Zilisch Captures MX-5 Cup Race; Thompson Wins in Porsche Carrera Cup; Kasemets Claims Prototype Challenge Pole
By John Oreovicz and Mark Robinson
BRASELTON, Ga. – Not only is the Fox Factory 120 the final race of the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season, it’s also the last-ever series appearance for the current generation of the BMW M4 GT4 and the Honda Civic FK7 TCR racing cars.
But those “old” cars showed plenty of speed Thursday in qualifying at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Dillon Machavern claimed the Motul Pole Award for the Grand Sport (GS) class in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW he shares with Bill Auberlen, while Mat Pombo was fastest qualifier in the Touring Car (TCR) class with a track-record lap in the No. 73 LA Honda World Racing Honda.
Machavern had to get down to business quickly in the 15-minute GS qualifying session shortened by a red flag. Despite only running six laps, he managed a best effort of 1 minute, 26.348 seconds (105.896 mph), besting Tom Dyer in the No. 93 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport by 0.224 seconds.
“Luckily, we were able to get a little bit of clear track because we knew we probably had only one lap to get it done,” said Machavern. “We had some heat in the tires, so it was a matter of making absolutely sure to hit my marks on that first lap.
“A bit of a swansong for this M4, but the old car is still pretty fast and I’m excited to put it on pole,” he added. “This car has been great for us, but we’re looking forward to the next generation – and still hoping to end the old car’s story with a win.”
Championship leader Alan Brynjolfsson improved to third on the GS grid on his final lap, touring the 2.54-mile, 12-corner Michelin Raceway circuit in 1:26.802 in the No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman hold a 160-point advantage over Eric Foss, who will line up sixth in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 qualified by Jeff Mosing.
In TCR, Georgia native Pombo used his considerable local knowledge to establish a new TCR track benchmark of 1:27.803 seconds (104.141 mph). That time was faster than all but seven of the larger, more powerful GS entries.
Harry Gottsacker was second at 1:28.141 in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR co-driven by Parker Chase. The No. 33 BHA Hyundai driven by Mark Wilkins and Robert Wickens managed third.
“Ryan (Eversley, co-driver) has about 25 years of experience on this track and we’re going to try to use that for our advantage,” said Pombo. “This is my home track and I’ve set a lot of records here over the years, so I have high expectations.
“A lot of guys are racing for points, but not us. We’re going all out for a win, take no prisoners. We’re hoping to end the story of this Honda Civic with a bang.”
The championship battle is closer in TCR, with defending champions Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis (No. 1 BHA Hyundai Elantra) holding a 100-point cushion over Roy Block and Tim Lewis (No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR). Hagler qualified the No. 1 Hyundai fifth on her final lap, five spots ahead of Block.
“That was her best qualifying, super-close to the front and within tenths of a second of really experienced teammates, and that gives us a great shot for tomorrow,” commented Lewis. “It’s going to be a pretty intense race, but we’re approaching it as if we have no points lead. That 100 points doesn’t mean anything because a lot can happen. This series can be pretty crazy race by race.”
The Fox Factory 120 runs starts at 1:10 p.m. ET Friday, September 30. Live coverage is available on Peacock and IMSA Radio.
Zilisch Tightens Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship with Win
Connor Zilisch led a three-car battle to the checkered flag to win Thursday’s Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires and tighten the championship race with only Friday’s season finale remaining.
Driving the No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports entry, Zilisch finished 0.123 seconds ahead of teammate Selin Rollan in the No. 87 Mazda, with Tyler Gonzalez (No. 51 Copeland Motorsports) placing third. The victory allowed Zilisch, a series rookie, to close within 40 points of championship leader Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering), who finished fifth in the race. Reigning series champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) suffered mechanical issues, finished last in the 24-car field and is likely out of contention to repeat.
Friday’s 45-minute race to close the season starts at 9:50 a.m. and streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive.
Thompson Keeps Pressure on van Berlo with Porsche Carrera Cup Victory
Parker Thompson won the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands race Thursday at Michelin Raceway to close the gap on Pro class leader Kay van Berlo to just five points with just Friday’s 40-minute finale remaining. Thompson, in the No. 9 JDX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, edged van Berlo (No. 3 Kelly Moss) by 0.548 seconds.
Porsche Junior driver Lauren Heinrich, fresh off finishing third in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup championship, made his North American debut in the race. After taking the pole position in the No. 12 311RS Motorsport Porsche, Heinrich led the opening 14 laps before sliding off course and into the Turn 1 tire barrier, ending his race.
Other class winners Thursday were Efrin Castro (No. 65 Kelly Moss) in Pro-Am and John Goetz (No. 57 Wright Motorsports) in Am.
Kasemets Wins Pole for IMSA Prototype Challenge Finale
Points leader Tonis Kasemets will lead the IMSA Prototype Challenge field to the green flag in the final race of the 2022 season after capturing the pole position in qualifying on Thursday.
Kasemets posted a best lap of 1:16.326 (119.801 mph) in the No. 60 Wulver Racing Ligier JS P320. Kasemets’ lap was 0.403 seconds better than Memo Gidley in the No. 23 AL Autosport with JDC Duqueine D08.
Kasemets need to finish in 10th place or better on Friday to clinch the championship. The 90-minute race streams live at 8 a.m. on Peacock and IMSA.com/TVLive.