Take two: Tire call helps Murillo Racing to Michelin Pilot Challenge win

In a close and frenetic race, Eric Foss somehow won by more than nine seconds.

With help from a decision to take just two tires during the final pit stop, Foss prevailed in the Lime Rock Park 120, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race Saturday at Lime Rock Park. It was the first victory of the season in the Grand Sport (GS) class for Foss and co-driver Jeff Mosing in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4.

The victory was a result of planning and circumstance, Foss said.

“It just takes a little bit of luck and preparation,” Foss said. “We just tried to hang out in the lead draft as much as we could. I was nervous that we were burning the car down, but when we came in and did our pit stop, the Murillo Racing guys were just phenomenal.”

Foss and Mosing entered the race 12th in GS point standings, eager to put the No. 56 Mercedes in victory lane. In the back-and-forth during the final round of pit stops, Foss settled into third place.

Following a restart after the last of four full-course cautions in the two-hour race, he quickly maneuvered into the lead and extended the gap as his toughest competition struggled to get around the slower traffic. Foss eventually crossed the finish line well ahead of Stevan McAleer in the No. 23 Notlad Racing by RS1 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 he co-drove with Patrick Gallagher.

“We got lucky in that we were the first of the cars that took tires,” Foss said. “We got through (those who took fuel only on the final stop) kind of quickly, and the other cars got trapped behind them. Once McAleer got through, he was actually quicker than us. I was really nervous that he was going to catch us by the end of the race.”

Jan Heylen snatched the final podium position in GS, finishing 12.136 seconds off the lead in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport he shared with Ryan Hardwick. The fourth podium finish this season for Heylen allowed him to unofficially move into a tie for the GS points lead with Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern, who finished 16th Saturday in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4.

The victory was welcomed by Murillo Racing. The series’ 2014 and 2017 ST class champion team and its two drivers had not won a Michelin Pilot Challenge race since Foss and Mosing took the checkered flag in ST at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2017. The best finish this season for the No. 56 before Saturday was sixth place in the four-hour race at Watkins Glen International on June 26.

“The team has always been very capable,” Mosing said. “In fact, they set the bar pretty high and make me look at myself as a driver. I work with Eric really hard on trying to get up to speed. We all work together as one unit. We’ve wanted this for so long.”

The victory was the first for Mercedes this season, marking the fifth manufacturer to win in six GS races.

Hagler Collects First Pro Win with Co-Driver Lewis in TCR

In the Touring Car (TCR) class, there was no margin for error. Michael Lewis made the pass for the lead with six minutes to go and finished off a frantic final stint to win by just 0.134 seconds.

The victory was the first of the season for the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR and co-driver Taylor Hagler, extending their lead in the TCR standings unofficially to 250 points and giving Hagler her first win as a professional racer.

“It’s been a ride so far,” Hagler said. “It’s been a long time coming. I feel like we worked really hard for this. It’s finally time that we deserve it. Extending the lead on the championship is just an added bonus. I’m really happy.”

Tim Lewis chased Michael Lewis to the finish line in TCR to land the runner-up finish with teammate Roy Block in the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR – the first podium finish in Michelin Pilot Challenge for the team and Alfa Romeo.

Tyler Maxson was third in the No. 27 Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster N TCR co-driven with Tyler Gonzalez, who earned the TCR Motul Pole Award on Friday.

The NBCSN telecast of Saturday’s race airs at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 10.

RESULTS

The Michelin Pilot Challenge season resumes Saturday, Aug. 7 with the Road America 120 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Live streaming of the race begins at 5:35 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass.