Volt Racing parlayed smart pit stop strategy and a fast Aston Martin Vantage GT4 into victory for drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120, Round 3 of the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Brynjolfsson guided the No. 7 Aston from ninth to second during his race-opening stint Saturday before making a timely pit stop to hand the car off to Hindman just prior to the second of four full-course cautions that punctuated the two-hour contest at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
When the majority of the Grand Sport (GS) class pitted during the caution, Hindman emerged in a lead he would not relinquish. He pulled away to a four-second lead in the closing laps before easing up to cross the line 2.513s ahead of the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport shared by Alexandre Premat and Steven McAleer.
“The guys up on the pit box put us in position to get it done today. Our job behind the wheel was just not to screw it up,” said Hindman. “It was a great call to stay out for the first yellow, and an even better call to come in for the second.
“That’s what got us out front in clean air. I think it would have been difficult if we had to race from the back – I don’t know if we had the pace. But in clean air, we certainly did.”
Brynjolfsson did an excellent job moving through the field during his stint, capitalizing when several competitors – including the RS1 Porsche and pole winner/early leader Kenton Koch in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 – elected to pit during the first caution and commit to a two-stop strategy.
“It was a great strategy to leave me out and do a one-stop fuel stint,” Brynjolfsson said. “That helped out a lot. It’s such an aggressive track on tires, so the key was not sliding the car and trying to be patient. I felt like there were times in the race where I could have tried to make a move forward, but I didn’t want to slide the tires.”
The differing strategy dropped the No. 28 RS1 Porsche to 11th place when Premat handed over to McAleer, who unleashed a furious comeback drive.
The 37-year-old Scotsman revealed he suffered from food poisoning on Friday night and called Saturday’s race one of the hardest events he could remember.
“Alex was flying, we were sitting in second in a good spot, but based on where we were at on the racetrack, we missed the opportunity to come in under a green flag,” McAleer said. “That really shuffled the order quite a bit.
“What a hard fight – I love this GT4 racing in the Pilot Challenge,” he added. “There wasn’t a single car I caught that was easy (to pass) and everyone played a different game. We might have gotten a shot at Trent if we’d got another caution, but congratulations to the Volt guys.”
Alfredo Najri and Thiago Camilo finished third to claim the first podium result for Riley Motorsports’ No. 14 Toyota Supra GT4.
With the victory, Brynjolfsson and Hindman broke a tie for the GS standings lead with Ted Giovanis and Owen Trinkler, who finished 23rd in the No. 64 Team TGM Porsche after dropping out early. The No. 7 Volt Aston Martin now unofficially leads McAleer and the No. 28 RS1 Porsche by 90 points.
Alfa Romeo returns to TCR victory lane after late-race fireworks
Tim Lewis’ last-minute charge – and a competitor’s penalty – led to victory in the Touring Car (TCR) class of the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120.
With eight minutes remaining in the two-hour race, Lewis and his No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR were pressuring Jon Morley’s No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS SEQ for the class lead.
As Morley navigated Turn 2, his car made contact with the car of Ryan Norman, who he was trying to put a lap down. That resulted in a drive-through penalty for Morley for incident responsibility, giving Lewis and co-driver Roy Block their second victory of the season.
“Just keep it together, just bring one home for the team,” Lewis said of his thoughts after hearing that Morley would be penalized. “Roy did an amazing job in the opening stint and put the car up front. … The car was a rocket today.”
Denis Dupont passed Tyler Gonzalez as they came to the checkered flag, giving Dupont and co-driver Eric Rockwell the runner-up finish in the No. 15 Belgard Techniseal Racing Audi RS3 LMS DSG. Gonzalez and Rory van der Steur finished 0.052s behind in third in the No. 19 van der Steur Racing Hyundai Veloster N TCR.
Morley and Gavin Ernstone, whose Audi led most of the second half of the race, finished eighth in class after the penalty.
Block praised the competition, which saw three manufacturers finish on the TCR podium.
“The field is so good and the talent is so good,” Block said. “I really have the utmost respect for all the competitors. You saw how hard everybody was racing, but everybody was racing clean.”
Block and Lewis delivered Alfa Romeo its first Michelin Pilot Challenge win last August at Road America. They have now won four of the last seven TCR races in the series.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge season resumes May 14 with the Mid-Ohio 120 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.