Round eight of the 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge brought edge-of-your-seat racing to VIRginia International Raceway, as the Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports team defied odds by stretching their fuel stint to nearly 70 minutes to take a convincing victory and more important championship points!
Leaving the previous round with a second place finish, sitting second in the championship with only 80 points separating them from the top spot, the team knew that returning to a season favorite at VIR would provide another opportunity to maximize the points haul before heading into the unknown of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is new on the IMSA schedule for 2023.
The driving duo of Mikey Taylor and Chris Miller felt confident in the setup and preparations the Minnesota based team had come up with, right off the trailer. Finishing second in FP1, and quickest in FP2, with a time of 1.56.036, only a mere 0.5 seconds faster than the previous track record set in 2019.
Chris Miller strapped into the #17 Audi RS 3 LMS TCR for one of the latest qualifying sessions the team faced this year, starting at 6:20 PM. Luckily in this case, it allowed the scorching temperatures to slightly cool. Feeling better than ever with the car, Miller was able to lay down a blistering new track record of 1.55.240 earning pole position in TCR.
“From the first laps in practice I knew we had a good car that could compete for the pole. When you have a car that is so well balanced and predictable it’s very confidence-inspiring to push it to the limit. The pole and track record were really a testament to how well the team is clicking right now as a group and with our #17 Unitronic TCR. It was always going to be a difficult race given the heat and quality of our competitors, but starting up front is always helpful.” said the new track record holder, Chris Miller.
Heading into race day, the team knew that they would have their work cut out for them, as temperatures at the South Eastern race track soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit heat index. As the green flag flew, Miller got a great jump off the line and led the way for the first few laps, however as predicted, slower traffic in the GS class quickly became a problem and backed him up into the chasing pack of TCR cars ultimately relegating him back to 5th place. Having recovered from an altercation with an Aston Martin GT4 car, Miller quickly began using his talented driving skills to move up the field and into second place, when the second full caution of the race fell around 30 minutes into the two-hour event.
The crew quickly jumped into shape hanging a seamless tire change and fuel fill and sent him back on his way to restart in 4th behind some cars which had opted not to take the opportunity to pit during the safety car period. As engineer Cole Scrogham radioed the green flag during the restart, Miller immediately made several masterful passes to get him back into the top positions right as another safety car period was brewing for the stranded Honda TCR car in the classic Oaktree Corner at the back of the circuit. Sensing an imminent caution Team Principal John Church and Engineer Cole Scorgham quickly relayed a message to Miller to pit this lap and hand over driving duties to Mikey Taylor.
With 69 minutes left on the clock, the team knew that they would need either another full course yellow or Taylor would need to execute an extreme fuel save during his stint, as the Gen2 Audi RS 3 TCR is limited to carrying under 60 minutes of usable fuel capacity, due to the IMSA Balance of Performance regulations. Taylor began working through the fuel savings, lifting and coasting into every corner and practicing an enormous amount of self control not using the speed which his Audi was capable of. Lap after lap as Taylor bid his time, competitors in front of him pitted for fuel until it was only his Audi up front with the Alfa Romeo of Tim Lewis Jr. 3 seconds behind.
Remembering how things finished at Road America only a few weeks before, Taylor remained consistent on his fuel saving even with the mounting pressure from the Alfa behind. With 15-minutes to go, that pressure dissipated as the Alfa ran into an issue and dropped out of contention leaving Taylor with a 50-second gap back to the chasing #33 Hyundai. This master class in strategy and fuel saving allowed the #17 TCR to essentially coast to a second victory of the year, and fourth podium in the last five races!
“Wow what a long, hot day in the seat! I have to give it up to the Unitronic JDC crew for a brilliant strategy and handing me the tools to be able to manage the race like we did. I was a bit upset that we didn't get to hang onto it [the win] at Road America in a similar situation and I thought about it a lot. So heading into this race I practiced our fuel saving more and mentally set myself up for that stint, so I'm really happy it worked out that way!” said an exhausted Taylor after driving 69 minutes without a cool shirt or much ventilation in what was over 110 Fahrenheit inside the cockpit.
This victory moves the team 30 points closer to the lead of the championship with two rounds to go.
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Michelin Pilot Challenge 2023
A big thank you also needs to go out to Unitronic Authorized Dealer New German Performance for being onboard for their second event of the year. New German Performance is a full service automotive repair center and online parts retailer, comprised of a group of dedicated enthusiasts, providing high quality service, maintenance and performance solutions for our fellow enthusiasts and owners of European automobiles in the Mid Atlantic region.
The penultimate round of the 2023 IMSA TCR Championship takes place at the very special Indianapolis Motor Speedway, September 15-17 2023. On track action starts at 11:45 AM on Friday, and 4 hours of racing action at 4:30 PM on Saturday. Stay up to date on all 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 HERE. Tune into the UNITRONIC social media channels or IMSA.TV for race coverage of all ten championship events!
UNITRONIC® engineers industry-leading aftermarket performance enhancing software and hardware for Audi®, Volkswagen®, Seat®, and Skoda® cars worldwide. Best known for its performance software engine and transmission calibrations, Unitronic enhances vehicle performance while maintaining complete OEM-like reliability and drivability. Unitronic’s UniCONNECT+ Programming and Diagnostic Interface empowers Unitronic Clients to safely reprogram their engine and transmission control modules from the comfort of home, anywhere in the world. Learn more about Unitronic's competitive advantage at www.getunitronic.com
About JDC-MILLER MOTORSPORTS
JDC-MILLER MOTORSPORTS is a world-class multiple championship winning sportscar racing team, with a total of 18 championships, 60 wins, 57 pole positions, and 195 podiums, most of which coming by way of their Prototype class programs running in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Highlights include an Overall Win at the Six Hours at Watkins Glen in 2018, 2017 Winner Extreme Spirit Award, and 2017 Winner Jim Trueman Award, providing the team an automatic entry into the 2018 24 Hours of LeMans. Learn more at www.jdcmotorsport.com
About LIQUI MOLY USA – Canada
LIQUI MOLY USA – Canada is a subsidiary of LIQUI MOLY GmbH, a global motor oil and additive company based in Germany selling products in more than 150 countries. LIQUI MOLY offers more than 4,000 items globally covering automotive, powersports, commercial vehicles, boats and watercraft and more. LIQUI MOLY USA - Canada is actively involved in motorsports in numerous capacities highlighted by teams in IMSA USA and IMSA Canada, TC America and Trans AM. Learn more at www.liqui-moly.com
About OUT THERE BRANDS
Out There Brands was founded by professional racing driver Mikey Taylor. He saw a need for a company that offers extreme personalization and customer service in the branding industry and founded OTB in order to fill it. Producing custom-made displays and apparel to bring attention to our customers. Using his experience in the motorsport industry, Mikey focused on working with suppliers and forming partnerships to utilize only the best materials and products from around the world to deliver durable, cost-effective and stand out products! Learn more at www.OutThereBrands.com
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