In 2019, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) was celebrating its 50th anniversary. IMSA was founded by NASCAR’s Bill France and John Bishop (a former executive director of the Sports Car Club of America) and Bishop’s wife, Peggy. They succeeded in creating their vision which was to build a sanctioning body for professional road racing in North America. From its humble roots, IMSA currently sanctions seven different race series: IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – USA, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – Canada, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Ferrari Challenge.

2019 began with a number of changes to IMSA’s production-based sedan series.

  • First, Continental Tire which had been the series primary sponsor since 2010 was replaced by Michelin and the championship would be renamed the ‘IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge’.
  • This also meant the teams would be using Michelin tires.
  • Finally, the Street Tuner which had been a mainstay since the series inception was dropped from the championship.

The 2019 edition of the Michelin Pilot Challenge consisted of ten events (Daytona International Speedway, Sebring, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), Lime Rock Park, Road America, Virginia International Raceway, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta). Most contests were 2-hours in length with the exception of Daytona and Watkins Glen where competitors would race for four-hours.

There are two race groups competing in the Michelin Piot Challenge:

  • Grand Sport (GS): This category underwent some changes in 2017. The new rules accepted cars prepared to the SRO (Stephane Ratel Organisation) GT4 technical requirements. The quicker of the two groups, this class includes cars such as the Ford Mustang GT4, BMW M4 GT4, Mercedes-AMG, Audi R8 and Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. Vehicles competing in this group produce between 400 - 450 horsepower and are capable of speeds over 175-mph.
  • Touring Car (TCR): TCR is a global touring car category which was added to the Michelin Pilot Challenge series in 2018. Cars competing in this category include the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, Honda Civic TCR, Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR and Audi RS3 LMS TCR. They use a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine which will produce between 300 – 350-horsepower.

Close, competitive racing with cars that fans could relate to contributed to the popularity of the series. It also provided an environment for automotive manufacturers to test and showcase their products.

Round five of the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series was conducted at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Competitors would race around the ten-turn 2.459-mile road course for two-hours.

The start on round five for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Leading the field of thirty-six competitors into corner one is the pole-sitter, Owen Trinkler in the No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG. On the outside is the other front row starter, Tyler McQuarrie in the Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8. Trailing, Trinkler is the Ford Mustang GT4 of NASCAR Truck series driver, Ben Rhodes.
Robin Liddell and newcomer, Frank DePew shared the Rebel Rock Racing prepared Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R. DePew qualified the only Camaro entered in the event and was thirty-second fastest. He would start nineteenth in the Grand Sport category. In the race, DePew ran with the TCR cars but an early driver change allowed Liddell to move ahead of the class leaders. Despite pressure from Kyle Marcelli, he held on for the victory.
Britt Casey, Jr. joined Mikey Taylor for his first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge event of the season. The drivers shared the No. 17 Audi RS3 LMS TCR (DSG). Taylor qualified the Audi and was spectacular. He was seventh quickest overall and six positions ahead of the next fastest TCR competitor. Casey drove the final stint and battled with Stephen Simpson for the lead. Despite contact between the two, Casey took the victory.
The No. 46 Mercedes-AMG driven by Owen Trinkler was quickest in the second practice session and topped the charts again in qualifying. This was the Team TGM driver’s second pole of the season, his first was at Sebring International Raceway. Sharing the Mercedes with Trinkler was Hugh Plumb. During the race, the duo was unable to match the pace of the leaders and remained on the lead-lap but finished in twelfth place.
Last year’s Grand Sport winners, Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy finished second. Driving the KohR Motorsports prepared Ford Mustang GT4, Stacy was fourth quickest during the qualifying session. Marcelli drove the final stint and moved into second place on lap-53 of 78. He pushed the leading Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R of Robin Liddell but could not make the pass and finished 0.587-seconds behind Liddell.
It was a miserable weekend for the TCR points leaders, Shelby Blackstock and Tom O’Gorman. In qualifying, Blackstock was the fourth quickest in class. Unfortunately, the No. 37 Honda Civic TCR broke a transmission mount on the pace lap. Unable to make repairs, the team retired the car after three-laps. However, their competition had issues and they were able to maintain first place standing in the title chase. Taking the brunt of the incident was the TRG Porsche which retired.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport podium at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. On the left are second place finishers and last year’s winners, Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy. And, at the right side of the rostrum are Corey Fergus and Jesse Lazare. In the middle are the winners, Frank DePew and Robin Liddell. For the veteran, Liddell this was his tenth series victory and for DePew his first visit to the top step of the podium.
Bryan Herta Autosport left the Pirelli World Challenge Championship in 2018 to join the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series. The No. 98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR is shared by Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins. Their season did not get off to a strong start but they won round three at Mid-Ohio and were second at Watkins Glen. Lewis was second fastest in qualifying but damage to the radiator during the race forced the team to retire.
Series officials split the grid with the Grand Sport entries starting first followed by the TCR category. Leading the TCR group into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s first turn is the pole-sitter, Mikey Taylor in the No. 17 JDC – Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Behind Taylor are the two Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR driven by the second fastest qualifier, Michael Lewis and third place starter, Mason Filippi.
Motorsports In Action teammates, Corey Fergus and Jesse Lazare, are in contention for the championship. The duo has a pair of third place finishes (Daytona and Sebring) and their worst result was an eighth place at Watkins Glen. They started the two-hour contest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the eighth position. During the race, the pair moved through the field and captured the final step on the podium.
Multimatic Motorsports entered two Ford Mustang GT4. The Mustangs were driven by competitors from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck series. One of the cars was shared by Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. The quicker of the two Mustangs was the No. 15 car piloted by Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger. Rhodes was third fastest in qualifying and the pair ran as high as second before finishing thirteenth.
Despite the damage to No. 52 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR the team was able to capture a runner-up finish. Sharing the Honda were, Colin Mullan and Max Faulkner. Their best result to date was a fifth place in round two at Sebring International Raceway. They were gridded sixth in the TCR category for the start of the two-hour contest. Some of their competitors encounter issues allowing them to earn the second place result.
Getting stronger every race are TCR drivers, Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone. At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, they earned their third consecutive podium. Ernstone started twelfth in the fourteen car TCR field. Some good driving and misfortune for their competitors allowed them to move up the race order. Their performance elevated them from fourth to second in the championship standings.
Devin Jones and James Clay moved into the Grand Sport points lead at Watkins Glen International. Clay performed the qualifying duties at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park driving the No. 82 BimmerWorld Racing BMW M4 GT4. The team made changes prior to the session, which resulted in the twenty-fifth fastest time. Undeterred, the pair made progress during the race and finished sixth – more importantly, they still led the title chase.
The TCR podium for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In the center are the class winners from JDC – Miller MotorSports, Mikey Taylor and Britt Casey, Jr. This was Casey's second consecutive TCR victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. To their right are the second-place finishers, Max Faulkner and Colin Mullans. Rounding out the podium are Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley.

1GSF. DePew / R. LiddellChevrolet Camaro GT4.R78-
2GSN. Stacy / K. MarcelliFord Mustang GT478-
3GSJ. Lazare / C. FergusMcLaren 570S GT478-
4GST. McQuarrie / J. WestphalAudi R878-
5GSJ. Pesek / J. BufordFord Mustang GT478-
6GSJ. Clay / D. JonesBMW M4 GT478-
7GSJ. Mossing / E. FossMercedes-AMG78-
8GSA. Brynjolfsson / T. HindmanPorsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport78-
9GSK. Koch / T. CookeAudi R878-
10GSA. Balogh / G. LiefoogheAston Martin AMR Vantage78-
11GSS. Hargrove / O. FidaniPorsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport78-
12GSH. Plumb / O. TrinklerMercedes-AMG78-
13GSB. Rhodes / G. EnfingerFord Mustang GT478-
14GSJ. Sauter / M. CraftonFord Mustang GT478-
15GST. Giovanis / G. CosmoMercedes-AMG78-
16GST. Probert / B. MosingMercedes-AMG78-
17TCRM. Taylor / B. Casey JrAudi RS3 LMS TCR78-
18TCRM. Faulkner / C. MullanHonda Civic TCR78-
19TCRG. Ernstone / J. MorleyAudi RS3 LMS TCR78-
20TCRT. Lamb / B. HendersonHonda Civic TCR78-
21GSB. Ward / C. HohenadelMercedes-AMG78-
22TCRM. Johnson / S. SimpsonAudi RS3 LMS TCR78-
23TCRJ. Vance / N. GalanteAudi RS3 LMS TCR77-
24TCRR. Block / T. Lewis, Jr.Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR77-
25GSJ. Cox / D. MurryMercedes-AMG77-
26TCRM. Cirone / R. RuscittiAudi RS3 LMS TCR77-
27TCRR. Nash / R. McDonoughAudi RS3 LMS TCR77-
28TCRM. Filippi / H. GottsackerHyundai Veloster N TCR75-
29GSG. Ferrera / K. WilsonAston Martin AMR Vantage75-
30TCRA. Popow / A. PapadopulosAlfa Romeo Giulietta TCR64-
31TCRM. Wilkins / M. LewisHyundai Veloster N TCR63-
32GSD. Kok / P. HoltrustMercedes-AMG59-
33GSR. Ward / I. DontjeMercedes-AMG30Did Not Finish
34TCRC. Gilsinger / R. EversleyHonda Civic TCR23Did Not Finish
35GSP. Rees / K. WittmerMcLaren 570S GT415Did Not Finish
36TCRT. O'Gorman / S. BlackstockHonda Civic TCR3Did Not Finish

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