The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is preparing for a Halloween spectacular Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Who gets tricked and who reaps the treats remains to be seen.
The penultimate race of the 2020 Pilot Challenge season is set to start at 6:35 p.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 31 with a live stream on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. Championships in both classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR), are still up for grabs as race weekend approaches. A total of 26 cars are entered, 18 in GS and eight in TCR.
Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy, drivers of the No. 60 KohR Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4, hold a 20-point lead in GS over reigning series champions Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine racing Audi R8 GT4. Recent success by the No. 60 – a pair of wins at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month – has helped Aston Martin edge to a one-point lead over Mercedes-AMG in the prized manufacturer battle.
While the Nos. 60 and 39 entries may garner much of the pre-race attention, there have been some noteworthy changes among other entrants worth watching this weekend. They include:
· Nineteen-year-old Hailie Deegan will make her second Pilot Challenge start, returning to the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 where she made her series debut at Daytona International Speedway in January. Deegan, a Ford development driver recently named to a full-season ride in the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will share the Pilot Challenge entry with full-season driver Seb Priaulx.
· Gregory Liefooghe returns to the No. 43 Steven Cameron Racing Aston Martin, where he opened the season with a seventh-place finish at Daytona with fellow San Franciscan Ari Balogh. Liefooghe has driven the past four Pilot Challenge races in the No. 82 BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4 with James Clay. Mike Skeen will team with Clay in the No. 82 at WeatherTech Raceway. Like Balogh, it will be Skeen’s first Pilot Challenge race since Daytona.
· Sameer Gandhi makes his season debut in the No. 93 CarBahn Motorsports Audi, where he’s paired with Tom Dyer.
· Kenny Murillo joins Tim Probert in the No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4. Murillo’s only other race this season came at Sebring International Raceway in July.
In TCR, Mason Filippi and Michael Lewis are riding the momentum of an Oct. 16 win at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta into the WeatherTech Raceway event. The drivers of the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR lead teammates Gabby Chaves and Ryan Norman (No. 33 Hyundai) by eight points, with Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins 11 points from the lead in BHA’s No. 21 entry.
Hyundai has won five TCR races this season to Audi’s three and has a 14-point lead in the manufacturer chase.
Pilot Challenge action opens Friday on the 2.238-mile road course with a pair of practices. Qualifying takes place Saturday morning ahead of the race later that afternoon.