TCR Talk Reviews – 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge at Laguna Seca

Morley, Ernstone Break Through for Inaugural TCR Win in Roadshagger Audi

One year ago at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley contested their second career race in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Returning this weekend to Monterey, Calif., the No. 61 Roadshagger Audi RS3 LMS brought a string of four podium finishes in six races and a painstakingly near-win in its first full season. That victory finally came Saturday afternoon in an impressive 12th-to-first performance without a pit stop in the final 50 minutes of the two-hour race.

“The team did an incredible job, as they have the last five races, jumping us up during the pit stop,” said Morley, a San Francisco resident. “They got me out in third place, and then I managed to get to the lead pretty quick, pull out a bit of a gap, and then from there, it was just managing tires. We weren’t planning on running the whole way, but the way the race went, that’s what happened.”

The win ends a trying few weeks for Roadshagger, which was involved in a late-race incident from the lead at VIRginia International Raceway three weeks ago that wiped out a potential victory. The following Monday, Ernstone and Morley learned their partnering team, eEuroparts, was immediately withdrawing from the sport.

“As luck would have it, I own all the stuff that is in our team,” said Ernstone. “I own the car, the hauler, all the tools and everything else, and eEuroparts was running it for me. We just got a driver and a tractor unit straight over to Connecticut, got everything in there and brought it to (my shop in) Vegas.

“That car was finished three minutes into the beginning of the promoter test on Thursday. We thought we were going to be working on it and adjusting it through the promoter test, but it was perfect the whole test. That gave us the ability to work on strategy and everything else for this weekend. It’s been great. It couldn’t be better.”

With the victory, Ernstone and Morley moved into third place in the Pilot Challenge TCR standings, 14 points behind the leading No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR pair of Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins, 256-242.

Lewis and Wilkins finished second on Saturday by a narrow 0.276 seconds after starting from the pole position. They hold an 11-point margin over their next closest competitors in the title hunt, Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock of the No. 37 L.A. Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR, who finished third Saturday.

The 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season concludes at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 9-11. The two-hour FOX Factory goes green on Friday, Oct. 11 at 1:25 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.

The NBCSN broadcast of the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 will air on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. ET.

(image courtesy of IMSA)

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