Things looked good then turned horrible for the LA Honda World Racing Team at the ‘Roar Before the 24’ sessions earlier this month. Running several seconds faster than every other competitors in the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR category, the two privately-entered Honda Civic Type R TCR race cars were called to the scales where they weighed-in at a reported 220 lbs. underweight. The team was prohibited from participating in the remaining practice session for its class.
Honda Dominates With A 1-2-4 Finish
The team returned to Daytona last Friday, and despite being ballasted to the specified minimum weight, claimed a 1-2 finish in the debut race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series Friday. Tom O’Gorman, 2018 Pirelli World Challenge TCA champion, and Indy Lights veteran Shelby Blackstock combined to edge teammates Mike LaMarra and Mat Pombo by just 1.605 seconds on the challenging Daytona combination oval and road course. It wasn’t an easy win as the race came down to an 11-minute sprint following the ninth and final caution period. O’Gorman quickly moved ahead of the class-leading Audi, followed by teammate Pombo as the two Hondas pulled away to take the checkered flag.
Tom O’Gorman Comments
After the race, the winning co-driver shared his thoughts: “I’ve been racing with Honda for a long time – starting 12 years ago – so it’s great to step up to TCR and get the first win. The hardest part was to stay out of trouble, keep your wits about you, and keep the car underneath you, because these guys were racing so hard,” O’Gorman said. Look for an exclusive in-depth interview with O’Gorman on TURNology in the next few weeks.
Fastest At The Roar, Audi Takes Third
Rounding out the podium was the James Vance, Jared Salinsky, and Nick Galante Fast MD Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR. The Audis had been the fastest among TCR entries at the ‘Roar’ after the two Hondas had been excluded. Finishing fourth was the Atlanta Speedworks Honda Civic Type R TRC, piloted by Brian Henderson and Todd Lamb.
A Good First Showing For Hyundai
A surprising fifth place finish went to the brand new Hyundai Veloster N TCR entered by Bryan Herta Autosport and driven by Mason Filippi and Harry Gotsacker. The delayed delivery of the Veloster race cars caused Bryan Herta Autosport to miss the important ‘Roar’ testing seasons.
In a exclusive interview with Bryan Herta prior to the race, the team owner admitted that missing the ‘Roar’ was a setback for his team. “With our late decision to switch to IMSA our cars only arrived in our shops the day the ‘Roar’ started, so it was not possible for us to be there, unfortunately,” Herta explained to us. The second Herta Hyundai Veloster N TCR piloted by Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins finished ninth in the fourteen car field.
Alfa Romeo Debut
The only manufacturer not represented above was Alfa Romeo. KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering entered a single Alfa Romeo Guilietta TCR for Roy Block and Tim Lewis Jr. brough the freshly-imported car home 12th.
The TCR racers were run in conjunction with the significantly faster GS class, which includes primarily FIA GT4 category race cars. For example, the fastest race lap by a TCR was two seconds slower than that set by the slowest GS runner. Despite the speed differential, savvy driving and precision pit work launched the winning TCR Honda to 22nd overall in a field of 49 starters, all of whom were classified as finishers. To paraphrase what had been written several centuries ago, the race doesn’t always go to the swiftest, and the new TCR sedans competing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge are excellent examples.