A combination of strategy and surprises made for a wild IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge finish at Road America on Saturday. The #7 VOLT Racing Ford Mustang GT4 of Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson ultimately took the victory, after Compass Racing’s pole-sitting McLaren crashed out from the lead in the closing minutes.
Brynjolfsson, VOLT Racing’s team owner, started the race and handed the car off to Hindman during the race’s lone set of yellow-flag pit stops with just over an hour remaining. The pit stop proved to be one of the determining factors of the race, as it came on the cusp of the teams’ fuel windows and drive times.
Hindman wound up in the top five on the restart and made his way into the lead within minutes. However, the #76 Compass Racing McLaren, put on the pole by McLaren factory man Paul Holton and co-driven by Matt Plumb, darted to the front to overtake the lead.
The #7 dropped back to third place at the hands of another Mustang, the #60 of Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli for KohR Motorsports, the championship-leading team that pulled an overnighter to fix damage to the car suffered during Practice 1 on Friday. Yet Marcelli was forced to bring the car into the pits with under 10 minutes remaining for tyres and fuel.
Then, while still pacing the field in first, Plumb appeared to have the win secured with less than five minutes remaining until an incident in the track’s famous Canada Corner sent the 570S GT4 into the barrier and out of contention for the win.
With the top two contenders encountering issues, Hindman then inherited the lead and with a gap of 22 seconds over the rest of the field was able to conserve fuel and survive to cross the finish line first. Hindman credited the team and strategist Mike Johnson for the victory.
“Mike Johnson and the VOLT Racing guys in and around our pit box,” he said. “They busted too hard this year to not get them a result and I’m glad we finally delivered. Mike’s strategy today was a pretty big shot from the hip. Luckily, through good communication between me, him and Alan, we were able save enough fuel to make it to the end of the race.”
The win was the first for VOLT Racing and Alan Brynjolfsson, a sophomore team in the Continental Tire Challenge. The team had yet to land on the podium until Saturday’s race.
“It’s a really big moment for us,” said Brynjolfsson. “We’re super excited because the Continental Tire Challenge series has really gotten extremely competitive, with bigger fields this year and great competition. It’s just a huge accomplishment to get a victory here in this series. I knew we could do it, because we have Trent. Trent’s not giving himself enough credit. We knew if Trent has a good car, he can pull home a victory.”
Coming in second place was the #28 RS1 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR of Spencer Pumpelly and Dillon Machavern, who added a fourth podium finish to their season’s resume as the team looks to defend its GS title.
After winning one race ago at Lime Rock Park, the #46 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Hugh Plumb and Owen Trinkler pulled off a third-place finish after a somewhat tumultuous race. The car was involved in the race’s second caution flag, which saw the #33 Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Russell Ward collide with off-track with #9 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Craig Lyons. Ward was evaluated and released, while Lyons was transported to a local hospital where he underwent a series of tests which were all negative and he was released.
The wild race resulted in a shakeup of the GS point standings heading into the final three races of the season. Plumb and Trinkler lead 191 to 190 over Pumpelly and Machavern, while Stacy and Marcelli, who entered the race in first, dropped to third with 183 points.
In TCR, after a two-race hiatus from the top step of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge TCR class podium, Compass Racing returned to its familiar spot on Saturday.
Leading the way was the #74 Audi RS3 LMS of Rodrigo Sales and Kuno Wittmer, who earned their third win of the season and the team’s fifth. The #74 cycled into the lead after the mid-race pit stops on Lap 22 and stayed the course for the remainder of the race.
However, it wasn’t without a little drama at the end. Fellow Compass Racing teammate Britt Casey, Jr. in the #77 Audi closed the gap and pulled alongside Wittmer in the closing laps but was never able to close the deal.
“It was a lot of perseverance from the team, Rodrigo and everybody,” said Wittmer. “The car held up. The Audi RS3 LMS was good. The Compass boys did the job, the Contis held up and everything was pretty good. It was purely pace that we had.”
Casey, Jr. and co-driver Tom Long finished second, yet lost their one-point lead in the championship standings to Wittmer and Sales. The latter duo now lead 225 – 223.
Finishing on the podium for the fourth consecutive race were Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson in third place behind the wheel of the #54 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS.
The battle between manufacturers in the Street Tuner (ST) class continues to intensify as the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge approaches its final three races of the season.
Saturday’s race marked the fifth time that BMW and MINI have swapped the ST class victory this season, with the #81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i of Nick Galante and Devin Jones claiming their third victory of the year.
The team started from the pole position with Galante behind the wheel and Jones fought a hard battle with the No. 73 MINI JCW of Mat Pombo for the final 45 minutes of the race to hold on for the victory. With the win, Jones and Galante expand their championship lead over the #73, 225 to 214.
The #73 of Pombo and Mike LaMarra for the MINI JCW Team ultimately wound up second, with another MINI, the #37 of Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones, rounding out the podium in third.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge enters the home stretch of the 2018 season in two weeks at VIRginia International Raceway for a two-hour race.
Image courtesy of IMSA