GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Paul Holton
Road Atlanta caps off a season of highs and lows with our McLaren GT4 in IMSA
BRASELTON, GA — Sixth place in a series as competitive as IMSA's Michelin Pilot Sportscar Challenge should be an accomplishment to celebrate, and not a let-down. But after podim finishes at Daytona and Road America, we felt our GS program could close out the season with a high, bookending our history-making first place finish in January,
Alas, it was not to be.
IMPC features the most competitive and deep field of all GT4 championships worldwide, and we'd argue that our pairing of two McLaren factory drivers (Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer) is the class of the field. BoP is a necessary evil in our world, but this track should have been one that favoured us. That wasn't how the cards fell.We expected to qualify in the top three; P11 was the result despite a Yeoman's effort from Kuno. Traffic played a part, to be sure, but we had some issues with the brakes that hampered the car's performance.Qualifying in IMPC is more bragging rights than anything (and we've bragged muchly when we've done well), but it doesn't really have a bearing on the race. Many teams (us included: see Road America earlier this year) can start at the back and win the race. So we weren't worried; brakes were sorted and we started with high hopes.As most Michelin Pilot races are, it was frantic from the outset. The championship contenders battled, but were mindful of not losing points as they jockeyed for a place in the final standings; the rest of us were hell-bent-for-leather. But within limits. Of nine races thus far, we'd been taken out of seven by competitors or mechanicals. We'd been on the podium for the other two. This one mattered.
Kuno moved through traffic and got within sight of P1. And then it was time for a driver change.
Holton was in, and with pit stops sorted, was back within sight of the leaders. As happens, the car begins to be a little second-hand, which a driver manages. A yellow flag bunched the field up, and an opportunity presented itself. First place was within sight. Or at the very least, a podium!With minutes to go, it was all to play for. Holton was up to fourth, and closing. It was time for a daring move. At this point in the season, it was all or nothing, and the call from pit lane was clear: GO FOR IT.
Alas, the brakes weren't up to the task, and Paul fell back to eighth, grappling back to a hard-fought sixth. It wasn't the result we hoped for, but it was indicative of our season.The 570S GT4 has come good after three solid seasons of development from both McLaren and its customer teams. Our good friends at Motorsports In Action (a fellow Canadian squad, out of Quebec) did a great job, finishing a solid second in the year-end standings. We won, and they were consistent, together proving the veracity of the platform.For us, a frustrating year, with some huge highs, and deep lows. That's racing. And that's why we'll be back again, for our 17th season in professional racing. Our passion of this sport, and for McLaren, runs deep.