Grand Sport Teams Take Tight Points Battle Out West

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge resumes its 2024 season this week at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the battle for superiority in the Grand Sport (GS) class couldn’t be much tighter. The top three teams are wedged within 20 points of each other heading into Saturday’s two-hour race.

Team TGM’s No. 46 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 sits atop the class standings thanks to third- and fourth-place showings to open the campaign. Matt Plumb has spearheaded those results riding with a different co-driver each time: Owen Trinkler at Daytona International Speedway and Paul Holton at Sebring International Raceway. Holton returns to share the No. 46 Vantage this week.

Plumb knows it’s far too early to think about the championship picture, with eight races still ahead.

“It is great being the points leader but ultimately it only matters after the last race,” he said. “Much more racing to go and plenty of good teams and drivers that can score points.

“Laguna has always been a favorite, although we have struggled a bit in the past,” added Plumb, whose results the last three years at the famous road course – 11th, 25th and 17th – bear that out. “Tough place for us to get to for testing so the learning curve needs to be steep here. When this team is on their game, as they have been this season, we are in contention.”

Shadowing the No. 46 closely are the No. 71 Rebel Rock Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 Evo (10 points back) and No. 91 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport (20 points behind). Riley Dickinson, Michael McCarthy and Brady Golan drove the No. 91 Porsche to victory at Daytona, with Robin Liddell and Frank DePew claiming the win at Sebring.

The competition doesn’t stop there. The No. 19 van der Steur Racing Aston Martin is just 60 points from first place, though Rory van der Steur has a new co-driver this week in Alexandre Premat. The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (G82) with co-drivers Francis Selldorff and Robby Foley is just 10 points further back. All are among the 25 cars on the GS entry list this week.

Foley is one of four GS drivers who’ll drive in both Saturday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race and Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship headliner, along with Jack Hawksworth, Stevan McAleer and Spencer Pumpelly. Also, Jaden Conwright will compete in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race as well as the two Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America sprints.

Unitronic/JDC-Miller Audi Looks to Keep Rolling

It’s been a different picture in the Touring Car (TCR) class thus far in 2024. Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor captured the class wins at both Daytona and Sebring in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR to open a 100-point lead in the standings. Miller and Taylor have been on a tear dating to late 2023, winning four of the last five TCR races and five of the past eight.

Preston Brown and Denis Dupont, who share the No. 76 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, are currently second in TCR points with finishes of second and fourth thus far in 2024. Fifty points behind them are their teammates and defending TCR winners at WeatherTech Raceway, Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai. A dozen TCR cars are entered this week.

The Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule finds a pair of practice sessions on Friday ahead of qualifying at 11:20 a.m. ET Saturday. The WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 streams live on Peacock (in the U.S.) and (internationally) starting at 4:55 p.m. Saturday.