A fitting finale
Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta
Friday, October 11, 2019
The final race of the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, had all of the drama, suspense and excitement that have come to characterize this wild roller coaster of a season.
A rough start
The Legistics / Racing to End Alzheimer’s / FastMD / Speed Syndicate team was looking great in the early practice sessions, placing consistently in the top five. But at the beginning of the fourth practice session, the #23 Audi RS3 experienced a sudden and significant loss of power.
With the all-important qualifying session fast approaching, the team’s ace crew switched into crisis mode, quickly diagnosing a faulty high-pressure fuel pump and rushing to make the essential repairs. Despite everyone’s best efforts, they weren’t able to get the car ready in time. Having narrowly missed qualifying, the team would have to start the race from the back of the field, in last place.
A bold call
Driver Nick Galante knew he had his work cut out for him, but he also knew he had the speed and support to make a run for the front. Wasting no time, he surged ahead three spots on the first lap of the race. By lap 5, he had muscled his way into 6th position.
45 minutes into the two-hour race, a full course caution was called for a disabled car. While the rest of the teams pitted for new tires and fuel, the #23 team made the bold decision to take on just a splash of fuel, leap-frogging to the front of the pack to temporarily claim the lead. At the halfway point in the race, Galante exited for a full pit stop, turning Violet over to driver James Vance with a topped-off tank and new tires.
A gutsy finish
Vance exited the pits in 8th place and battled his way relentlessly through the field. With just 15 minutes left in the race, he was riding the rear bumper of the 3rd place Hyundai, looking for an opportunity to make his move. The moment came at the apex of turn 7 when the Hyundai slowed slightly and ran wide.
That was all the invitation Vance needed – he dove in and squeezed by, determined to claim a spot on the podium. Not surprisingly, the Hyundai had other ideas. The cars blew out of the turn side by side, drag raced down the straight-away at 140 mph and then tried to out-brake each other as they careened into turn 10. There was slight contact, but Vance recovered quickly, holding off the hungry Hyundai for an adrenaline-fueled finish to a thrill-filled season.