The Small Team Has One Win This Season and Aspirations of a TCR Championship
By Godwin Kelly
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The No. 99 Victor Gonzalez Racing Team (VGRT) that competes in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is not small – it’s almost microscopic.
“For us, it’s like David vs. Goliath,” team owner/driver Gonzalez said. “We are a really small unit. I mean really small. Other than me, we have two people who work on the car fulltime. That’s it.”
Despite working off a super-saver budget, VGRT, in its second year of Touring Car class (TCR) competition and the lone Honda Civic FK7 TCR to start every race this year, boasts a huge, early season win. Gonzalez and co-driver Karl Wittmer captured the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway in March, with Wittmer moving from third to first on a daring last-lap pass.
Gonzalez lives in his native Puerto Rico but the Honda is stowed in the St. Cloud, Florida, shop. The car has shown remarkable endurance. Gonzalez says major components used in January are still bolted to the car.
“Our car has 19,000 kilometers (11,806 miles) on it,” he said ahead of practice for Saturday’s Road America 240. “We are using the same engine we started at Daytona. We haven’t changed our engine. We are racing in the highest form of sports car competition in the United States and we know that. I want people to realize you don’t need to break the bank to race.
“We are going to keep fighting. We could use some more help, but we have a good budget. I can tell you we could win the championship. (Other teams) can change engines or gearboxes at every race if they want. We don’t have that luxury. We have to take care of our equipment. We can be there at the end. We’re going to do everything we can do to try to win the championship. We are not going to give up.”
If not for an untimely yellow flag, or a stall following a critical pit stop, or an on-track impact fighting for position, VGRT could be sitting on multiple podiums – possibly two wins – and be farther up in the standings.
“I am sixth in points,” Gonzalez said. “I’m 180 points out of second place. We’ve got a good shot to be in the top three in the championship and that’s our goal over the next three races.”
The first step of that mountain climb happens in Saturday’s four-hour race that streams live on Peacock starting at 2:15 p.m. ET. The No. 99 got off to a good start in Friday’s practice, with Wittmer leading all TCR cars with a lap of 2 minutes, 20.795 seconds (103.503 mph).
Luca Mars topped the overall and GS practice chart with a best lap of 2:16.595 (106.685 mph) in the No. 60 KohR Motorsports Mustang GT4.
Reigning TCR champions Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler top the points again. The No. 1 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR co-drivers are 80 points ahead of Roy Block and Tim Lewis (No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR).
In the Grand Sport (GS) class, Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman (No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4) have opened a 290-point gap on Eric Foss (No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4).
Formal, Marcelli Sweep Lamborghini Super Trofeo Qualifying
Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing co-drivers Danny Formal and Kyle Marcelli swept pole positions in both Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America qualifying sessions on Friday. Formal maneuvered the No. 1 Lamborghini Paramus, Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo2 around the 4.048-mile circuit in 2:06.141 (115.527 mph) to earn the pole for Race 1. Marcelli’s fast lap of 2:05.844 (115.800 mph) secured the top starting spot for Race 2.
Race 1 streams live on Peacock and IMSA.com/TVLive starting at 10:50 a.m. ET Saturday. Race 2 streams on the same outlets at 2:55 p.m. Sunday.