By Jeff Olson
Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal outlasted three storms Friday at Sebring International Raceway — two that delayed and eventually ended the race and the storm of cars on the track.
After waiting out a one-hour, 15-minute delay because of lightning, McQuarrie and Westphal prevailed in the GS class of the Advent Health 120, the second race of the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.
They teamed in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 GT4 to outlast the No. 60 KohR Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 driven by Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli after racing was curtailed a second time because of lightning and eventually ended under caution.
It was the first race for the Michelin Pilot Challenge since the season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona in January. The pandemic-related delay was difficult for the team, Westphal said, but it was prepared to resume.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we learn as a team,” Westphal said. “Everyone at CarBahn with Peregrine Racing has been working hard and ready to go as soon as they told us it was safe to go back racing, doing it with social distancing and masks. The team is excited and we’re excited. We’re in a great position.”
McQuarrie took the lead from the pole position at the start, pulling away from Robby Foley in the Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 and Stacy in the Aston Martin. But five laps into the race, red flags waved because of lightning in the area.
After the two-hour race was restarted with an hour and 10 minutes remaining, McQuarrie lost the lead to Stacy. However, the CarBahn team regained the lead during its pit stop and driver change, when Westphal left the pits ahead of Marcelli.
“The mixed conditions came into play, and that’s something we did really well last year to win the championship,” McQuarrie said. “We know when to push it and when to pull back the reins in these mixed conditions. It worked last year. It was too risky with the sprinkles coming down, so I just backed it down a bit. I just wanted to keep them right there.”
Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins teamed to win the TCR class in the No. 21 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR. They finished 12th overall.
Wilkins credited Gottsacker’s quick start with their victory in the TCR class.
“Harry did a monster start,” Wilkins said. “He was right up in the GS field in the beginning, which was really cool. That got me inspired. … It just felt like clockwork. All of this work we’ve been doing these last few years as a team really carried over.”
The Michelin Pilot Challenge season resumes at Road America on Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on July 31-Aug. 2.
The race weekend at Sebring will continue Saturday with practice and qualifying for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will hold the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring on Saturday night. Live coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN.