McQuarrie & Westphal Star In Sebring Heat

0
136
Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal earned the first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge victory for Carbahn Motorsports Friday at Sebring Int'l Raceway (IMSA Photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – On a steamy Friday afternoon at Sebring Int’l Raceway, Carbahn Motorsports clinched its first victory in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge the way every team would wish to do so – in dominating fashion.

Starting third on the grid for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 in the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4, Tyler McQuarrie jumped out past the cars on the front row immediately on the first lap. A caution deeper in the field, also on the first lap, solidified the No. 39 Audi in the lead over the pole-sitting No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4.

The battle on the racetrack carried over into the pits, with both Carbahn Motorsports and Team TGM pitting 1-2 on the same lap. McQuarrie handed over the reins to co-driver Jeff Westphal and the Carbahn crew excelled on the stop, allowing the No. 39 Audi to retain the lead over the No. 46 Mercedes-AMG out of the pits and back on track.

The team would go on to lead 42 of the race’s 49 laps en route to victory.

“From the start of it, we knew we were going to have a hot race and to manage the tires and tire degradation was going to be key to make the car consistent,” said Westphal, who will be also be competing in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. “We worked really hard with the boys and Tyler and everyone the first couple days. It all came together, it was a team effort. Tyler drove an amazing opening stint and I can’t thank him enough.

“It means a lot to me, everyone’s efforts. I’ve known this guy for a long time. We’ve been teammates for a season. It’s a great feeling to put together our first W.”

Not only was this Carbahn’s first Pilot Challenge win as a team, it was also a first in the series for McQuarrie and Westphal. The team came oh-so-close to bringing home a checkered flag in 2018, but rather brought home five top-five finishes in 10 races instead. The team was also running second at Daytona in January before running out of fuel on the final lap.

“Coming into this race, we had high expectations to make up some of the deficit we created in Daytona,” said McQuarrie. “The guys did an awesome job, the car’s been great the entire weekend. For us to thank them, this is the best way. We went out and led the entire race and to give this team a win, their first win, is a great feeling and it’s going to give us momentum moving forward to the next race.”

Inching closer to the top step of the podium is the BimmerWorld Racing duo of James Clay and Devin Jones in the No. 82 BMW M4 GT4. Clay and Jones finished fourth at the season-opening race at Daytona and the only improvement to make would be a win.

Finishing third for the second consecutive race was Motorsports In Action’s No. 69 McLaren GT4 of Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus.

In the TCR class, it’s Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock are now two-for-two during the young season after winning in January at Daytona Int’l Speedway and Friday at Sebring.

The only thing similar about the victories was that it was their No. 37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic that survived a Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR race which had only six cars finish on the lead lap.

Coming from the banks of Daytona Int’l Speedway to the bumps of Sebring Int’l Raceway, O’Gorman and Blackstock both credit the manufacturer for the car’s back-to-back wins.

“We got away with it at Daytona, not having the car figured out because there’s not a lot of turns and we stayed in the draft and raced the car,” said O’Gorman, whose victories at Daytona and Sebring came in his first starts at the two circuits. “Here, we got a lot more figured out. It’s also cool for Honda to put together a car that handles the bumps so well and everything that this track challenges you with. We’ve covered the spectrum now.”

“That’s the biggest thing that says the most about LAP Motorsports, LA Honda World, Honda and HPD,” added Blackstock. “They’re two totally different racetracks. One was very smooth with high banks, one has been here since World War II and is extremely bumpy. The car has been competitive in both of them. That right there says so much about both organizations. It’s definitely made our lives easier, but we’re ecstatic right now. Where do you go from here?”

Arguably the strongest contender in the TCR class all weekend, the No. 17 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS of Britt Casey, Jr. and Mikey Taylor, finished second at Sebring and will return to the series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

Making it tow Hondas in the top three was Ryan Eversley and Chad GIlsinger in the No. 89 HART Honda Civic.