Ryan Norman and Gabby Chaves, drivers of the #33 Hyundai Veloster N TCR for Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) with Curb Agajanian, clinched the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Drivers’ Championship on Nov. 14 with their second place finish at the Alan Jay Automotive 120 at Sebring International Raceway. Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker won the season finale at Sebring to score Bryan Herta Autosport’s seventh victory in 10 races and the IMPC team championship, while Hyundai won the Manufacturers’ Championship in only their second season of IMSA competition.
Just four championship points separated the series leaders #33 and the #98 heading into the final race of the year at Sebring. After a string of unfortunate circumstances, the #21 driven by Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins was ranked fourth, but still had a mathematical chance at the title.
Gottsacker opened the challenge on top, scoring his third pole position of the season. Gottsacker won more pole positions than any other driver did in the series. Gottsacker paced the field to the green flag, but series lap leader Ryan Norman took the lead as teammate and championship contender, Mason Filippi in the #98 Veloster N TCR suffered first lap contact for the second race in a row. Spencer Brockman, driver of the #29 Vertical Bridge Veloster N TCR was also involved but was able to continue. The #98 limped to the pitlane, having suffered damaged suspension on the right front corner. The #98 crew worked feverishly to repair the Veloster and Filippi returned to the track 14 minutes later.
First to make his final stop, Gottsacker pitted for the final time with just under an hour to go. Wilkins and the #21 crew eagerly sprung over the wall to service the Veloster, nicknamed “Blackjack,” and expedited a perfect pitstop with driver change. Soon after, the race leader, Ryan Norman, having led more laps than any other driver in the series, pitted and handed over the #33 to Gabby Chaves. With a seven second pitstop advantage, Wilkins took over the race lead. Wilkins and Chaves dueled to the end. It was a tight battle for the race win between the #33 team and the #21 team, but it was Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker who prevailed, scoring their second victory of the season. The win was significant, as it bumped the #21 team to second in the championship. Chaves finished second and secured the Championship title.
This is Chaves’ third pro title and Norman’s first. Filippi and Lewis finished the race in 11th position and took 3rd in the championship. Spencer Brockman and Parker Chase ran as high as fourth in the race, but damage to the right rear wheel of the #29 Vertical Bridge Veloster N TCR prevented a top five finish and the #29 team finished sixth in the championship.
This is the third consecutive team championship for Bryan Herta Autosport, having won a title every year since the inception of their sports car program with Hyundai in 2018. Bryan Herta, co-owner of Bryan Herta Autosport commented on his team’s success: “2020 has been a challenging year, let alone race season. The Bryan Herta Autosport drivers and crew performed incredibly well as did our Veloster N TCR cars. Winning the Manufacturers’, Team and Drivers Championships is a dream come true for us and our friends at Hyundai.”
“The stable of Hyundai Veloster N TCR cars grew in 2020 with six entries at the season finale,” said Erik Thomas, senior group manager, Experiential Marketing, Hyundai Motor North America. “Velosters led 55% of the race laps this season en-route to seven race victories and nine additional podium finishes. We could not have asked for a better result. Congratulations to our entire motorsports team.”