The Michelin Pilot Challenge series held its second race of the year at Sebring in Florida on Thursday, part of a three-day extravaganza of racing that also included the Porsche Carrera Cup North America, the FIA World Endurance Championship, and the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. Overall, it was a tough race for the BMWs, but Stephen Cameron Racing finished a respectable fifth in their #43 BMW M4 GT4 driven by Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan.
It was clear in qualifying that the BMWs didn’t have the pace of the rest of the field. Sean Quinlan was the best qualifier of the BMWs with a fifteenth place time, while the Turner Motorsport cars languished in nineteenth and 24th. All three of the BMWs were well off the pole time of the #28 Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport driven by Alexandre Prémat, a former Audi works driver with DTM and prototype experience.
The lack of pace from Turner Motorsport was attributed to a cooling system issue that was apparently robbing the engines of power. The team hadn’t tracked down the root cause of the problem before qualifying, and unfortunately, the issue came up again during the race, even though both of the cars had their cooling systems replaced in an attempt to remedy the issue. The #95 Turner Motorsport car of Dillon Machavern and Bill Auberlen finished ninth, while the #96 car of Robby Foley and Vin Barletta finished 26th, eleven laps down.
The Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 didn’t suffer from the same maladies that the Turner cars did. Sean Quinlan put in a clean stint and handed over the Greg Liefooghe, who fought his way up to fifth place and was pulling out all his skills to stay in the top five. “Sean did a great job staying clean in an eventful race and the Cameron guys were on point as usual, but the BMW was just lacking a bit of pace against the other brands this time,” said Liefooghe after the race on his Facebook page. The race was won by the PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4. The Riley Motorsports Toyota Supra GT4 (which is all BMW underneath) finished on the podium in third, behind the Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in second.
The next stop for the Michelin Pilot Challenge series is Laguna Seca Raceway in California in late April.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy David Haueter.]