It has been eight months since the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship held and endurance race, but this weekend, the sports car racing series heads to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca earned a third place finish at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, and after a series of podium finishes in the subsequent sprint events, the team is ready to climb higher up the podium for this weekend’s endurance event.
As previously announced in the spring, Colin Braun will join full season drivers Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman in the No. 18 Oreca, with all three drivers splitting the driving duties for the six-hour event. Braun was supposed to make his Era Motorsport debut at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March, but the schedule changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic moved the event to November. Braun has still been on hand to contribute to the team both at the sprint events and tests between the races.
“I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel with Kyle and Dwight,” said Braun. “Having worked with the team for the past Sprint races, and seeing the progress and growth has been really exciting, this team has done such a great job. I know everyone has been working extremely hard and we need to keep the podium streak alive! Road Atlanta is always a tough race with the speed differences between classes and I know that will make it exciting!”
Beginning at 11:35AM Eastern on Saturday, September 5th, the TireRack.com Grand Prix will require each driver to complete a minimum of 90 minutes of driving. If a driver fails to meet the minimum time or exceeds the four hour maximum, the team can be disqualified and not receive championship points.
The increased length of the race will also increase the importance of smooth and expedient pit stops, as each stop for fuel, tires, and a driver change can earn a team seconds over the competition.
“It’s going to be fun to get back to a slightly longer race,” said Merriman. “My pace is gradually improving, and the car has been really good, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
With 60 points obtained so far this season, the team sits fourth in the full-season championship standings, just three points away from the leaders. In the Michelin Endurance Cup, and endurance championship within the full season battle, the team are placed third, seven points from the leaders. The additional endurance race experience will benefit Merriman and Tilley, who will compete in their first 24 Hours of Le Mans this month with IDEC SPORT.
“I am really looking forward to Road Atlanta and getting back in endurance race mode with Colin joining us,” said Tilley. “Everyone on the team has been pushing to improve, Road America felt like a big step forward for both Dwight and I. The pressure is on Colin to help to keep the podium streak alive! Despite a depleted LMP2 class grid, I still think the inter-class battle will be exciting, bring it on!”
This weekend Era Motorsport is mourning the loss of one of their longtime mechanics, Mark Harlan, who passed away last week.
“Mark was one of the very first mechanics that we worked with,” said Tilley. “His involvement with Era Motorsport grew as the company did, including driving one of our semis, and being our go to gearbox guy. He was always great fun to be around, and you knew if he had his hands on one of our hewland gearboxes it was going to be a dream to use! Mark’s passing has left both a big hole in Era Motorsport, and our lives personally. We have lost not only a talented mechanic but a valued friend. We will be racing with him in mind this coming weekend!”
Source. KBru Communications