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 GS car created havoc for the TCR front row, specifically, Gottsacker, Norman and Filippi. As Norman braked to avoid the GS car, he made contact with BHA sister car, Harry Gottsacker in the #21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. With zero visibility and no where to go, 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 he #21 and the #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 awaited 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 13th 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)
- The 38 led 20 laps – Norman led 12 and Chaves 26.
- Third victory of the season, resume championship lead.
Ryan Norman: “It was a big win here today, for Gabby and me, 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 guys, 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. But 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.”
- Loss and Inspiration driving the #33 BHA Hyundai: https://racer.com/2020/01/23/loss-and-inspiration-driving-no-33-bha-hyundai/
#29 Vertical Bridge Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman
Qualified: 8th (Brockman) Finished: 3rd Championship: 6th (222 pts)
- Brockman qualified 5th, team changed tires prior to race and started from the back (strategy).
- Brockman led 15 laps.
Spencer Brockman: “It was very hairy on the start coming out of turn two. I did my best to avoid it and I am pretty 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 pretty 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)
- 2nd pole position in 2020 for Harry Gottsacker.
- Car was significantly damage in first lap incident but returned to competition.
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: “I was great to win the pole at Hyundai’s race. Mark and I worked with the team to have a great race car 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, it was tough out there, the car was still wounded. 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)
- Second consecutive front row qualifying result for Mason Filippi.
- Collected in first lap incident, resulting in significant damage, the car was unable to continue.
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 guys 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 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.”