Sweet Returns: Defending Race Winners, BHA/Hyundai Back in Action at Sebring

Bryan Herta Autosport
Round 2 of the 2021 IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge
The Allen Jay Automotive 120
March 17 – 19, 2021
Round: 2 of the 10 race 2021 Michelin Pilot Challenge
Racetrack: Sebring International Raceway
3.74-mile road course, features 17 turns
Race: Friday, March 19, 2021 at 2:35 pm ET (2 Hours)
Live timing and scoring from each session available at www.IMSA.com
Live radio commentary for every session at www.IMSA.com
Sebring Success: Sebring was good to Bryan Herta Autosport in 2020. Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker won both IMPC rounds at Sebring last year and BHA locked up the first three positions of the 2020 Championship as the titles came down to the wire at the Sebring finale in November.
Daytona Rewind: Eight Hyundai cars took the green flag at the IMPC season opener at Daytona in January. BHA newcomers Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson came out on top, finishing third, Hyundai’s best finish ever at Daytona International Speedway. Johnson and Simpson’s race car is unique to any other in the paddock as it is equipped with hand controls for the accelerator and brakes to accommodate paralyzed driver Michael Johnson. Simpson uses the traditional pedals.
The battle of the Hyundai cars went down to the wire as Stephen Simpson (#54) and Michael Lewis (#77) challenged each other for the top three throughout the closing laps of the 4-hour season opener. Just four-hundredths of a second separated the two Velosters at the checkered flag. The #51 Veloster of Mason Filippi and AJ Muss ran strong in their debut as teammates; Filippi ran as high as second and the duo finished fifth. Six of the eight Hyundais finished inside the top ten: 6th (#33 Elantra), 8th (#19 Veloster), and 9th (#98 Elantra).
Positive Test – The Racing Kind: All four BHA Hyundais completed a successful test at Sebring two weeks ago, logging over 1200 miles in one day. “We ran a full, trouble-free day with all four cars. It was a successful day for the team, especially the new Elantra’s as it gave us the opportunity to gain additional knowledge going into Sebring,” commented Team Manager, Phil Howard. “With such a long break between races, I’m glad the drivers were able to get some extra seat time before the race weekend. This was especially helpful for our new driver pairing. They are still getting to know each other’s styles and preferences.”
Diversified Disciplines: Since the opening round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in January, Parker Chase as been mixing things up. He made his NASCAR Camping World Truck debut at Daytona in February. Racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Chase ran as high as seventh in his debut and inside the top-ten most of the race before spinning to avoid and incident with just nine laps to go . Chase will compete again with KBM on May 22nd at COTA.
Elantra Accolades: Hyundai debuted a brand-new race car at Daytona, the Elantra N TCR. It was a very successful debut for Hyundai, with both cars finishing inside the top-ten in their first race ever. The car was designed and developed by Hyundai Motorsports Group in Europe, with racing legend Gabriele Tarquini having completed the development testing. The road-going sister car, the popular 2021 Elantra, has enjoyed succuss already this year, having won the 2021 North American Car of the Year™, one of the industry’s highest accolades. Last week it was announced the winner of the 2021 Car of the Year by the Hispanic Motor Press.
Women’s History Month: To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Hyundai introduced the Hyundai Women in STEM Scholarship to help the next generation of women leaders. The scholarship helps close the gender gap in engineering, mobility and autonomous driving fields by awarding female students interested in pursuing an education and career in those disciplines. Five female STEM students will receive a scholarship in the amount of $10,000 each. The endeavor is present within Hyundai’s racing program, with BHA driver Taylor Hagler (#77 Veloster N TCR) being a brand ambassador for Hyundai and the first full-time female race car driver representing the brand.
