Forty 7 Motorsports takes top prize at IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring

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November 10, 2019 09:07 PM

Forty 7 Motorsports takes top prize at IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring

Joel Janco and Jon Jorge teamed with WeatherTech Championship regular Tristan Nunez for the win

Steven Cole Smith

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Ideal weather contributed to the success of the second annual Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore, a non-points, season-ending four-hour endurance race that allows three classed that don’t normally get to headline the show strut their stuff: The LMP3 Prototypes that compete in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series, GT3 cars that compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series in the GT Daytona class, and the GT4 cars that race in the IMSA Pilot Challenge series in the Grand Sport class.
That’s the good news. The bad news was that only 18 cars entered in the endurance race: 10 LMP3s, four GT3s, and four GT4s.
Not surprisingly, the Forty 7 Motorsports Norma M30 LMP3 took the overall honors, as team regulars Joel Janco and Jon Jorge teamed with WeatherTech regular Tristan Nunez, co-driver of the No. 77 Mazda Prototype DPi, with pro driver Nunez closing the deal to the checkered flag. “That’s what this weekend was for from the beginning, just to go out there and have fun,” said Nunez. The No. 47 was one of only two Normas in the field; the other eight LMP3 cars were Ligier JS P3s. All the LMP3 cars have a spec V-8 engine and transmission.
In the other two classes, it was a sweep for Mercedes-AMG, both cars competing under the auspices of sports car legend Bill Riley and Riley Motorsports. The No. 74 Mercedes-AMG of Lawson Aschenbach and Gar Robinson took GT3 class honors, and the No. 35 Mercedes-AMG of Dylan Murry and Jim Cox won in the GT4 class.

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“For me, this year ended at Road Atlanta, so this is really part of the new 2020 season,” said Riley. “To get something going in our first race for the 74 car with 74 Ranch Resort, and Lawson and Gar, it really couldn’t have gone much better. Then, to see Dylan and Jim drive like that, I just thought that was great. Jim drove an awesome opening stint, just like Gar, and it was a super solid start for both teams for 2020. We definitely had fast pit stops all day. Tyler Hook, Chris Miller and I called a two-tire strategy from our pit for the 74 to bring it up to the front. I thought that was the play of the race in my eyes. On top of that, we had the Mercedes-AMG reliability. Both cars just ran like clockwork all day.”
For Riley and Mercedes, it was especially encouraging. The winning GT3 car was driven during the 2019 season by team principal Ben Keating and co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen. That team moved full-time to the Europe-based FIA World Endurance Championship for 2020, but will return for IMSA’s four endurance races as well. That leaves the 74 Ranch Resort car, headed up by Gar Robinson’s father, longtime Trans Am driver George Robinson, to lead the charge for Mercedes-AMG and Riley Racing.
“I think first and foremost, we’re all thrilled to be at Riley Motorsports,” said Aschenbach. “Bill Riley has been someone I’ve respected for a long time, someone I’ve always wanted to race for. Now I’m getting that opportunity and there’s no better way to start the relationship off with a win. Today, honestly, was about Gar. Gar ran an Ironman stint. He ran two hours and 30-something minutes by himself, straight through and kept it cool, ran great laps. He was right there and honestly that’s why we won.”

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Meanwhile, Murry, son of longtime IMSA sports car veteran David Murry, and Cox put a punctuation mark on their first GT4 season with Riley Motorsports. The pair raced in 2019 in Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport class, winning at Watkins Glen International in June in another four-hour race.
“I absolutely love these longer races, this is what I thrive for,” said Murry. “I really feel like I excel in them because in the longer races it’s all about patience and doing perfect lap after perfect lap. We’re two out of the past three wins in the four-hour races, so Riley Motorsports and Mercedes-AMG definitely know the four-hour races. Mercedes-AMG knows what they’re doing when they put together an endurance car because that’s what we just showed today.”
The race was also the first event for newly-minuted IMSA chairman John Doonan, who headed Mazda Motorsports in the U.S. until resigning at the end of the 2019 season to replace the retiring Scott Atherton, who was also at Sebring. “Everything is going great,” said Doonan. “I’m just trying to retain everything that’s being thrown at me.”
Doonan will need the experience: His next event is the 2020 season’s biggest, kicking off at Daytona International Speedway on January 3-5 with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona testing weekend, then the Rolex 24 taking the green flag on January 25.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/imsa/forty-7-motorsports-takes-top-prize-imsa-sportscar-encore-sebring

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