Michelin Pilot Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo Also Add 2021 Entries
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jr III Racing, which made its IMSA Prototype Challenge debut in 2020 fielding the father-son entry for Greg and Eric Palmer, is expanding to a two-car team in 2021, with the second entry featuring father and daughter Ari and Natasha Balogh at the wheel.
The true family atmosphere fits in well with team owner Billy Glavin, who started Jr III Racing with his father, Billy Glavin Jr.
"We are very excited to welcome the Baloghs to the team as we take on this next chapter for Jr III," Glavin said. "Jr III Racing was formed as an outgrowth of the passion my father and I have for the sport. So, having a father-son and father-daughter driver pairings as part of the team just adds to the family-oriented environment we have."
The Palmers competed in all six Prototype Challenge races this season, with a best finish of fifth place in the No. 3 Ligier JS P3 at Sebring International Raceway in July. The Baloghs will be newcomers to Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) competition. Father Ari, 56, is no stranger to the IMSA paddock, racing in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events since 2018. Daughter Natasha, 21, has been racing in NASA and SCCA events since she was 15.
"Joining Jr III Racing and competing in the IMSA Prototype Challenge is an exciting new challenge for my daughter and I," Ari Balogh said. "Billy has put together a great team of professionals who support me and Natasha’s venture into Prototype racing. The Ligier is unlike anything I have driven before. It requires a new driving style that I have been adapting to during our test sessions."
Both the Palmers and Baloghs will have the luxury of driving the newest-generation Ligier JSP30 in 2021. Natasha Balogh, who has overcome a hearing disability to race, said she was thrilled to turn laps in it at a recent test.
"Hopping into the Ligier for the first time was unreal," she said. "Beyond the sensation of being in a closed-cockpit vehicle, the speed and aero is really out of this world. I’m excited to get more seat time so I can get settled before the season starts, but I’m also excited to start testing the limits of what the car can do."
The 2021 Prototype Challenge schedule consists of six races, each one hour, 45 minutes in length. The first race is Saturday, Jan. 23 at Daytona International Speedway as part of The Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend. Team owner Glavin is ready to build on the foundation laid this year.
"We have learned so much in our first year in IMSA," he said. "Now we have our program running efficiently with knowledge of how the Ligier performs at each track that we are able to use to continue our success. I am looking forward to heading back to Daytona to start the season."
Van Der Steur Racing to Run Full IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Campaign
Van der Steur Racing has announced a full-season entry for the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season, with drivers Rory van der Steur and Denis Dupont in the No. 19 Hyundai Veloster N TCR in the Touring Car (TCR) class.
Van der Steur made his series debut in the November 2020 finale at Sebring International Raceway, finishing 12th in class following a mechanical failure.
"I am very grateful and excited to be competing full time in this series, as a lot of factors fell in the right place for me," van der Steur said. The main goal, he added, is "to obviously win, but going up against some heavy (competition) will not make that task easy. Having Denis and some vital members on the team will hopefully make for an exciting season for us."
Dupont will make his Pilot Challenge debut in January’s four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway. He has a pair of wins in the Elite 2 division of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, sweeping the weekend at Tour Speedway in France before finishing fifth in the 2014 standings. Following that, he moved to competition in touring cars and scored two podiums in the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup championship.
"We want to fight for the championship," he said. "(We) should be a strong enough pairing to do so, and I believe the team should be capable of doing so, too."
PPM Pairing Gdovic, Ortiz in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Entry
Versatile racer Brandon Gdovic will team with 2019 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup champion Bryan Ortiz in a Precision Performance Motorsports entry in the 2021 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America championship.
Gdovic is the 2015 Am class Super Trofeo North America champion, topping it off by winning the World Final that year at Sebring International Raceway. He finished third in the Pro class this year in the No. 46 Lamborghini Palm Beach Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO. The 28-year-old has also competed in seven IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
"I’m excited to have Bryan join the PPM team and to be co-driving with me for the 2021 season," Gdovic said. "Seven years ago, we were competitors in the NASCAR K&N Series, and now all this time later will get to drive together instead of against each other. It will be a fun year and I can’t wait to start working with Bryan soon."
Following his MX-5 Cup championship season, Ortiz drove in a pair of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge races this year in the Touring Car (TCR) class. The 31-year-old from Puerto Rico is eager for learn from Gdovic in the Huracán.
"I am more than happy to be able to have this opportunity with Precision Performance Motorsports to go for the championship together with Brandon," Ortiz said. "I have known the Gdovics since the time when I drove in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. The team was always professional and putting great cars on track. Brandon was a great competitor on and off the racetrack.
"I’m excited to get behind the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO and contend for wins and the championship with Brandon."