Brockman, Chase round out the podium at Hyundai’s title race
The stakes were high and the championship battles tight as the penultimate round of the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge rolled into the inaugural Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Known for its topography and challenging corners like the Andretti Hairpin and the famous “Corkscrew”, Laguna Seca always presents action-packed racing and this weekend’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race did not disappoint.
Under sunny skies and cool temperatures, the field roared to life as Hyundai’s Erik Thomas gave IMSA drivers the command to start their engines. The all-Hyundai TCR front row featured Harry Gottsacker on pole in the #21 Veloster N TCR alongside teammate Mason Filippi in the #98. Ryan Norman started 3rd in the #33. Spencer Brockman started last in the #29 Vertical Bridge Veloster N TCR due to a strategy change to start with four fresh tires rather than the Michelin rubber he qualified on.
All 12 rows of the world’s best-known brands perfectly aligned for Hyundai’s Paul Imhoff to wave the green flag, signifying the start of the 2-hour challenge.
Unbelievable drama unfolded from the Andretti Hairpin at turn two as the off-pace, #34 Porsche created havoc for the TCR front row, specifically, Gottsacker, Norman and Filippi. As Norman braked to avoid the #38 Porsche, he made contact with BHA sister car, Harry Gottsacker in the #21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. With zero visibility, championship points leader Mason Filippi was collected in the melee. The #33 Veloster N TCR suffered only cosmetic damage and Norman moved to the lead. Both #21 and #98 Velosters were forced to return to the garage to assess their damage. The strategy call paid off for Brockman, as he started from the back and was able to avoid the calamity, he shot through the field to third position.
The BHA crews worked frantically to repair the damaged Velosters in time to return to competition. With the championship quickly winding down, points paying positions are more critical than ever. It was quickly determined the #98 was damaged beyond repair for a return to competition. The #98 crew turned their efforts to assist the #21 crew. Still belted into the car, Gottsacker anxiously waited while the crews changed the steering rack, right rear suspension, and damper in remarkable time. The #21 returned to the track and competition. Soon after Mark Wilkins took over and brought the #21 Veloster home in 7th position, scoring 24 championship points.
Norman and Brockman’s race continued with rapid pace. Brockman, who was racing at the famed Laguna Seca circuit for the first time, led 15 laps in the first half of the race. The #29 Vertical Bridge team made just one pitstop, and in 1 minute 14 seconds completed the driver and tire changes and fuel. Chase hit the track with 54 minutes remaining and finished third, another strong result, their fourth podium finish of the season.
The team pitted out of sequence from the lead on lap 12 and took four tires and fuel. The long stop early would establish a shorter stop later and allow Norman to race hard with fresh tires on all four corners. Norman set the second fastest TCR lap of the race and stormed back to the lead by lap 28. The #33 pitted for its final stop and driver change with 52 minutes remaining. Shaving the gap by nearly a second each lap, Chaves hunted down the leading Audi and made a courageous pass for the win in the Corkscrew, a twisty section that drops 5 ½ stories in just 450 feet. The win was the third this season for Chaves and Norman, and they move into the championship lead (257) with four points over the #98 team of Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi (253).
The season concludes Friday, November 13 at Sebring International Raceway. Bryan Herta Autosport’s victory at the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship represents the sixth win of the season for Hyundai. Hyundai leads the manufacturers championship by 17 points with one race to go.
#33 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Ryan Norman and Gabby Chaves
Qualified: 3rd (Norman) Finished: 1st Championship: 1st (257 pts)
Ryan Norman: “It was a big win here today, for Gabby and I, but most importantly for Hyundai. We obviously didn’t have a very clean first lap, I was stuck behind a slow GS car and really had nowhere to go. I feel really bad for the #98 and the #21 teams, the last thing we as drivers ever want to do is hit teammates. Gabby was Gabby out there; he was awesome and pulled off the win today. This one is extra special. Our car is the #33 in honor of Reese Imhoff and we carry the “Reese Is A Beast” logo in his honor. He was here with us today, in so many ways, and so were his parents, Paul and Christy Imhoff whom we were able to meet for the first time.”
Gabby Chaves: “What a race, crazy with all sorts of action. Unfortunately, for our teammates, it was not the best day for them. Fortunately, for us and for Hyundai we were able to bring it home in front our brand in their home race today, which is the biggest honor we could have. I am incredibly happy and very excited for our whole team.”
