IMSA held its “Roar Before the 24” event this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, which was mostly for testing for next weekends Rolex 24 at Daytona, but it was also the opening weekend for the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, a sprint racing series featuring LMP3 and GT4 spec race cars. There were several M4 GT4 cars entered in the GSX class, and Stephen Cameron Racing driver Greg Liefooghe came away with a podium result in each of the two rounds held at Daytona.
BMW was the most popular brand in the GT4-spec GSX class, with eight entered among six different teams. Liefooghe was one of the fastest drivers in the series last year and was the fastest of the BMW drivers in qualifying for race one, slotting into fourth with a lap time around four-tenths off the pole time of Michael Cooper in a Porsche. BMW drivers Patrick Wilmot of Split Decision Racing and Sean Quinlan of Stephen Cameron Racing also qualified in the top ten.
Once race one got underway, Liefooghe took over the lead around ten minutes into the race, and there was a good battle among the top four cars that were running in close proximity. Wilmot also got up to third at one point then fell back to fourth. There was only one caution in the race toward the end, which allowed Michael Cooper the chance to get around Liefooghe after the restart, but Liefooghe then retook the lead.
Meanwhile, Luca Mars had worked his way to the front in his Ford Mustang GT4 after starting from last after the car failed a pre-race inspection for being underweight. The Mustang was in a class of its own, as Mars simply drove past Liefooghe on the last lap and took the win by just .05 second as Liefooghe finished second. Patrick Wilmot ended up in fifth in his Split Decision Racing M4 GT4. BMW also had strong results in the Bronze Cup class, which is a class within the GSX class for less experienced drivers who have a Bronze driver rating by the FIA. Mark Brummond finished first in Bronze Cup in his Auto Technic M4 GT4, followed by Sean Quinlan from Stephen Cameron Racing and Michael Dayton from Swish Motorsports.
The Mustang set a new class lap record in race one at Daytona with a fast lap that was over a second faster than anyone else. That caught IMSA’s attention, as they adjusted the BoP for the Mustangs that will compete in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race next weekend. The BoP was not adjusted for the VP Challenge Mustangs since there was only a day between races. The grid for race two was set by fastest laps in race one, so Mars was on the pole in his Mustang for the second race, with Liefooghe in fourth. Mars led from start to finish to get the win, while Liefooghe moved his way up to third behind Michael Cooper to get his second straight podium finish. Patrick Wilmot finished fifth for the second straight race, and Michael Dayton finished second in the Bronze Cup class in race two.
The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge will race again in early March on the street course in St. Petersburg, Florida, followed by Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in early June. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images]