The picturesque landscapes of Lake Elkhart, Wisconsin, once again resounded with the thunderous roar of engines and the thrill of high-speed competition as the Michelin Pilot Challenge race weekend took center stage at the iconic Road America race track. In the summer of 2023, motorsport enthusiasts gathered at this historic circuit to witness a spectacle of speed, strategy, and sheer skill that defined the essence of endurance racing.
IMSA embodies the ultimate examination of velocity and potency, showcased through intense side-by-side racing on challenging road circuits. The races under the IMSA banner present a collection of top-tier SportsCars. The proficiency of IMSA drivers combined with cutting-edge automotive advancements results in an electrifying race weekend filled with high stakes and adrenaline.
The MMR with AEROSPORT Vervantis sponsored Ford Mustang GT4 endured its own ups and downs over the weekend.
After two successful practice sessions, and an amazing qualifying run-on Saturday the team found themselves in the enviable position of starting third on the grid for the race on Sunday.
However, during the technical inspection, it was found the car was underweight by only a few pounds. While the team investigated the cause, the infraction meant the team would be moved to last place (24th) for the start of Sunday’s race.
Although naturally disappointed, the team along with the drivers, were confident they had a very competitive race car capable of charging through the field.
The last race of the day was the Michelin pilot challenge, which is a two-hour race. Road America is one of the favorites among IMSA drivers with 14 corners and just over 4 miles in length. The surface has quite recently been repaved, creating a challenge for drivers as the racing line itself bedded in but anywhere off the racing line was a smooth as glass making it imperative to be inch perfect with car positioning.
Starting from last place this race was going to be as much about speed as strategy. After an incident on the first lap, which our first driver Jenson Altzman managed to avoid getting caught up in, the Vervantis car found itself in 18th, still at the back of the pack with much work to do.
After the opening laps, it was clear the car was having an issue. Altzman had realized he was noticeably slower down the straightaways than the other cars in his class. Between the MMR with AEROSPORT team and Ford Performance, there was constant radio communication between the driver and the pit box as they tried to work out the problem. Despite lots of trouble shooting, it was deemed there was not much for Altzman to do until the first pit stop.
Undaunted the team pushed on to the tire and fuel stop and driver change at around the 50 minute mark. Chad McCumbee took over the reins of the Mustang and returned to the track to do what he could to move up the crowded field.
After ten minutes or so, another incident on track created a yellow flag to slow cars while the offending car was removed from track, an unfortunate situation for that team but this opened another line for a strategy call. Chad and the team made a quick decision to pull into the pits again to top the car off with fuel in hopes they could make it to the end. Returning to the track and behind a pack bunched back up under the yellow flag awaiting the all clear, we were in a perfect position to capitalize if others stopped again.
As the yellow was lifted and the race ensued, Chad did his best to hit his target fuel number to make it to the end. Although the issue with the car in the first stint had gone away, McCumbee still had to keep his pace a bit under the leaders as he saved fuel.
While the lead pack banked on another yellow flag to save fule, time started to run out. With 10 minutes to go, cars started to pull into the pits to ensure they had enough to finish the race. All of the stops propelled us into fourth place, which we held all the way to the end, giving us our highest finish all season.
As the team celebrated this amazing result, the top four cars were subject to a rigorous technical inspection as is customary. The winning car was found to have had an issue with its fuel cell disqualifying it, moving everyone up and giving Vervantis and the MMR with AEROSPORT team third place, and their first ever podium.
As engines roared and tires squealed, spectators were treated to a spectacle that reminded them why motorsports continue to capture the hearts of people around the world. With the combination of the iconic Road America circuit and the thrilling Michelin Pilot Challenge, this race weekend truly etched its place in the annals of motorsport history. It was certainly a weekend that created all the drama to provide race fans with an exciting finish on one of the countries finest tracks.
Next stop is Virginia international Raceway August 24-26th 2023 where the MMR with AEROSPORT Team and Vervantis sponsored Mustang GT4 hope to continue the momentum they have into another amazing result!