#29 Vertical Bridge Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman
Qualified: 8th (Brockman) Finished: 3rd Championship: 6th (222 pts)
Spencer Brockman: "It was very hairy on the start coming out of turn two. I did my best to avoid it and I am surprised I did. I came out of that in third and then was able to get to the front and lead for a while which was cool for my first time racing here at Laguna Seca. Our car fell off over the long runs. We changed our strategy with tires after qualifying and opted to start in the pack. It turned out to be the right strategy for a few reasons and we were able to stay clear of that mess on the first lap.”
Parker Chase: “It’s great for Hyundai with the #33 winning and I’m happy to be on the podium at their home race. I was hoping to be able to challenge for the win, but we just didn’t have it over the long runs today to compete at the end.”
#21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker
Qualified: 1st (Gottsacker) Finished: 7th Championship: 4th (243 pts)
Mark Wilkins: "Today wasn’t our day, but I think we’ve all but locked up the manufacturers championship for Hyundai which is amazing. I am looking forward to getting back to Sebring where Harry and I won earlier this year and elevating ourselves back up into the top three in points.”
Harry Gottsacker: “It was great to win the pole at Hyundai’s race. Mark and I worked with the team to have a great racecar on the long runs and unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to show it. We got collected in of those first lap deals in mixed traffic. The crew worked their tails off to get us back on track to see if we could collect a few more championship points. We will bounce back at Sebring.”
#98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Mason Filippi and Michael Lewis
Qualified: 2nd (Filippi) Finished: 8th Championship: 2nd (253 pts)
Mason Filippi: “I felt great going into this race. We had a big weekend arriving early to film for Motor Trend’s Pole Position. It was awesome and an exciting weekend with Hyundai as the title sponsor. I qualified on the front row and was very optimistic we could win this race. That all changed on the first lap, it was certainly not the race we were looking for this weekend, but the manufacturer championship is looking very good! We were collected at the Andretti hairpin and stuck with no place to go and significant damage to the car. My team gave it their best shot to get us back out there. The championship standings are still very tight, and we will be back to fight for the championship at Sebring.”
Michael Lewis: “After a great qualifying result for Mason, it’s a bummer our race went south on the first lap. But we’ve got to take it on the chin and move on. There is one race left, the points are tight, and we have the same championship worthy determination going into Sebring! Overall, our goal is to win the manufacturers championship for Hyundai, and it looks like we are in good shape there. I want to give a shout out to Hyundai for sponsoring a great event and to my team for another fast car this weekend.”
Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian:
Founded in 2009, Bryan Herta Autosport has grown from a single car Indy-Lights team into a championship winning auto racing franchise. Led by IndyCar and Sports Car star Bryan Herta, Bryan Herta Autosport has won races in every discipline they have entered, including Indy Lights, Indy Car, Global Rally Cross, and championship titles in Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA. BHA rose to prominence after winning the 2011 Indianapolis 500 in what was the final race of the Centennial Era, a celebration of 100 years of racing at The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with driver Dan Wheldon. Five years later, BHA partnered with Andretti Autosport, and defied the odds again, winning their second Indianapolis 500 with rookie driver Alexander Rossi. In 2018, BHA entered the Pirelli World Challenge in partnership with Hyundai and dominated the TCR class, winning seven races with drivers #98 Michael Lewis and #99 Mark Wilkins in the Hyundai i30N TCR, securing the team and manufacturers championships in the process. In 2019, BHA and Hyundai moved to the IMSA Michelin Sports Car Challenge, and the transition was flawless. BHA swept the series driver and team championships with driver Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis finishing first in the #98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR and young guns Harry Gottsacker and Mason Filippi finishing second in the #21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. For 2020, BHA continues its successful partnership with Andretti Autosport fielding the #98 U.S. Concrete Honda w/ Curb Agajanian in the IndyCar series for driver Marco Andretti and a four-car Hyundai Veloster N TCR campaign in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Michael Lewis and Mason Fillipi (#98), Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker (#21), Gabby Chaves and Ryan Norman (#33) and Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman (#29). Bryan Herta Autosport is the U.S. sales agent and parts support representative of Hyundai TCR race cars for customer teams. For more information, visit www.BryanHertaAutosport.com.
P.R. Bryan Herta Autosport
Hyundai Motor America
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