Chaves and Norman give BHA, Hyundai fourth straight IMSA victory
Gabby Chaves and Ryan Norman scored Hyundai’s fourth straight victory, and BHA’s first win in an endurance race Sunday when they took the checkered flag after 4 hours of action packed racing in the sizzling heat at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Teammates Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman finished second in the #29 Vertical Bridge Hyundai Veloster N TCR, while the #98 of Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi finished fifth, and pole winners Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins finished 9th.
Doubling the race distance doubles the challenges but also makes victory doubly rewarding; “It’s a great win for the team and for Hyundai,” said Bryan Herta. “It was a tough race, longer races always present more opportunities for challenges and we had some with the 98 and the 21 car, but as a team everyone fought hard to be there at the end and we walked away strengthening Hyundai’s lead in the manufacturers championship.”
The #33 Hyundai Veloster N TCR started fourth with “Flyin’ Ryan Norman” behind the wheel. Norman has led every race in 2020 and he continued that streak at Road Atlanta prior to turning the bright red Veloster over to co-driver Gabby Chaves for the final two hours.
Fuel consumption was the name of the game for everyone in the final hour. Chaves and his engineers were tasked with either hoping for a yellow flag or exercising fuel saving measures while retaining the lead to finish the race without an extra stop. They strategized diligently and Chaves drove a phenomenal race. He saved enough fuel to the end, while controlling the race from the lead, earning their second victory this season. The victory bumped the #33 team to the championship points lead by 2 points.
In another great result for the #29 Vertical Bridge Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Spencer Brockman showed his pace early, racing to sixth at the start, he ran in the top five through most of his stint. Seeking an advantage in strategy, the 29 car was the first to pit of the four-car BHA squad. An unwelcomed caution period hit as soon as they returned to the track, spoiling the strategy and putting them a lap down. Fortunately, it happened early in the race and through consistency in pace by Brockman and finisher Parker Chase, and strategy by the #29 crew, they returned to the lead lap, led the race three times for 35 laps, and raced back to contention for the four-hour victory. Ultimately, Parker Chase set the fastest race lap and finished second, earning their third podium finish in four races.
Michael Lewis took the green flag in the #98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Early in the race the #98 crew diagnosed a fuel issue which forced the team to make nine pit stops through the race. Lewis and his teammate Mason Filippi kept their focus and perserverance, finishing inside the top five, despite four more stops than the cars that finished immediately behind them. This result is a testament to the team’s quick stops and flawless driving.
Starting from the pole position for the first time in his IMSA career, Harry Gottsacker paced the field ready to challenge for his second victory of the season. He raced inside the top five throughout the first two hours, but the #21 team recognized issues with the fuel after his first stop. He had only received a portion of the intended fuel. The #21 team worked throughout the race to resolve the issue. Gottsacker, then Wilkins raced on and brought the car home inside the top-ten.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge features two 4-hour endurance races each year. Sunday’s event takes place annually at Watkins Glen International Raceway over the 4th of July in New York. Due to COVID travel restrictions in New York, the race was rescheduled and moved to Road Atlanta. Next up: BHA heads to Mid-Ohio for a double-header September 26th -27th. For more information, visit www.bryanhertaautosport.com
9th #21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR Drivers: Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker
Qualified:1st (Gottsacker) Finished: 9th Championship: 2nd
- The 21 team battled fuel flow issues
Mark Wilkins: “It was a frustrating day for the #21 team. Hats off to the crew, they worked so hard all day to try to sort out our issue. Our Veloster N TCR car was so fast, I love driving that car here. I was having a great time irrespective of where we were running, and we worked hard to finish with as many points as possible. We did that…p.9, it’s a rough day for us, one of those character building type of days. We’ll come back strong at Mid-Ohio. In the meantime, we’ll continue to raise awareness for Pediatric Cancer Awareness month through Hyundai Hope on Wheels. I’m pleased the team was able to kick off the month with a win, especially in the car that carries the #ReeseIsABeast logo in honor of Reese Imhoff.”
Harry Gottsacker: “It was a tough finish to a good weekend at Road Atlanta. It was awesome to get my first pole position in IMSA on Saturday. We had an issue in the race with fueling that hurt our finish. I am looking forward to Mid Ohio!”