The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series raced on the streets of Detroit for the first time, in a race weekend shared with IndyCar. IMSA and IndyCar had raced for the past several years on the same weekend in Detroit, but it had always been on the Belle Isle circuit, which is on an island in the Detroit River. This year’s race was moved to the streets of downtown Detroit and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series shared the weekend with IndyCar instead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race will be remembered as having one of the most dramatic wrecks in series history, and unfortunately it involved one of the BMWs.
Racing has been held on the streets of Detroit before. Formula 1 raced there from 1982-1988, and CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams, which evolved into IndyCar) raced there from 1989-1991. The circuit was modified and shortened for the 2023 race and featured nine turns laid out over 1.7 miles. The Michelin Pilot Challenge race featured GS-class cars only, including a pair from Turner Motorsport and one from Stephen Cameron Racing. It seemed like the BMWs didn’t have the pace of the fastest cars in the practice sessions leading up to the race, but Cameron Lawrence put in a great lap in his #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 to take the pole, with the other two BMWs in seventeenth (Turner Motorsport #96) and twentieth (Stephen Cameron Racing #43).
It looked like a win or at least a podium finish for the #95 Turner Motorsport entry was in the cards, as Lawrence kept the lead from the start of the 100-minute race and led for his entire stint before handing it off to co-driver Robert Megennis. Megennis came out of the pits in a great position, but had a dramatic wreck in his first lap out as he tried to pass an Aston Martin going into turn three. He went in way too deep on the brakes and struck the right rear of the Aston Martin, which catapulted the BMW up into the air and over the top of it, before sliding off the other side and coming to rest in the tire barrier. Megennis managed to drive the car off the tire barrier, but the car had too much damage to be repaired, as did the Aston Martin. Thankfully, both drivers were OK, but it took away what would very likely have been a win or a podium for the #95.
The wreck led to the only caution period of the race, and it was a lengthy one to repair the damaged tire wall. When racing resumed, neither of the other two BMWs were in a position to fight for a podium. Robby Foley and Vin Barletta had the best finish of the two remaining M4 GT4s, finishing ninth in the #96 Turner Motorsport entry, while Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan ended up seventeenth in the #43 Stephen Cameron Racing car. The race was won by the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4, and the top eight positions were all Mercedes-AMG and Porsche entries.
After the Detroit race, Turner drivers Robby Foley and Vin Barletta were still sitting third in the GS class driver standings. The next race for Michelin Pilot Challenge is at Watkins Glen on the weekend of June 22nd-25th. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, video capture courtesy IMSA/PeacockTV]