The L.A. Honda World Racing TCR team powered by LAP Motorsports put together a one two punch at Daytona International Speedway during Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge.
During the first week back from the Roar test, the team finalized the driver lineup for both the #37 and #73 L.A. Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR cars. With only seven days before the team transporter was scheduled to depart for Daytona, the #52 number plate was added to a third Honda Civic TypeR TCR car. The race shop crew worked tirelessly to prepare the third car and arrived to Daytona to unload three stellar L.A. Honda World Racing machines.
“Every single team member put in a tremendous amount of work to make the transition to TCR, especially the last week, with the addition of our third Honda before heading to Daytona”, committed team Principal Luis Perocarpi. “The level of competition in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is extremely high across the board so there’s no space for mistakes”. Added Luis.
From the moment the transporter door opened, the team went straight to work. Technical Director, Rob Ridgely along with his engineers, Brad Moase and Zdravko Miric worked closely with the drivers to find the balance necessary to be in contention for a podium.
Shelby Blackstock qualified his #37 machine in 5th and managed to be the second fastest Honda during qualifying. Max Faulkner, the newest member of the team was quickly getting used to his new seat in the #52 and ended up as the 3rd fastest Honda, qualifying in 9th. Series Champ, Mike LaMarra qualified his #73 TCR car in 11th, sandwiching the #89 Honda team, making it three consecutive Honda’s on the grid.
The team race strategy was challenged with a fueling issue that arose from an updated pit refueling time regulation, adding to the high competitiveness of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition.
From the drop of the green flag, the entire team worked meticulously on the mission. During the first driver stint, Shelby didn’t seem to forget how to race in SportsCar and took his blue #37 to battle, flexing his muscles, while exchanging the lead with the front runners the entire first half of the race.
Max continued to improve with every race lap and picked the competition one by one, moving the #52 up the grid, into the top five.
Mike’s engineer opted a different race strategy, forcing the #73 to race deep in the pack by pitting for fuel during one of the early cautions. This allowed Mat to leap frog his competitors when he took over the controls of the #73, putting him up towards the front after exiting the pits.
Nothing seem to be slowing the young guns of the #52 as Colin took over driving duties. The 16 year old continued his attack all the way to the lead.
The #37 was slowed during the final pit stop by the expected refueling issue, erasing O’Gorman’s advantage and forcing him to charge all the way to the checkered.
The red #73 encountered the same refueling issue on its final pit stop, cancelling Pombo’s entire race strategy, coming out of the pits well back of the grid.
With 30 minutes to go, the #52 entered the pits for its final stop. The team pit crew, know for one of the best in pit lane, assisted by a number of L.A. Honda World dealer employees, executed a brilliant pit stop as they managed the refueling issues that had slowed the blue and red team cars, allowing Mullan’s yellow machine to exit the pits in second, right behind the race leader. What looked to be an exciting race to the checkered by the two leading #84 and #52 Honda teams were unexpectedly taken out of contention when both of the cars suffered a right front tire puncture, forcing Colin to retire the #52, handing the lead to LAP Motorsports’ former driver James Vance, now behind the wheel of an Audi.
A late caution bunched the TCR field for an 11 minute sprint to the end of an already intense race. Tom O’Gorman and Mat Pombo wasted no time working through the Alfa Romeo and Audi on the final laps of the grueling 4 hour race to give L.A. Honda World Racing and Honda a one two finish at Daytona.