The seventh round of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition brought the Unitronic-JDC Miller Motorsports Team to Lakeville, CT to Lime Rock Park for the FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix – a track dubbed “The Bullring”, as it’s best known for its difficulty to pass making it a challenging circuit that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. This weekend’s action certainly lived up to its name.
The #17 Audi RS 3 TCR started off strong, finishing the first and second free practice sessions at the top of timing and scoring with both Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor getting in some laps in practice ahead of the Qualifying session happening later in the afternoon. The team knew they had a well-dialed race car, but were unsure of how the balance would be in the evolving conditions and hotter weather coming in for qualifying. Additional challenges like limited tire allocation mandates being implemented by Michelin, due to global supply chain issues, meant Chris Miller was unable to get a qualifying simulation in the second practice session.
Chris Miller took the #17 machine out for qualifying and managed to slot into P7, despite having his sights set on the pole position. Nevertheless, and given the circumstances, the Unitronic JDC-Miller Motorsports team was in a good starting position ahead of the long and sure-to-be grueling 2-hour long race around the American Bullring.
Saturday’s race day brought hot and humid conditions to Lime Rock Park, but that proved no challenge for the Unitronic powered #17 Audi TCR. Chris Miller took the green flag and started to make quick work of the TCR field, moving up to 3rd in class after just 20-minutes, when he was knocked off course by one of the BHA Hyundai’s, causing him to fall into last place. Undaunted, Miller continued on, turning out some of the quickest laps of all TCR competitors during the remainder of his stint before handing over driving duties to the South African born, Mikey Taylor during a skillfully executed pit stop for left side tires only, and a short splash of fuel. This strategy call from Engineer and Strategist Cole Scrogham, and masterful pit stop execution from the JDC-Miller Motorsports crew propelled Taylor back up to P7 in class, allowing him to get down to business and focus on the job at hand.
As disaster struck for a competitor in the GS class, Scrogham made a lightning quick reaction in foreseeing an imminent full-course yellow (FCY) coming and made the call to Taylor to box box box, allowing him to dive into pit lane merely seconds before the FCY flag flew and pit lane closed to all competitors to take front tires and a full fuel fill. The significance of this is that not only is there less time lost while in the pits during FCY’s, but it also allowed the #17 to make a significant amount of progress through the field once the rest of the TCR competitors cycled through pit lane, as Scrogham knew the rest of the TCR class couldn’t make it to the end on fuel or tires. Taylor came back out in P3, behind a fellow Audi SEQ TCR competitor who did not opt to make a 2nd stop during the FCY, and a BHA Hyundai pit that dove in behind our #17 Audi.
Taylor made quick work of the Hyundai and other Audi SEQ in a few laps time, putting him in the lead of the TCR class with 25 minutes left on the clock. But the mission was far from finished — the top five TCR cars battled for position lap after lap, often clustered within mere seconds of each other, which was made more complicated by the GS traffic spread throughout the short 1.5-mile long Lime Rock Park circuit. Taylor managed to pull a bit of a gap to the rest of the TCR pack at one point, but getting stuck behind the slightly quicker GS cars proved unnerving at several points throughout the remainder of the race, ultimately allowing the TCR pack to catch up to Taylor heading into the last 5-minutes including getting into some Hyundai induced contact between the #19 Hyundai and a GS car. Taylor, despite the contact, kept the #17 Audi on track unaffected and continued onward. The #19 Hyundai regrouped for another attempt past Taylor with 90-seconds remaining in the race, attempting an over-under pass for the lead into Turn 1, making side-to-side contact several times with the #17 Audi of Unitronic JDC-Miller Motorsports through Turns 2 and 3, before sustaining left-rear damage and allowing Taylor to continue onward to the white flag and ultimately the top step of the podium!
Speaking on the win, Miller said, “The challenges we’ve had this year make this win even more gratifying. We had great strategy and Mikey drove one of the best closing stints I’ve ever seen. Thanks to all the JDC guys who have worked so hard and to our partners who have stuck with us when the results weren’t up to our expectations. We have such a great group of people involved in this program and it’s nice to share this victory with them.”
The win was bittersweet and certainly long overdue for the entire team, battling through what felt like non-stop adversity for the entire 2022 season, marking the first victory of the season for the Unitronic JDC-Miller Motorsports Team.
“I am so glad I was able to hang onto the win throughout that intense race to bring home one for all the men and women who work so hard to make this program a success! We’ve had races where we were faster, and definitely more of a favorite to win, but it is always sweeter to win in a battle like we had! “ said the South African.
Stay up to date on our activities, learn more about the team, our pro drivers, the #17 RS 3 LMS TCR race car, our tremendous sponsors and shop for team merch on getunitronic.com/motorsports!
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