Turner Motorsport had a fantastic end to the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and VP Racing SportsCar Challenge seasons, with their drivers winning the championships in both series in the final races at Road Atlanta. Robby Foley and Vin Barletta won the GS class championship in Michelin Pilot Challenge, while Francis Selldorff won the GSX class championship in VP Racing SportsCar Challenge. Both championships were won with the new G82-generation M4 GT4, which was in its debut season in both series.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge finale was certainly dramatic, with the championship not decided until after the race. Foley and Barletta came into the race with a 60-point lead over Rebel Rock Racing Chevy Camaro drivers Robin Liddell and Frank Depew, and Murillo Racing drivers Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak were not far behind in third place. All three driver pairings had a shot at the championship.
The M4 GT4 entries didn’t qualify all that well, with the #95 Turner Motorsport entry of Cameron Lawrence and Robert Megennis the fastest of the BMWs in sixth. The #96 Turner car of Foley and Barletta started down in nineteenth, but that was two spots ahead of the #71 Camaro that was their closest rival. It appeared that Foley and Barletta would win the championship through much of the race even though they weren’t even in the top ten, but a late race caution caught them out and put them further back in the field while Robin Liddell had moved up to sixth by the end while Foley and Barletta finished down in thirteenth. However, post-race penalties for two cars that finished ahead of Foley and Barletta moved them up to eleventh in the final results, which put them ten points ahead of the Camaro drivers to win the championship. Mercedes won the GS class manufacturers championship.
Foley and Barletta didn’t find out they had won the championship until around thirty minutes after the race was over, but it was still satisfying even though they didn’t get to celebrate when they crossed the finish line. “It’s certainly not the way you want to win it; it would have been nice for it to be a bit more straightforward,” said Foley. “We have some really smart guys on our team who were crunching numbers, and it was super stressful. I told them, ‘When I cross the finish line, just tell me what’s going on.’ We thought we were in a good position with strategy, but we basically missed the leader pitting by a lap and got trapped a lap down. The BMWs struggled for pace here, but we kind of had a lucky one come to us at the end. Great execution by our team, and it’s a very special feeling to be sitting here as champions.”
In VP SportsCar Challenge, Turner Motorsport driver Francis Selldorff came into the final two sprint races with a sizable lead in the driver’s championship and just had to not crash in order to clinch the championship. He did much better than that, finishing second in the first race and third in the second. Teammate Vin Barletta finished in third in race one to clinch the GSX Bronze class championship.
Selldorff only had one win (at Lime Rock) but was very consistent, getting on the podium six times throughout the season. “It’s such a relief,” said Selldorff after the races. “We just had to make the green flag today and then it was all fun after that. We were consistent all year and I had an awesome car with Turner. They’re great role models for me, I really can’t thank them enough. It’s a first everything for me: first year in IMSA, first year racing, really, so it’s just been like perfect.” —David Haueter
[Photos by LAT Images]