The #46 Team TGM Mercedes AMG GT4 of Hugh Plumb and Owen Trinkler turned pole position and a dominant afternoon into back-to-back Pilot Challenge wins at Lime Rock Park today.
“Unbelievable,” said Trinkler. “We ride the emotions of this sport up and down and we have been pretty low all year long when you get low you come together as a team and you dig hard and you fight harder. What about my co-driver hanging on there at the end I told him it was going to get to be a handful near the end.
Last season the Trinkler and Plumb duo took three wins en route to a championship title. This season, however, has not been what the team hoped it would be. Entering this weekend the team’s best finish with their #46 Mercedes had been a twelfth-place finish at Canadian Tyre Motorsports Park.
Trinkler took the green flag of the race and ran out to a lead gap that neared 10 seconds as the GS field negotiated their way around TCR traffic. As chasers in GS beckoned to the pits the #46 Mercedes and Trinkler stayed on track, running one of the longest first stints of any in the GS class.
“I was saving fuel on my run and I could have gone a couple more but we wanted to play it safe,” Trinkler said of the team’s strategy.
By the end of the first stint, and with Plumb at the wheel, it seemed their strategy call of running long would not pay off. The #46 Mercedes dropped down the order into fourth and it seemed they would still need to make a second pitstop. A full-course yellow for debris, the race’s only FCY, presented the opportunity for GS cars to make their second pitstop.
Under the FCY the cars in front of Plumb dove for the pits, Plumb, though, stayed out and inherited the lead. Team TGM placed their bet: they believed the long first stint by Trinkler would leave Plumb in a position where he would not need to pit. They were correct and Plumb crossed the line, seemingly on fumes, just 0.521 seconds clear of the #39 Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8.
With a second-place finish Jeff Westphal, Tyler McQuarrie and the #39 Audi crew move into the lead of the championship. This is the fourth podium of the season for the pair, who now lead the title race by three points.
Rounding out the GS podium was the #56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG of Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing. After the first round of pitstops, the #56 Mercedes was one of only a few cars who managed to stop and stay on the lead lap. It left them in a good position if a well-timed FCY fell their way but the team found no such luck. Foss pitted the car under the FCY with a handful of other GS runners.
The #82 Bimmerworld BMW M4 ended the race in fourth, but do lose the championship lead, while the #69 Motorsports In Action McLaren of Corey Fergus and Jesse Lazare remain third courtesy of a seventh-place finish. The #69 McLaren is six points off the leading #39 Audi in the title hunt after another outing which saw the team awarded more valuable point for their efforts.
In TCR it was a similarly dominating day for the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster of Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis. They too turned a pole position start into a first-place finish. A win that moves them into the lead of the championship by ten points.
“Thank you to Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai. This Veloster was so fast but I was stressing. Mark Wilkins did an amazing job.” Said Lewis, who drove the car’s opening stint.
Wilkins crossed the line 3.325 seconds clear of the #54 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 fo Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson. Wilkins and Simpson created the headlining bout for the win in the race’s final twenty-minutes following the lone Full Course Yellow, but Wilkins came out on top.
Mason Filippi and Harry Gottsacker ensured two Bryan Herta Autosport entries made it to the podium with a third-place finish in their #21 Hyundai Veloster.
The #37 LA Honda World Civic entered this race as the championship leaders but will drop down the standings for the first time this season. Things have gone from bad to worse for Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock in the past two races. A torrid weekend at Canadian Tyre Motorsports Park that netted the team a last-placed finish presided an engine fire in today’s race that lead to the car’s retirement.
Remarkably, the only Full Course Yellow was a result of debris. The right window of the #35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG had popped out and landed on the front straight. There were no notable incidents that resulted in significantly damaged cars.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge is back in action from Road America on August 3. Four races remain to run in the championship.
Images courtesy of IMSA