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Korthoff Motorsports has gone from its recent introduction into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class into a lot of changes, yet heads into this weekend’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca leading the driver points with regulars Mike Skeen and Stevan McAleer.
The Florida-based team formerly known as Gilbert/Korthoff Motorsports has been around a while, running LMP3 before making its debut in the GTD class last year at Watkins Glen with the No. 32 Mercedes-AMG. Skeen joined the team at VIR, and McAleer came on board for Petit Le Mans – his introduction to the GTD class, and a debut that went inauspiciously as he was involved in the big wreck on the back straight.
“We didn’t get off to a great start at Road Atlanta last year, you know… it was my first time in the car,” said McAleer. “And obviously, I was one of the cars in the big pileup at the end of the back straight. But even prior to that, we weren’t very fast. We were struggling with car setup. The team was new, we’re figuring the car out. So when I got the opportunity to drive at Daytona, the team was thrashing to get the car right and there’s obviously a lot of damage to be repaired. But in all honesty, I think that has helped the program. The guys that were maybe not so much familiar with a Mercedes had to take it down to the bare tub and start replacing it. So in all honesty, that’s a benefit for the team because of seeing the car apart.”
The team has had a great beginning to the season, finishing third in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and second in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, two of the toughest races on the schedule. Even Long Beach, where McAleer was racing for the first time, didn’t go too badly considering they got pushed into a tire wall in the late stages of the race. But Long Beach doesn’t count for the overall championship in GTD, only the Sprint Cup. So Long Beach was good practice for Seen and McAleer to work together without a third or fourth driver before heading to Laguna Seca.
“The mindset is a little bit different for the shorter races,” explains Skeen, who is fresh off a Trans-Am Series TA2 win at Laguna Seca a few days ago.
“As long as the guys execute well on the pitstops and Stevan and I can stay out of trouble… There are still a lot of elements of the endurance races where it’s just a matter of finishing and keeping the car up front. I think we have good speed and we’re going to continue to have good speed throughout the year.”
The team name was shortened before Long Beach, as team manger and stunt man Henry Gilbert stepped aside, leaving the team to Herb Korthoff. But Skeen said that nothing has really changed with the team and it remains the same operationally as it was at Daytona and Sebring.
On the driving side, Skeen and McAleer both have a lot of experience, even if they are not household names. But while Skeen has a fair amount of experience in GT3 cars, for McAleer it’s a fairly new challenge.
“It’s exciting for me because I’ve done all the other sports car series – MX-5 Cup, GT4 in both IMSA and SRO, LMP3 – even the LMP3 car at the Rolex 24 last year, I was on the podium. But GTD, I’ve never driven it. Not that I didn’t think I could do it, but there’s always a question mark there, that, ‘can I really run with this group of guys?’” said McAleer, who also co-owns on of the most successful teams in Idemitsu Global Mazda MX-5 Cup with Chad McCumbee.
Now Korthoff Motorsports finds itself leading the championship. It’s early, of course, but consecutive podiums in the points-paying races certainly portend good things for the season.
“It’s definitely been a an amazing start,” said McAleer. “The team is on a high right now, everybody’s excited. We’re the smallest team in the paddock and doing the biggest job right now. So we’re going to try and hang in there. There’ll be races where it’ll be tough, there’ll be races that probably won’t suit the Mercedes. And obviously, so many things can happen with the other cars out there. So we’ll run around and see where we are middle of the season and then start deciding what we want to do.”