An early incident outside of their control derailed Sebastian Priaulx and team-mate Scott Maxwell’s challenge for a front-running result as they returned to Road Atlanta for the latest round of the Michelin Pilot Challenge (15/16 October).
Priaulx headed back to Road Atlanta for the second time this season with high hopes of a successful visit. The Georgia circuit was the scene of a memorable race win on his series debut twelve months ago, as well as the team’s only previous podium finish of the 2020 campaign three weeks’ prior.
The fast and flowing nature of the 2.54 mile circuit suiting their Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4, the Guernseyman was immediately able to make his mark during free practice on Thursday as he posted the second fastest time overall in both of the hour-long sessions.
While qualifying didn’t quite go their way, they were confident of making progress from eighth on the grid. Maxwell did exactly that in the opening laps, gaining a couple of positions to settle in the top six, but just past the ten minute mark disaster struck.
A car running ahead of the Canadian hit the barriers and an errant wheel was spat across the track directly into Maxwell’s path. With no chance to take avoidance, he made contact with it at high speed, leading to extensive front corner damage to the Mustang.
A fantastic effort by the Multimatic crew got the car quickly turned around and back on track, but with a number of laps lost to the pack in the process, there was little chance of a fightback. Maxwell brought the car through to the pitstop window, with Priaulx tackling the final 40 minutes.
While a portion of his stint took place under full course yellow periods, the 19 year old produced some competitive lap times, despite the front-end damage reducing the cars ultimate performance. He eventually took the chequered flag 18th in class, three laps down.
Sebastian Priaulx: “Out of the circuits on the Michelin Pilot Challenge calendar, Road Atlanta is the one that suits our Ford Mustang the best and with our previous successes at the circuit, we definitely came into this meeting with hopes for a positive result.
“Our free practice pace was strong and while our qualifying result wasn’t as high as hoped, we knew we had the speed to move forwards in the race. Unfortunately the incident at the start of the race was a case of wrong place at the wrong time with no way to avoid the wheel.
“The Multimatic Motorsports team did a brilliant job to get the car back on track so quickly and while we didn’t get to do much racing from there, it felt good to get the car to the chequered flag. Ultimately it hasn’t been our weekend, but we’ll push hard for success in the closing rounds.”
Two meetings remain in the 2020 Michelin Pilot Challenge season, with Priaulx making his debut at Laguna Seca in two weeks’ time (30 October-1 November), before returning to Sebring a fortnight later for the season finale (11-14 November).
Image from IMSA.