines will compete in the one hour, 45-minute Prototype Challenge return on Saturday, July 18 at 11:50 a.m. just prior to the WeatherTech Championship Cadillac Grand Prix at 5:40 p.m.
Both Challenge series races will be streamed live, flag-to-flag on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio will commentate each session throughout the weekend on RadioLeMans.com.
Here’s a closer look at the entry list for both races.
- IMSA veteran Chad McCumbee is back on the Pilot Challenge entry list for the first time since 2018. He’ll already be up to speed with the Ford Mustang GT4 he’s scheduled to drive, as that was the most recent race car he ran in the series with Multimatic Motorsports. This time, however, he’ll be aboard the unmistakable pink No. 40 Ford with PF Racing and co-driver James Pesek.
- Another driver change is that of Alec Udell in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4. Udell takes the place of German Philip Ellis, who ran alongside co-driver Bryce Ward in the BMW Endurance Challenge. Udell has two previous starts in Pilot Challenge, with his best finish of 11th coming last year in GS, ironically at Sebring.
- The No. 3 McLaren 570S GT4 initially ran under the M1 Racing banner at Daytona in January, but now has been absorbed by Motorsports In Action, a team that is no stranger to McLarens in Pilot Challenge. MIA joined the series in 2017 and has solely run a McLaren GT4 with each of its entries. This time, it’ll be with Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America veterans Sheena Monk and Corey Lewis, who finished 18th at Daytona.
- The last time GT4 machinery took to the Sebring circuit in an IMSA-sanctioned race was the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore on November 10. It treated the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 well, with Dylan Murry and James Cox earning the checkered flag. After following that up with a BMW Endurance Challenge win in January, the team will be eager to extend its winning streak.
- Taking a look at the TCR class, there’s a new entry from Bryan Herta Autosport that bumps up the team’s car count to four. Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman will pilot the No. 29 Hyundai Veloster TCR N. It will be Brockman’s debut in the series, while Chase has a lone start from Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in 2017, finishing eighth in GS.
- Also making his debut in Pilot Challenge is Michael McCarthy in the No. 32 FASTMD Racing with Speed Syndicate Audi RS3 LMS TCR. He’ll have Mikey Taylor by his side, whose previous experience with the Audi TCR machine includes a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year. McCarthy’s past racing experience includes Rally Cross and an extensive karting background.
- Just as Riley Motorsports will be going for its third consecutive win in Pilot Challenge, Forty7 Motorsports drivers JJ Jorge and Joel Janco will be looking to do the same. The pair won at Sebring in the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore and again in the series’ opener at the Roar with Kyle Kirkwood as their third driver in both races. Jorge and Janco return to Sebring in the No. 47 Norma M30 LMP3.
- Performance Tech Motorsports is taking it at step further at Sebring when it comes to precautions against the coronavirus. The team is partnering with VB Enviro Care, using its products to sanitize the air and surfaces in the team’s paddock area. VB Enviro Care was introduced to the team through driver and surgeon Dr. Robert Masson, who has been using the products at his workplace, the Masson Spine Institute, thanks to a friendship with VB Enviro Care CEO, John Viscogliosi.
- JDC Motorsports is back in the Prototype Challenge paddock with the No. 9 Norma M30 LMP3 entry and drivers Scott Andrews and Gerry Kraut. The pair ran five of six races in 2019, missing the opening race at Daytona similar to this year. Just because they haven’t competed yet doesn’t mean they should be written off – they finished as high as third last year at CTMP and fifth one race beforehand at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- Also running their first race of the season will be Robillard Racing. Drivers Stevan McAleer and Joe Robillard were prepared to run their No. 10 Norma M30 LMP3 at the Roar, but mechanical issues before the race prevented them from making it to the grid. However, the pair scored the victory at Sebring last year in Prototype Challenge and will be hoping for more of the same this time around.
- While most teams will be shaking off the rust after such a long hiatus, the father-son duo of Greg and Eric Palmer already did so nearly one month ago. In June, the Jr III Racing drivers headed up to Road America to run their No. 3 Ligier JS LMP3 in SVRA’s 2020 Vintage Festival. At Sebring, they’ll be looking to improve following a 10th-place run at the Roar.