Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone took the No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS SEQ for one last memorable ride, winning the Touring Car (TCR) class portion of Friday’s race.
The victory didn’t come easy, however. Morley, on the wheel for the last half of the four-hour race, had a gripping, 45-minute, bumper-to-bumper battle with the No. 73 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic FK7 TCR and driver Mike LaMarra.
Morley wrestled the lead from LaMarra with just 12 minutes left and held off the No. 73 over the final eight laps.
"We had a pit stop, took new tires, then there was a full course yellow which wiped out a big lead (13 seconds),” Morley said. “From there, it was a battle.
“I couldn’t get rid of him (LaMarra),” Morley added. “Once I got by him, I still thought I was going to drop him because the car was good early on. I could not get him out of my mirrors.”
It was the fifth career Michelin Pilot Challenge win for both drivers, after going winless in 2022.
“It was nice to go out there and a get a win,” Ernstone said. “Most races, we finish on the podium. Last year was just miserable. It’s just good to get straight back out there and get a win.”
It also appears to be the last race for the car they used. The Audi is scheduled to be retired to make room for a newer generation RS3.
“We got a new car about two weeks ago and we haven’t had a chance to test the car,” Ernstone said. “It was always planned for this to be the last race for this car.
“This car goes into my trophy cabinet, if I can squeeze it in there,” he added.
The No. 61 Audi was caught in the middle of a multicar incident in Turn 6 midway through the race, but Ernstone somehow emerged unscathed.
“I was very lucky to get through,” he said. “It was kind of like the parting of the Red Sea and there was a space down the middle and I threw it down there. Everything went crazy around me. This is just amazing. It was a big team effort.”
The No. 73 Honda finished 0.427 seconds behind the winning Audi. Crossing the line in third was the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR shared by Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi.
CNBC carries the race telecast at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, Feb. 4. The next Michelin Pilot Challenge race is the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway on Thursday, March 16.