DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After sweeping the top three Touring Car (TCR) positions in this year’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship, Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) with Curb Agajanian is gearing up for 2021 with a three-entry effort that includes new and returning drivers and the newest Hyundai N TCR-specification car for two of the entries.
BHA will field a pair of new Hyundai Elantra N TCRs, with the third entry remaining one of the Veloster N TCRs that dominated class competition in 2020. Ryan Norman, the reigning TCR champion along with Gabby Chaves, returns to the team for ’21 and will team with Parker Chase in the No. 98 Elantra. Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins, who finished second this year in the TCR standings, are both back in the No. 33 BHA entry that will be an Elantra in 2021. Finally, Michael Lewis rejoins the team after finishing third in points this year, and will drive the No. 77 BHA Veloster with team newcomer Taylor Hagler.
“2020 was a memorable and remarkable year for so many reasons, and we look forward to 2021,” team owner Bryan Herta said. “Hyundai has set the gold standard in TCR competition worldwide, and we are proud to continue representing them and their N Performance brand for another year of IMSA racing. The addition of the Elantra N TCR alongside the well-proven Veloster N TCR, with an incredible lineup of proven sports car championship drivers, gives us all the tools we need to keep Hyundai competing for wins at North America’s best natural terrain road courses.”
Powered by a new two-liter, turbocharged I-4 engine derived from Hyundai’s all-new Elantra family of road-going models, the front-wheel-drive Elantra N TCR shares the same six-speed, paddle-shift gearbox as the Veloster N TCR and the i30 N TCR.
“The Elantra N TCR takes full advantage of the new road car’s stable, high-performance chassis and sleek sedan body shape to optimize its design,” said Olabisi Boyle, vice president, Product Planning and Mobility Strategy, Hyundai Motor North America. “Its bold looks on track are sure to bring a lot of new fans to the Elantra and N brands. Seeing the new Elantra N TCR in the paddock for this first time is going to be awesome for race fans.”
BHA enters its third season of IMSA competition in 2021, coming off a banner season in 2020 with seven TCR class wins. In addition to the team’s three-car stable, the BHA/Hyundai Customer Support program is set to expand with multiple Veloster N TCR cars for other Pilot Challenge teams.
“I’m so excited to return with BHA and Hyundai for another season of TCR racing,” said Norman, the class champion. “We had such a good 2020 season winning the championship, and coming back in 2021 as the defending champion with the new Elantra N TCR is going to be great. The team has become like a family to me and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together with the new Elantra race car.”
The 2021 Pilot Challenge season begins with the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Jan. 29 – part of Rolex 24 At Daytona race week. Teams will also have the opportunity to test during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 sessions Jan. 22-24.
Michael Johnson Racing to Partner with Bryan Herta Autosport
Michael Johnson Racing announced a partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport to field a Hyundai Veloster N TCR entry. BHA will prepare the No. 54 Veloster for competition by drivers Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson in 2021.
“I’m very excited to be partnering with Bryan Herta Autosport for the 2021 season,” said driver and team namesake Johnson. “Aligning our teams is the next step in my career and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with everyone and go for a championship.”
Paralyzed from the chest down at age 12 while racing motorcycles, Johnson has provided an inspirational story by overcoming obstacles to race and win in sports car racing. He will pilot his Veloster using a set of complex and state-of-the-art hand controls.
In 2018, Johnson provided one of the most memorable moments in Pilot Challenge history at Lime Rock Park, when he won his first professional race. That same year, the team posted six more podium finishes. In 2019, Johnson broke the TCR course record at Daytona International Speedway to secure the pole position. In 2020, he and Simpson recorded a pair of third-place finishes before cutting their season short to prepare for 2021.
“It’s going to be a new challenge for Michael and me but one that are we very ready for and very much looking forward to,” said Simpson, who will be co-driving with Johnson for a sixth season. “The BHA team and Hyundai have had a great deal of success over the past few years, and we look to add to their win record. That is our goal for next year. There is going to be a lot of tough competition in the TCR class, as always, so nothing will come easy. It will require a lot of hard work, but we are up to the challenge and excited about this new chapter. I can’t wait to get started.”
Copeland Names Filippi, Snowboarder Muss to Drive Second Team Hyundai
Copeland Motorsports Named Pilot Challenge veteran Mason Filippi and Olympic snowboarder AJ Muss to drive its second Hyundai Veloster in 2021 Pilot Challenge TCR competition. Filippi and Muss will run alongside teenage sensations Tyler Maxson and Tyler Gonzalez, who were previously announced to return for a full season in the other Copeland entry.
“I am really excited to add another confirmed driver duo to our IMSA program as we ready for the first green flag of the season,” team owner Dean Copeland said. “AJ is an athlete and knows what it takes to win. Driving alongside Mason will only elevate his performance at the pointy end of the field.”
Filippi drove for Bryan Herta Autosport the past two seasons, finishing second in the 2019 TCR championship and third this year. Muss made his Pilot Challenge debut in the 2020 season opener at Daytona International Speedway, driving for Forty7 Motorsports.
“My goal for 2021 with the Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster N IMSA TCR program is to build a strong relationship with the team and my co-driver, to learn all that I can on the TCR series and to finish strong at the end of the season,” said Muss, who also plans to compete in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “Copeland Motorsports has proven that they are winners and champions, and I personally hope that I can help them carry on their winning heritage.”
With three wins in a Hyundai under his belt the past two seasons, Filippi brings veteran experience to the team.
“I am incredibly excited to rejoin Copeland Motorsports next year with AJ in the IMSA program,” Filippi said. “Copeland Motorsports is an incredible team with many successes, and I am looking forward to pushing hard and battle for the top step of the podium. Thank you to Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai for this great position. I am already itching to jump into the Veloster N TCR at Daytona.”