MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Drivers Prepare for Qualifying Following Two Practice Sessions

The IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge got its first official on-track action at Sebring International Raceway Thursday with two practice sessions before lunchtime as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts weekend officially began.
Following the second practice session, two BMW M4 GT4s topped the charts in the Grand Sport (GS) class, the No. 82 of James Clay and Devin Jones for BimmerWorld Racing and the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW of Bill Auberlen – who was fastest in first practice – and Robby Foley. A cool morning gave way to warmer temperatures later in the day, which mirrors the forecast for race day on Friday.
“The heat with the track is definitely playing a role, especially tomorrow it looks like it’s going to be even hotter,” said Jones, who was fastest in second practice. “We’re trying to just keep up with the changes, but these BimmerWorld guys have done a great job. We had a fuel pump problem right before that last practice, so we were only able to get out the last 15 minutes or so. The guys hustled hard to get us on track for that practice and it was satisfying to go fastest for them, so it felt good.”
In the TCR class, the newly announced No. 17 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS driven by Mikey Taylor along with Britt Casey, Jr. posted the fastest lap in both practice sessions and only had raving comments about the team and the new car.
“It’s been a great start to our program,” said Taylor. “Overall, we’ve all put in a lot of work – myself, Unitronic, JDC, Out There Brands – have done a lot of work to get here. We all knew the potential was there, but it’s just great to actually realize it and see it in person.
“The car is really good and surprisingly, it can actually get better. I think that’s a worry to some of our competitors. It’s been great, both of our team cars are running really well, so I’m fairly confident for the race. But again it’s a long race.”
The second JDC-Miller Audi of Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson finished second to its sister car in both practices as well. 
Automatic Racing Unveils Livery of New Aston Martin GT4 in Front of Large Manufacturer Presence
A large contingent of Aston Martin executives and stakeholders were at Sebring International Raceway on Thursday for the livery unveil of the No. 97 Invisible Glass/Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Aston Martin Vice President David King and Managing Director of Aston Martin Racing John Gaw joined Automatic Racing’s Team Owner David Russell and two drivers, Rob Ecklin, Jr. and Ramin Abdolvahabi for the unveil.
“We’re proud to represent our brands with Aston Martin Racing and Automatic Racing, two institutions in the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge,” said Ecklin. “David Russell has been at this a long time and Aston Martin has a long history. Stoner Car Care is excited and proud to have that association and I’m excited to be able to drive the new car. I’m very thankful and enjoying every minute of it.”
The car was delivered unwrapped to the team in January, just days before the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, and Ecklin describes how the new Aston Martin GT4 is completely unlike its predecessor.
“It really is a new car, with no comparisons to the previous generation Aston Martin,” said Ecklin. “It’s got a twin-turbo eight-cylinder engine instead of the normally-aspirated eight cylinder, it’s got a better, quicker gearbox, better brake package, and it’s got air conditioning in the cockpit, which is a luxury we’ve never experienced! It’s more compliant, more stable in really hard, straight-line braking, and it’s really good in trail braking. And we’ve got the suspension and chassis completely tuned for racing. As Ramin says, it’s built from the ground up as a race car and you can feel the difference.”
Up next for the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge is qualifying for tomorrow’s Alan Jay Automotive 120 at 5:55 p.m. ET on Thursday. The two-hour race will be streamed live on IMSA.tv at noon ET and fans can follow along with updates on social media using the hashtags #AlanJay120 and #IMPC. 
Adam Sinclair