The season finale of the 2019 Imsa Michelin Pilot Challenge Championship, and GT Daytona Championship was held at Road Atlanta, in Braselton, Georgia October 10-13th, 2019. The race is named Petit Le Mans, as the GTD class competes in a 10 Hour sprint race around the 2.54 mile road course in the rolling hills of rural Georgia, while the Audi and other GT4 classed cars race for 2 hours the day prior.
Jeff Westphal had a busy 2019, pulling double duty at 4 of 10 races that Imsa held, driving for his full season team; Carbahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing in their #39 Audi R8 GT4 LMS, as well as Weathertech Racing with Scuderia Corsa in their #63 Ferrari 488 GT3 in two separate races on the same weekend. Both cars race in separate races which are held on the same weekend as Imsa sanctions all the professional level sportscar racing in the USA.
“This is one of the weekend that test my metal, I literally have every
minute of my day accounted for, and often it’s hard to carve out time just to
eat lunch. My communication with
my co drivers and engineers is critical after every outing in either car, since
the changes we make to the machines happen between on track sessions, time gets
eaten up quickly when the car is not physically on the track. However I am usually needed in the
other car sometimes as quickly as 30 minutes later, so I have to “run” back and
forth across the paddock to keep both programs running the right direction. Having
said that, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a competitor, and I love to test myself against the
best in the business, which is something IMSA is known to attract” Explained
Westphal and co-driver Mcquarrie have been on an absolute tear this season, scoring 6 podiums in the 9 races leading up to the finale, which earned them the cushion of only needing to take the start of the last race to be Imsa Michelin Pilot Challenge series champions in their GT4 Audi R8.
Whilst on the other side of the front straightaway, Westphal and
co-drivers Cooper Macneil, and Toni Vilander were in 2nd place of
the North American Endurance Championship with the #63 Weathertech Scuderia
Ferrari 488 GT3.
“The situation with the Ferrari is this, we need to attack! We don’t have so many races in this championship so its unrealistic to have a race lead by the end, we are 3 points out of the lead and every position on track will count for 10 hours.” Said the Californian. “I have a feeling I am going to be told to save fuel, while going as fast as the car can go to afford some strategic flexibility, which of course those two items are inversely proportional.” Laughed Jeff.
Westphal qualified both cars over 2 days, and was able to be within the first 3 rows of both fields. The #39 Audi R8 GT4 would roll off to take the green from 6th position, while the #63 Ferrari would start 3rd. At the drop of the green flag on Friday, the Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 of Westphal/Mcquarrie became 2019 Champions, and thus continued to race amongst the 35+ cars on track. Some laps later while passing a Ford Mustang GT4, Westphal’s outside front wheel was struck which bent his steering arm. To avoid further injury, Westphal opted to pit his Audi R8 to change the arm since there was no need to risk the car and continue. Unfortunately this meant the #39 went a few laps down, but they soldiered on and took the checkered flag in 21st position to cap off their winning year.
Saturday, Jeff would start the 10 HR Petit Le Mans in the #63 Ferrari after racing the day prior in the Audi. As the cars came to the green, the field accelerated early and aggressively, allowing Jeff to get a run and shoot up the outside of the last corner, as well as the first turn, netting him 1 position (to 2nd) in class. From there, the Californian slotted in behind the leader, pushing him for an hour while saving fuel, and pulling away from 3rd as well as the rest of the field.
“I sure am glad I have excellent teams and partners around me, as it
makes my job a bit easier if there is such a thing. I want to give a huge thank you to Hammer Nutrition for
supporting me this year, as well as years past. My workload this season between both cars has been so high,
and not once did I feel like I couldn’t get back into the car for another 2 HRs
of heat and abuse. So much of what
we do behind the wheel is precision work, with high heat, stress and heart rates
between 135-160bpm for hours on end, Hammer Nutrition helped me extract my
potential against the best in the world.” Elated Westphal.
The #63 fought to stay on the lead lap sequence as the race progressed, since a lap was 80-81 seconds long, while the time down pitlane and a stop to fill with fuel or change tires was 66 seconds. During the Final hour, Vilander was battling to get past lapped traffic, who (unfortunately under team orders) turned into the #63, spinning the Ferrari into the gravel where Toni was stranded for a lap until he could be towed out. From this point on, the best the Weathertech Ferrari could score was 5th, which the trio did, securing their 2nd place in the North American Endurance cup.
The 2020 racing season starts at Daytona International Speedway with the Roar before the 24, happening January 3-5, where Westphal will be getting his 2019 title defense in order.