After a Top-10 Finish at Daytona, the Riley Motorsports Goal at Sebring Is a Top-Five Result
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One race and a few weeks of preparation are hardly enough to judge a manufacturer’s return to a racing series, but early indications from Toyota’s foray into the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge are positive.
Javier Quiros, Alfredo Najri and Julian Santero combined to finish seventh in the No. 14 Toyota Supra GT4 at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January. The team is preparing for its second race, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120, on Friday at Sebring International Raceway.
“We’re making pretty good gains,” said Bill Riley, whose Riley Motorsports fields the entry. “Daytona was OK for us – we got to the front a few times – but we weren’t able to transfer that into a result. We’re looking like we should be pretty strong at Sebring.”
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 entry list
The opening race marked the IMSA return of the Toyota brand, which had 53 previous wins – 51 in IMSA GT and two in the American Le Mans Series, including the Motul Petit Le Mans in 2013.
“Toyota’s IMSA history is stellar,” IMSA President John Doonan said when its return was announced in December. “The GR Supra GT4 program begins a new chapter, but if history is our guide, all the ingredients are in place for tremendous success.”
The team took incremental steps forward at Daytona, qualifying 15th and racing competitively in the four-hour race before coming home in seventh. Quiros and Najri will begin preparations for Friday’s two-hour race when practice begins today at 4:30 p.m. ET.
So far, Riley says, the team is checking all the boxes.
“Whenever I have a new program, you have new goals all the way along,” Riley said. “Your first goal is a top-10, then it’s a top-five, then it’s a podium and then it’s a win. We got the top-10 out of the way, so now we’re looking at a top-five and just work our way up to a win. Usually, I judge every program internally by whether it has a win or multiple wins during a season.”
Riley was approached last year by Toyota Gazoo Racing-Latin America to field a Supra for the 2021 Pilot Challenge season. The program serves as a developmental tool for Latin drivers like Quiros, who’s from Escazú, Costa Rica, and Najri, from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“It was a pretty big honor,” Riley said. “They approached me, and then they put me in touch with everyone. It all worked out quite well. It’s all sort of falling into place.”
Thirty-five cars are entered for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120: 20 in the Grand Sport (GS) class and 15 in the Touring Car (TCR) category. The No. 13 AWA McLaren 570S GT4, with drivers Kuno Wittmer and Orey Fidani, lead in GS after winning at Daytona. The No. 17 Unitronic JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS SEQ won at Daytona in TCR, with Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor back at the wheel for Sebring.
Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley co-drove the winning GS car in last year’s Sebring season finale along with Cameron Lawrence. Foley is driving with Vin Barletta in the team’s No. 96 BMW M4 GT4 this year. Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker drove to the TCR win in November in a Hyundai Veloster N TCR for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. The duo is back this time in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
Coverage of Friday’s race, a support event for the 69th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, begins at 2:30 p.m. ET. It will stream in the U.S. on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. The IMSA Radio broadcast is available on IMSA.com.