The 570S GT4 scored McLaren a historic result at the Daytona International Speedway racing in the inaugural Michelin Pilot Challenge race (formerly Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge), with GT4 customer team Compass Racing and McLaren Automotive Factory Driver Paul Holton taking victory and Motorsports in Action securing the final podium spot. The result marks the first win of 2019 for the 570S GT4 and Holton, as well as the first ever win for McLaren at the world-famous Florida circuit.
A strong performance during qualifying saw Holton secure the perfect start for the inaugural round of the Michelin Pilot Challenge, setting a new lap record and pole position for Compass Racing ahead of the four-hour endurance race. The result marked an eighth career GS pole and a record fourth consecutive pole position in the class for Factory Driver and Florida-local Holton.
An early penalty for a jump-start saw the #75 Compass Racing car drop to P30, but a close battle throughout the duration of the race saw four cars fighting for overall victory entering the last 30 minutes. With 10 minutes to go, and after a number of Full-Course Yellow periods. Holton and teammate Kuno Wittmer had recovered to P3. A bold overtake on the ninth and final restart saw Holton leapfrog the leaders, reclaiming the race lead for the final charge to the chequered flag, and a historic victory.
Behind Holton, teammates Corey Fergus and Jesse Lazare steered the #69 570S GT4 of customer team Motorsports In Action to third place, narrowly missing out on a 1-2 finish at the line due to a bold strategy call mid-race leaving the car light on fuel at the end. Like Compass Racing, the Motorsports In Action pair too had to fight through the 35-car GS class field, after starting from the very back of the grid after an issue in post-Qualifying scrutineering.
By gambling with an early pitstop in the race during a Full-Course Yellow, the Canadian team was able to move up the order and be in a strong position to fight for the win at the end. Fergus and Lazare progressed through the pack of GT4 and touring cars, and even led the race, before slipping to P3 on the final lap after suffering a fuel surge.
Commenting on the landmark victory for the 570S GT4 and McLaren at Daytona, McLaren Motorsport Director Dan Walmsley explained:
This win is extremely significant. To secure the first win of 2019 for the 570S GT4, and the first ever for McLaren at the iconic Daytona International Speedway is hugely important. More than just this, however, this is the result of the hard work of the past 18 months in the background; building and launching the Customer Racing division at McLaren Automotive, and working with our customer teams and drivers who have stayed with the brand.
It has been a great day for so many reasons and congratulations to everyone at Compass Racing for the historic result, and also to Motorsports In Action who showed true grit and determination throughout to claim the final step on the podium after a tough battle. Both teams showed the passion and desire to win from the minute the lights went green, all the way to the flag.
Commenting on Factory Driver Paul Holton’s performance, Walmsley added:
We have a very strong stable of Factory Drivers that we are working with across the GT3 and GT4 customer racing programmes, and Paul has proven himself to be one of them. He has been working with us over the past year as part of the 720S GT3 development programme in Europe and he develops every time he gets behind the wheel. He has proven he is fast, he can wring a lap-time out of the car too and, what we are seeing now, is a well-rounded driver who can manage a race.
The next round of the 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge season is set to take place at Sebring, Florida, as part of the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend on March 13-16.
Note: Press release courtesy of McLaren Automotive.