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Taylor Hagler completes second IMPC endurance round in P8

Taylor Hagler completed the second endurance round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season with her fourth top ten finish of the season, bouncing back from unfortunate penalties after a very strong first part of the race.


Taylor Hagler, Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge 2024, Mid Ohio Sports Car Course
Photo courtesy: PG Communications

Taylor Hagler returned behind the wheel of the #77 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR for the fourth round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge; the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in fact hosted the second and final endurance race, in a four hour-long contest similar to the season opener at Daytona.


Hagler, who this year shares the car with Bryson Morris, previously collected three consecutive top-ten finishes – an eighth place at Daytona and two P9 finishes at Sebring and Laguna Seca, although the Texan racer missed out on a realistic top five on several occasions, in often unlucky circumstances. Hagler – a two time series champion – and Morris, though, had consistently shown pace to run among the front runners.


Mid-Ohio holds a special significance for Hagler, as it was the venue of her first career IMSA pole in 2020. She went on to secure her first IMSA podium with a second-place finish at the 15-turns, 3.862 km-long road course.


"Mid-Ohio is a special place for me and my career, and I am looking forward to racing there again," said Hagler. "It's a classic, old-school track that is exciting to drive. We will have four hours to put together a strong strategy and race in the No. 77 Hyundai Elantra N TCR."


For the 2024 season, Hagler and teammate Bryson Morris teamed up in the No. 77 Hyundai, aiming for a strong performance in this endurance round. Their strategy was bolstered by a solid run in the opening round at Daytona, which also featured a four-hour race.


Hagler and Morris recorded the sixth time in the first practice, less than half a second from the top of the timing sheets, and continued the build up to the race with a seventh place in FP2. Bryson Morris took over driving duties for qualifying and set the seventh fastest time among the TCR entries on Saturday afternoon.


Morris started from sixth after Bryan Herta Autosport's teammate Robert Wickens had to start from the pits. Montreal Motorsports' Kuno Wittmer and Bryan Ortiz led the pack at the start and held off the BHA and Victor Gonzalez Hyundais, with Morris retaining sixth.


Morris ran steadily on a 1m28s pace in the early stages and kept up with the front runners, chasing the #80 VGR Hyundai of Burkhard. The race remained green after a couple of scraps in both GS and TCR, but the caution was eventually out when the #70 Deily Motorsports Audi lost a wheel and parked in the grass less than 20 minutes into the race.


At the restart, Morris was up to fifth, just ahead of the recovering Wickens. Positions settled in TCR, with Wittmer continuing to lead, but he now had Mark Wilkins right on his tail. Morris was solidly managing the pace in fifth when the first round of pit stops for the GS class commenced. TCR cars started to climb the order, and Morris kept up the pressure on Burkhard, although most of the top six in class ran very similar lap times.


When TCR pit stops also started, Morris stayed out and moved up to fourth, then cycled all the way up to second as the three BHA Hyundais were the last to pit. Wilkins led Morris and Wickens by lap 44 before he ultimately pitted one lap later, handing over to Taylor Hagler.


Taylor rejoined from seventh in class, then soon climbed back to fifth as the dust settled at the end of the round of pit stops.


Hagler had a very solid start to her stint, with the top five running a few seconds apart. When another caution came out, 20 minutes into Hagler's stint, most of the TCR field opted to pit for refueling. A great stop by the BHA crew saw Hagler rejoining third in class before she eventually settled in fourth at the restart. Bryan Ortiz, though, did not pit and grabbed the class lead ahead of Wilkins, Gottsacker, and Hagler.


With a healthy margin to Dupont behind, Hagler was less than ten seconds from the lead as the race reached its midway point, in a really strong run for the Texan racer.


While Dupont and Tim Lewis made their way past, Hagler's pace remained consistent and she managed the gap to the cars behind. A small mistake on lap 80, though, cost her a trip to the grass and two positions, but she was promptly back on track and pitted one lap later from eighth for the second scheduled pit stop.


A fresh set of tyres was bolted on, and Hagler remained at the wheel of the #77 Hyundai. Unfortunately, she would have to serve a drive-through penalty for spinning the wheels as the car was still elevated at the restart from the pits. A further penalty for speeding in pit lane added insult to injury, and the #77 machine dropped to 12th, one lap down from the leader.


The two-time champion regrouped and continued to push. She picked up P11 and was faster than the #99 Victor Gonzalez Racing Hyundai ahead, waiting for an opportunity to close in.


With one and a half hours to go, a monster crash involving the #39 Carbahn Motorsports BMW brought out the full course yellow. Westphal was hit by Random Vandals' Kenton Koch and hit the concrete barriers outside of Turn 1, utterly destroying his BMW M4 GT4. The driver was unhurt.


When the pit lane opened, most TCR teams opted to pit. Taylor Hagler initially stayed out to gain back the lap to the leaders, then pitted on the next lap and handed back over to Bryson Morris for the final hour of racing from tenth in class, having moved ahead of the #99 Hyundai.


Morris maintained tenth place for most of the final stint. However, the last hour of racing was also marked by fuel strategy and management: with less than ten minutes to go, several TCR cars pitted for a late splash of fuel. Capitalizing on this, Morris made his way forward and crossed the checkered flag securing an eighth-place finish for the #77 Bryan Herta Autosport crew. This result marks the driver duo's fourth top ten finish of the season.


“Another race in the books", Hagler commented. "Mid-Ohio is a technical course that requires drivers and crews to execute precisely and we didn’t do that today. We had a strong car and were running a good race until a few mistakes set us back."


"We rebounded as best we could with an eighth place finish", she continued. "The best part of this time of year is we have a quick turn around and can focus on Watkins Glen. We will be back and focus on how we can have the most success possible in our upcoming races.”


While they couldn't capitalize on their pace, Hagler and Morris worked together to recover positions, clearly showing the potential to battle in the top five – and they will try to do just that at the following round, the two-hour race at Watkins Glen, in support of the IMSA 6H of the Glen on June 27-29.

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