Promising Finish Cuts Out For Atlanta Speedwerks At Sebring

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

For the second time in this young IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season, Atlanta Speedwerks worked a combination of speed and strategy to perfection to put Brian Henderson and Todd Lamb in position to score a podium finish in the TCR class.
 
And for the second time this season, bad luck cost the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks/BHR Honda Civic TCR late in the race.
 
The team leaves the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway on Friday with an eighth-place finish that doesn’t tell how strongly the blue and yellow Honda ran throughout the race for the team, making their debut in the series this season.
 
Henderson started second but was already in the lead as a full-course yellow came out on the race’s opening lap. Though he relinquished the lead on the lap four restart, Henderson ran in the top-three for the first hour of the two-hour timed race.
 
A small bobble on lap 18, 45 minutes into the race, dropped Henderson to third, behind the leading Audi and another Honda Civic TCR. Running third in class, but with the GS cars beginning their pit stops, Henderson was running fifth overall.
 
With an hour remaining in the race, the Atlanta Speedwerks team called Henderson to pit lane – the first of the class leaders to make their lone stop of the race.
 
“What a fun weekend at Sebring, right up until the finish,” Henderson said. “It was great to run in that lead battle. The Honda Civic TCR is such a great car. Even on a difficult track like Sebring, it handled the bumps and our Pagid Brakes helped get us into the corner. That kept us up front, and the Atlanta Speedwerks team made a great call to pit when we did. Hopefully we’ve got our bad luck out of the way, because we’re really looking forward to the rest of the year.”
 
After a stop for fuel, fresh Michelin tires on the front and a driver change to Lamb, the Honda was back on track. As the remaining leaders made their stops over the next three laps, Lamb cycled back to a 2.37-second gap over second-running Tom O’Gorman’s Honda.
 
But less than one lap later, the race’s second and final full course caution erased that gap, as well as the 14 seconds to third place and the 21 second lead over fourth. With the GS class cars making their second and final pit stop under yellow, Lamb was riding in 2nd overall position, still leading the TCR class, behind the pace car.
 
Poised for the final 30-minute dash to the finish on the lap 35 restart, Lamb’s momentum literally disappeared. The Civic unexpectedly lost power at the green flag, dropping several positions.
 
“We really don’t know what happened yet,” Lamb said. “At one point, it felt like it was at 50 percent power. I reset the car and fired it back up, and everything seemed fine. We came to the green flag and as soon I stepped on it coming out of turn 17 I could feel it switch to low power mode. I just got out of the way. We fell right to the back of the pack and I spent the rest of the race resetting it every lap and trying to keep every position I could.”
 
Though the car made it to the finish, it was a lap behind the eventual winning Honda. Despite the disappointing finish, the season-long momentum continues. Lamb’s best lap of 2:15.757 (98.129 mph) was the second quickest of the race in the TCR class. And, of course, the team found itself out in front – just like in Daytona, when Lamb led a flat tire with minutes remaining in the four-hour race.
 
“We keep putting each other in position to win, and that’s all you can do,” Lamb said. “We’ll come back the next time and hope to put it all together.”
 
The Atlanta Speedwerks team has a lengthy break in the schedule until round three during the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, May 3-5. The Mid-Ohio race is another two-hour race for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship.
 
The Sebring race will air on NBC Sports Network on Thursday, March 28 at 3 p.m. EDT.

 

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