#33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Drivers: Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker
Best Start: 10 Best Finish: 6th Rank: 6th
Harry Gottsacker: “I’d say we probably have a bit of a target on our back since we won both races at Sebring last year. We had a good test a few weeks back where we learned a lot more about our new Elantra N TCR. The gap between Daytona and Sebring always feels like such a long time, but I’ve been preparing on the simulator for this race. On the outside of the track kind of things, I’m planning on getting some fishing in before we head to Sebring!”
Mark Wilkins: “The All New Elantra hit the ground running, winning its first award before we even turned a lap in the brand new Elantra N TCR. Coming away with a sixth place finish and some strong championship points was a great way to kick off the season with this incredible new car. Harry drove a smart and consistent opening stint and we executed a clean and tidy race that put us in a position to make the most of our first outing with the car.
Since Daytona, we have learned a great deal about our new challenger. We recently completed a test and in conjunction with work done by the BHA crew at the shop we feel well prepared for Sebring. Harry and I would love to make it a three
On the personal side, February was a month of family and snowmobiling. Our youngest, Breen, couldn’t get enough laps on our little Ski Doo 120 and I wasn’t much better logging 2,200 miles on my machine in only a few short weeks. I have always found snowmobiling a great way to stay sharp and focused while out of the race car.”
#54 Universal Coating Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson
Best Start: 15th Best Finish: 3rd Rank: 3rd
Michael Johnson: “I’m very excited to get back racing here at Sebring. Sebring has always been a challenging track with the bumps and high speed but I will feel confident everyone will be working hard, the #54 Veloster N TCR is certainly up for the task and we’ll hopefully go for another podium.”
Stephen Simpson: “We had a great start to our year in the #54 Veloster N TCR car with a podium finish at Daytona and certainly looking to continue that form. We had a productive test at Sebring a few weeks ago, so I feel we are going into the race weekend prepared. The home improvement list keeps me busy away from the track, I am looking forward to Sebring and back to doing what I do best!”
#77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis
Best Start: 11th Best Finish: 4th Rank: 4th
Taylor Hagler: “We had a great test a few weeks back and it was nice to learn more about the Veloster N TCR at Sebring. It is such a different course than Daytona, and the bumps and concrete nature of the track really put equipment to the test. Being new to the team, testing has so much value to me to ensure we hit the track running in Practice 1. We feel really good about our car and the 4th place momentum from Daytona, and Michael and I are hoping to get on the podium at this event!”
Michael Lewis:  “Daytona is a fast track and will make for an exciting race. The Veloster is really well tuned, it’s proved and reliable. We’ve got the tools we need to race for a win in our season opener. It’s awesome being back for my fourth year with BHA and Hyundai, and I am really looking forward to working with my new teammate, Taylor Hagler.”
#98 Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Drivers: Parker Chase and Ryan Norman
Best Start: 15th Best Finish: 9th Rank: 9th
Ryan Norman: “The last time I was at Sebring, Gabby (Chaves) and I won the Championship, so right now it’s my favorite race track! It’s felt like an eternity since Daytona adn I know we’ve made a lot of progress with the Elantra. I’m looking forward to showing that with a great result with Parker.”
Parker Chase: “Excited to get back in the Elantra N TCR this week at Sebring. We had a very productive test a while back and I think we’ve found some more speed in the car since our last outing at Daytona. We didn’t get much track time in the #98 at Daytona, so the test really helped to improve and develop on some things we missed out on in January. Sebring is always a driver favorite and it’s always a weekend that’s looked forward to.”
Hyundai Factory Driver – Mason Filippi
#51 Veloster N TCR – Copeland Motorsports
Best Start: 8th Best Finish: 5th Rank: 5th
Mason Filippi: “It has been so long since Daytona! I cannot wait to jump back in the Veloster N TCR car at Sebring. Over the last few weeks I’ve resorted to making cookies… and trying to find some new back roads. I can’t wait to roast through T1 at Sebring and be in the paddock again. I’ve been prepping with PitFit to get ready for some Sebring heat, and I am looking forward to the tight battles.”

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