DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competitors couldn’t have had a better weekend to test at the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
Teams and drivers faced an array of conditions over three days that ranged from sunny to overcast, dry to damp to full wet at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
At the conclusion of the fifth and final test session, Thomas Collingwood and BGB Motorsports stood atop the combined speed chart in the Grand Sport (GS) class, with Ryan Eversley and Atlanta Speedwerks at the head of the class in Touring Car (TCR).
The fastest laps in each class were set at opposite ends of the weekend. Collingwood logged his in Friday morning’s opening session, taking the No. 38 Porsche Cayman GT4 around the 3.56-mile road course in 1 minute, 54.130 seconds (112.293 mph). Eversley posted his TCR best late in Sunday’s final session, at 1:59.805 (106.974 mph) in the No. 94 Honda Civic FK7 TCR.
“The weekend was good,” Collingwood said. “Got some good laps in, the car is set up really nice. We ran into a little rain here and there but it’s all right. There’s plenty of practice time, so we didn’t need to go out for every single lap, every single session. The car was running well, so that’s very promising. Our driver lineup is good, so I think we’re ready for the race.”
Collingwood, who finished 16th in last year’s GS standings when paired with veteran Jan Heylen, will team with team owner John Tecce this season. Spencer Pumpelly, another veteran who’s compiled 19 wins in IMSA’s top-tier series over more than two decades, joins the lineup for the BMW Endurance Championship, the race to open the Pilot Challenge season on Friday.
Pumpelly has already provided Collingwood with tips on ways to pick up speed and become more competitive. Having three days to work on the advice was a tremendous asset.
“The Roar is an amazing way to get the rust off and get that confidence you need going into the next weekend. It was a successful Roar in my eyes,” Collingwood said. “The competition is tight. There’s a lot of great driver pairings, great cars. I think we’re right in the middle, so we have a chance to sneak ahead. I think we’re in a position where we might be able to surprise a few people.”
Eversley enters his third straight Pilot Challenge TCR season and fourth in a row driving a Civic TCR competitively. He benefited Sunday from the team’s decision to put him in the No. 94 for a qualifying simulation, propelling the 37-year-old to the fast lap.
“I got the lucky draw to do a mock qualifying session, which is what we just did to go P1,” he said. “I had not done that in IMSA in like five years because, as a finishing driver you never get the ‘let’s go do a low-fuel, sticker (tires) run.’ It’s good to put a Honda on the top of the charts for the weekend here at Daytona, so we’re happy about that.”
Though new to the Atlanta Speedwerks team, Eversley knew of the potential and was pleased with the progress the team made over the Roar weekend.
“I’ve been racing this car (the Civic TCR) since 2018, and I feel like this is one of the best ones that I’ve driven in a long time,” Eversley said. “The setup right off the box was really good. Every change we made did what we were hoping for. There was only one change we made that I was like, ‘That’s weird, I can’t believe that worked.’ That’s why you test, that’s why you come to the Roar.”
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