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Drivers Find Varying Ways to Fill Void Between IMSA Races

Some Are Racing in Europe, Others Dive into Sim Racing, One Opts for Triathlon

By Mark Robinson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There are 54 days between when the checkered flag waved at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and the green flag flies for opening practice in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

The extended gap between IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events was prompted by the rescheduling of California races at Long Beach and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from April to September.

Faced with nearly eight weeks between events, WeatherTech Championship drivers are finding ways to keep their skills sharp – be it testing, racing in other actual events or virtual ones. At least one driver planned to maintain his competitive edge by taking on a triathlon.

More than a dozen WeatherTech Championship regulars, and at least a half dozen IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers, joined in last week’s IMSA iRacing Pro Series Presented by SimCraft race. It was the first race in a three-round event over the next four weeks to determine a season champion in two classes. Scott Andrews was the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and overall winner on Thursday at the virtual Sebring International Raceway, with Philipp Eng scoring the victory in GT Le Mans (GTLM).

This week, several drivers are in Spain to compete in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) season opener, the Barcelona 4 Hours. Ricky Taylor, normally a Daytona Prototype international (DPi) pilot for Wayne Taylor Racing in the WeatherTech Championship, is joining DragonSpeed USA for its LMP2 Pro-Am entry. He’ll co-drive with Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman, part of DragonSpeed’s winning LMP2 contingent in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Mazda Motorsports DPi driver Harry Tincknell is hopping into an LMP2 as well, with Racing Team Turkey.

Era Motorsport drivers Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley and Ryan Dalziel are also competing in LMP2 ProAm at Barcelona in a partnership with IDEC SPORT. The trio won this year’s LMP2 class at the Rolex 24 along with Paul-Loup Chatin, who’s in a second IDEC LMP2 at Barcelona along with 2015 WeatherTech Championship GTLM champion Patrick Pilet.

Several WeatherTech Championship teams are slated to test at a variety of tracks over the next three weeks, in preparation for the May 14-16 race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and for events further down the calendar.

Cooper MacNeil, who co-drove the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR-19 to the GTLM victory at Sebring, will be back in action in the Ferrari Challenge North America from April 30-May 2 at Sonoma Raceway, as he chases a fourth straight championship in that one-make series.

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Also on the horizon before Mid-Ohio is the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener on May 1, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which includes a litany of WeatherTech Championship representation on the provisional entry list. DPi regulars Renger van der Zande, Loic Duval and Filipe Albuquerque will each drive for separate LMP2 teams at Spa.

Corvette Racing has entered a Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in the LMGTE Pro class, as it prepares for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in August. Antonio Garcia, the reigning WeatherTech Championship GTLM champion, will team with Oliver Gavin, the longtime Corvette ace who stepped back from full-time racing this year, at Spa. And Ben Keating, fresh off his LMP2 triumph at Sebring, is driving a TF Sport Aston Martin in the LMGTE Am class.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s normal Corvette co-driver – Jordan Taylor – was racing solo last weekend – or planned to anyway. Taylor was scheduled to compete in a triathlon in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on Sunday but Mother Nature got in the way, forcing it to be canceled.

But the resourceful Taylor didn’t let his training go to waste. He completed his own triathlon by himself on Monday.