Jan Heylen passed Stevan McAleer with 12 minutes left, then held off repeated challenges from McAleer to prevail in Sunday’s Virginia Is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix at VIRginia International Raceway.
Heylen, who teamed with Ryan Hardwick, finished 0.516 seconds ahead of McAleer to score the second IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge victory of the season for the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
After Heylen passed McAleer, he didn’t run away. Instead, he tried to save fuel with McAleer filling his mirrors.
“It was about the fuel,” Heylen said. “Even though the team was telling me that we were good on fuel, I’ve done a race in the past where I ran out on the last lap. I didn’t want a repeat of that, so I tried to save as much fuel as I could all the way to the end of the race. There was no reason to risk everything to try to make a big gap.”
After the race, the #23 Notlad Racing by RS1 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 co-driven by McAleer and Patrick Gallagher failed a fuel capacity audit and was moved to last in the Grand Sport (GS) class. The #7 VOLT Racing with Archangel Aston Martin Vantage GT4 shared by Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman, which crossed the finish line in third place, moved up to second.
Heylen and the #16 Porsche were 80 points behind Bill Auberlen, Dillon Machavern and the #95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 in the GS standings coming into the race. The deficit is down to 30 points, after the #95 BMW was moved up to third place with the #23 car’s disqualification. The season finale is set for Nov. 12 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“The championship will come to whichever car crosses the finish line first,” Hardwick said. “We don’t need any cars in between us; we don’t need any other factors. … That’s an awesome position to be in for us and them, as well. We enjoy racing against them, and I think the feeling is mutual.”
#17 Audi Becomes First Two-Time TCR Winner in 2021
While Heylen was finishing a close battle in GS, Mikey Taylor had a slightly easier time in the Touring Car (TCR) class. He teamed with Chris Miller in the #17 Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS SEQ for a 2.467-second victory over Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson in the #54 Michael Johnson Racing Hyundai Veloster N TCR.
“Once I climbed in, I just had to pass two guys,” Taylor said. “It was pretty straightforward. Then we had the pace to try to control it. The biggest thing was the GS traffic and trying to leapfrog those guys at the rear of the GS field who were at a similar pace to us.”
The #17 is the first car to earn a second victory in TCR this season, following the win by Miller and Taylor in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
“It feels like we could’ve had a couple of more, too,” Miller said. “The team has been working so hard, and Mikey has done such a great job. We knew it would come. The guys just kept working on it. I’m just happy to add to it.”
The #33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR co-driven by Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker finished third in TCR.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge finale – the Fox Factory 120 on Nov. 12 – is part of Motul Petit Le Mans activities Nov. 10-13 at Michelin Raceway.