Checking in with the Champions: Continental Tire Challenge
Thursday, October 25, 2018

It’s been nearly two weeks since this year’s set of IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge champions were crowned following the finale at Road Atlanta on October 12.

But the feeling of accomplishment hasn’t diminished at all with the passage of time for any of the championship teams.

Giovanis Credits Execution for Team’s First Championship

With a new race car and a new driver pairing, Team TGM came into the 2018 Grand Sport (GS) class determined. The team was still seeking its first win in the series and had come close in past races, yet this season seemed different.

With sports car veterans Hugh Plumb and Owen Trinkler sharing the No. 46 Mercedes-AMG GT4, the team flew quietly under the radar for the first half of the season until that elusive first win was finally captured at Lime Rock Park in July.

It was there that Team TGM then captured something else – everyone’s attention. The victory was the first for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North American competition and capped off a streak of consecutive top-10 finishes for the team that started with the first race of the season.

Trinkler and Plumb went on to become the only team in the GS field that finished on the lead lap in all of the season’s 10 races, scoring an average finishing position within the top five after taking additional wins at VIRginia International Raceway in August and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September. The duo entered the final race of the season with a 31-point lead, only needing to meet drive-time requirements to clinch the title.

 For a team that entered the season winless so far in Continental Tire Challenge competition, the 2018 campaign turned into a dream come true.

“To say it’s gratifying is really the biggest understatement in the world,” said Team Owner Ted Giovanis. “It’s really amazing what we accomplished this year. We set out a plan, we started executing that plan, we kept our heads down and of course the team did a great job, just like the other teams did.

“We just kept moving down the road and then all of a sudden, we were at Lime Rock and we had a win. So, we went back to the plan and kept going again. Here we are. And to some extent, we’re here because of our own performance, but we placed ourselves in a position to take advantage of other people’s misfortunes at some point in time. it just appeared to us and we got ourselves in a really good position just before the last race.”

TCR Championship Several Years in the Making for Casey, Jr., Long

The first year for the TCR class in IMSA is officially in the books and if the class’ first 10 races were any indication, its future is bright.

This year, TCR provided the third-closest finish in series history, multiple last-lap passes for the win, emotional first victories for a handful of teams and drivers, and a back-and-forth, season-long championship battle that approached the season finale with just five points separating the top two teams.

Coming out on top, though, was the No. 77 Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS of Britt Casey, Jr. and Tom Long, a duo that first connected at the end of 2013. A friend of Casey’s introduced the then 15-year-old to the sports car veteran. Long – who was the outgoing team manager for Freedom Autosport as he transitioned to co-driving the Mazda Prototype in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – tested with Casey in early 2014 and put him in a Freedom race car in IMSA later that year.

“He literally gave me my first professional shot, which is really cool,” said Casey. “He’s always been a background mentor for me. He’s definitely like family, both of our families are really close now since that time. We met each other through racing and continued the relationship through that. Tom has really been probably the most key figure in my racing career.”

The close relationship was surely to the co-drivers’ benefit as they worked flawlessly together throughout the season. Long and Casey finished in the top five in every race, stood on top of the podium more times than any other team (four), completed all but two laps of competition and, for good measure, added three Motul Pole Awards.

“To put the stamp on it the first year in, it’s definitely history making,” Casey said of earning the first TCR championship. “It was hard earned, it was difficult regardless of our teammates being our biggest competitor.

“I think everyone executed accordingly and as much to plan as we could have been. I think we’re all really, really proud of that. The car literally had zero scratches on it the entire year and I think that played a huge part in our success. I think everyone just did their jobs and it was definitely a hard-earned effort.”

Jones: Team’s Capabilities Evident “From the First Laps” at the Roar

In racing, things can change in an instant. 

Last year, both Devin Jones and Nick Galante were racing Porsche Caymans for different teams in the Continental Tire Challenge. In January 2018, Jones and Galante were suddenly teammates, sharing a BMW for BimmerWorld Racing.

It was a move that will go down in the record books, as Jones and Galante were awarded the final championship in the Street Tuner (ST) class and the first championship for longtime series competitor, BimmerWorld.

For Jones, though, there wasn’t much of an adjustment period of getting settled in with BimmerWorld and his new co-driver.

“Nick and I knew from the first laps we turned at the Roar in January that we had a car and team that was capable of contending for wins,” said Jones. “The funny thing about Nick and I is, we both have very different driving styles, but we learned a lot from each other over the course of the season. We were always able to lean on one another from track to track. The whole pairing was really special and I was just so happy to be a part of it.”

The No. 81 BMW 328i became dominant as the season went on, capturing its first win at the season opener in January at Daytona International Speedway and tacking on three more by the season’s end. Nine of the year’s Motul Pole Awards went to either Jones or Galante and the team only finished off the podium once in 10 races.

It was unparalleled consistency for a team that hadn’t all worked together before this season.

“2018 was a special year,” said Jones. “You go into every season optimistic and you put in effort to help your chances of being successful, but this season it was really effortless. James Clay and the BimmerWorld team really are the best in the series, from the preparation and passion everyone on this team has for winning races to the way the whole group interacts and communicates.”