The Season Finale of the Imsa Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA, the Fox 120 was Oct. 12, 2018. Peregrine Racing /Carbahn Motorsport had season regulars, Jeff Westphal and Tyler McQuarrie back to shoot for the teams second consecutive podium, after a 3rd place at the home race in Laguna Seca last month.
Both Drivers have history at the event, Westphal in GT3 machinery for Peitit Le Mans and McQuarrie in GT4 machines in years prior. The two were optimistic about their chances coming into the weekend; “I think we will have a very competitive car around Atlanta. For sure the Mclaren’s will be quick as there is a long back straight and the 570 GT4’s strength is it’s straight line speed with the current BOP, but our car is balanced and usually really nice on the long run.” Said Westphal.
Right he was, as the #39 Audi R8 GT4 qualified at the hands of McQuarrie P4 (of 24 cars) for the start of the 2Hr sprint race. After the first 40 minutes Tyler had worked his way up to 3rd position, when some contact at the apex of Turn 1 with a car that was a lap down spun both the #39 Audi and the #92 AMG into turn 1’s runoff. Tyler was able to continue in 12th place, but the #92 proceeded to drive into the gravel, get stuck, and cause a full course caution for extraction. The yellow was succeeded by a second incident, single car crash, that made the caution period long enough to get the 45 minute minimum drive time completed. Driver change, tire change and full fuel was the plan so Westphal could run to the checkered. Aside from being blocked in the pitbox by the #80 Mustang ahead, the stop was flawless from the R8 which allowed the car to rejoin in roughly the same order that it came into the pit.
Westphal took the helm in 12th place, and at the restart made up 3 spots in 1.5 laps. As the laps progressed and Westphal climbed the order, it was clear to the team that another stop would be necessary for fuel, so Carbahn engineer Steve Dinan called Westphal in for a splash with roughly 45 mins to go. Westphal responded by asking for left side tires only (which can be done in time of a half tank of fuel) so he had good rubber on the most important side of the car for the remaining 40 minutes of racing.
The stop was again flawless, both fuel and tires finishing at roughly the same time, the R8 came off the jacks, first gear engaged, spun the tires and left the box. From this point, Westphal was racing to the finish from 14th place upon leaving pitlane, but 3 cars ahead hadn’t stopped yet. If the in and out laps from pitlane were quick enough, the leapfrog effect could gain the #39 track position when those 3 cars took fuel and rejoined later in the race. That was the case for all 3 that waited to take fuel, as lap after lap Westphal passed each one while they re-joined the circuit at the exit of turn 1. Each lap was a new battle, passing cars that were laps down, and cars for position on track for 40 minutes, all the way up to 3rd. With 2 laps left, Westphal caught the #76 Mclaren in 2nd, who was struggling with his tires. “Plumb got a poor exit onto the back straight, so much so that I thought I was going to rear end him, but once that Mclaren lit up, he was gone. I went from having a speed advantage right up to his bumper, to barely being able to see him by the end of the straight away. Its impossible to race this way, no matter how good we are in the corners, Mclaren with 6mph advantage will just drive away. The BOP needs to change, either to slow the Mclaren’s down to the rest of the group, or speed the rest of the group up!” explained Westphal. I tried for a calculated but aggressively optimistic move on the last lap, and Plumb (#76 Mclaren) defended more aggressively than I thought appropriate. He forced me to either hit him or go off in avoidance. I chose the latter, lost 1 position (finishing 4th) as a result and barely managed to save the car, something that I will remember for the future when I am around Matt again. Going defensive is fine, but how it was done I question. Learning experience either way, but I expected more class from a veteran of his caliber.” Said Jeff.
BOP is balance of Performance, the series mandated rule set that dictates a manufacturer’s car race: weight, ride height, engine intake restrictor size, engine tune/map, fuel capacity, fuel flow. The values change based on what the series sees fit, and will change throughout the season as well as ahead of next year. In theory it’s a great way to equalize cars of different build levels, Mclaren and a Ford Mustang for example, but it’s an incredibly tough situation to get right.
Peregrine Racing and Carbahn Motorsport finished 5th overall in the championship, a great start for a new program. With their momentum from the last few events, year 2 is a promising venture for more podiums with Westphal and McQuarrie returning in the #39 for a full season. Car #93 will make a few cameo appearances in 2019 as well, hopefully being Audi’s lead team in the Imsa GS category.
Thanks to all of our partners and fans for the great year.