Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore Post-Race Notebook
Monday, November 12, 2018

Last-Minute Rides for Lally Lead to Big Fun at Encore

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship veteran racer, Andy Lally, was a somewhat late addition to the entry list for the pair of 45-minute Global MX-5 Cup races over the weekend at Sebring International Raceway and was a really late addition to the entry list for Sunday’s four-hour Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore main event.

On Saturday, Lally was added to the driver lineup for the No. 22 GMG Racing Audi R8 in the GT4 class alongside team owner/driver James Sofronas and car owner/driver Jason Bell. It worked out for all involved, as the trio came home second in class.

“I’ve got to say, first off, thanks to Jason Bell and James Sofronas from GMG for having me on,” said Lally, one of the "50 Great IMSA Drivers" named heading into IMSA's 50th Anniversary celebration next year. “I was here for the Global MX-5 Cup race and they decided they’d like a third. (Strategist) Mike Johnson gave me a call and I was happy to hop on board. We got a couple laps of practice and that was about it, and then I got a couple this morning, so probably four or five.

“The Audi was very comfortable to drive and the Michelins were really good all stint. I set my fastest lap on my second-to-last lap of the whole race. It was a good introduction for the tire and the first full stint I’ve actually done on them. It was exciting. I hope this was the first of many Encores to come and this becomes a cool tradition at Sebring. Selfishly, Atlanta’s getting cold, so it’s cool to come south a little bit and have some fun in Florida and finish off ’18 with sort of a non-points, non-pressure, fun weekend.”

There was more fun where that came from for Lally in Global MX-5 Cup, where he was briefly in position to score the $50,000 prize for the top scoring driver in both races.

“That was not last minute, but it was late,” said Lally of his MX-5 Cup deal. “My buddy, Todd Lamb, and I used to race go-karts 25-plus years ago, and he owns a team called Atlanta Speedwerks. He knew coming to Sebring for this big $80,000 prize, $50,000 to win Global MX-5 Cup race, that it would helpful if he had a teammate for bump drafting. He made a proposal to me and said ‘Come on down for this deal and let’s see how it goes.’ It was an absolute rip.

“I haven’t done a touring car-style race like that in a long time and there’s a lot of really good talent in that series. I finished sixth in the first race and it took me that race to kind of learn the people and then learn a little bit of the style with getting the run with those cars and whatnot.

“We took the lead early in the second race and we were looking so strong. I had Todd behind me in third. We were leading, got drafted by and then I was just sitting there. I’m like, ‘Man, we’ve got eight laps left. I’m going to push this guy for seven and then go.’ Unfortunately, it stuck in fourth gear. The gearbox didn’t even break. It just stuck in fourth gear, so I don’t know if they got back and just loosened up a linkage and it popped, but I couldn’t muscle it out of it. It was fun, also something I would look forward to trying again.”

 

Legge Reunites with Team That Launched Her U.S. Racing Career, Scores Encore Podium

Another longtime WeatherTech Championship regular, Katherine Legge, was another enthusiastic participant in the Michelin Encore over the weekend. For starters, it put her back in the cockpit of a Polestar Motor Racing-prepared race car for the first time since 2005, when she drove for the team in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship.

“It’s awesome,” said Legge after combining to finish third in the No. 40 Ligier LMP3 machine alongside co-drivers Keith and David Grant. “[Polestar owners] Jim and Pam (Griffith) are the reason that I’m standing here today. They made my career. The team at Polestar, they brought me over here from obscurity in England and we won the first race that I ever did with them in Long Beach in Atlantics in 2005, that’s how old I am now. They’re just awesome, awesome people and they run a great team. When they asked me, I was just honored. It’s just really cool. Reunited.”

A podium result in the highly competitive LMP3 class undoubtedly added to the fun for Legge. She’s spent the past two seasons racing Acura NSX GT3 cars for Meyer Shank Racing in the WeatherTech Championship after several years piloting the DeltaWing and was pleased with the opportunity to get back into a prototype race car.

“It’s been a long time and it was very competitive,” she said. “It’s so much fun. Those cars are awesome. I love them and I have a big smile on my face. There’s some really good drivers out there too. I really think this was a good event. The four hours just seemed to be about right. I learned a ton and I know the team learned a ton, and hopefully that translates to next year and also to this event again next year.”

 

Simpson, Johnson Come Up One Lap Short of Potential Encore Victory

Stephen Simpson and co-driver Michael Johnson came tantalizingly close to scoring a second victory in 2018 in the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS TCR car in the Michelin Encore. They earned their first TCR class victory at Lime Rock Park in July and Simpson was in the catbird seat as the four-hour clock counted down to zero.

But Simpson still had a lap-and-a-half to go, which proved to be too much for his fuel-starved Audi, especially with heavy pressure from Remo Ruscitti in the No. 82 Mark Motors Racing Audi. Ruscitti ultimately made the race-winning pass and shortly thereafter, Simpson limped into the pits.

“Gosh, it was a tough one,” Simpson said. “We ran out of fuel on the last lap is what happened. It’s unfortunate. Michael did a great job all weekend, the JDC-Miller Motorsports guys did a great job as well. We had some very quick pit stops and learned a lot about these Michelin tires. We’re looking forward to heading into 2019 in the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge.”

Johnson was equally optimistic looking toward next season, especially with the team’s performance in the Michelin Encore. He believes the team benefited by the “head start” the race gives them on preparations for the 2019 season.

“I think it’ll help a lot,” he said. “We realized what we have to work on before Daytona and what things we were strong at. We’ll just evaluate and test and get ready for Daytona.”

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