Top-5 for class leader Taylor Hagler, Monk in the Top-10 at VIR ahead of season finale
Despite a slightly disappointing round for the two women of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Taylor Hagler still claimed a Top-5 and retained the class lead, while Sheena Monk managed to bring home a P8 that keeps the McLaren driver in fifth place ahead of the season finale at Road Atlanta.
Taylor Hagler scored another Top 5 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, where the Texan lady leads the TCR class. Hagler, who is also combining a season in GT World Challenge America where she made her GT3 debut and claimed 3 class victories so far, will head to the IMSA season finale with title chances.
Sheena Monk has also enjoyed a very positive season in the Pilot Challenge GS class, and claimed another Top-10 at VIRginia International Raceway last weekend.
The two women of the series entered the penultimate round of the season at VIR having proved to belong to their respective classes front running positions all season long: at the challenging fast and twisty racetrack based in Alton, Virginia, Taylor Hagler and Sheena Monk aimed to add another yet another strong result to their points table.
Hagler shared the TCR class leadership with her teammate Michael Lewis, as the drivers of the #77 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR scored seven top five finishes, 5 podiums and a class victory to date.
"This is a race I have been looking forward to all year,” said Hagler before the race event. “The Veloster has performed well there in the past and I am excited to see what Michael [Lewis] and I can do."
"The goal is the same that we have had all year, keep the car in a good position and be there to fight at the end. It feels like a big Lime Rock to me and we won there, so I am feeling good!" - she added.
It was surely a positive season for Sheen Monk as well, who secured a podium at Watkins Glen and stepped back in her #3 Motorsport In Action McLaren 570S GT4 while in fifth in the GS class standings.
On Sunday morning, the 15 minute qualifying session saw Hagler setting a time fast enough for the sixth row on the grid, as the class pole position was clinched by Harry Gottsacker at the wheel of the No.33 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
The Texan driver had a good start at the green flag and recovered three positions in the opening lap - finding a consistent pace that allowed her to run in eight place until the yellow flag on lap 29, which ended her stint as she left the #77 Hyundai in the hands of Michael Lewis.
Hagler's teammate had a great run and climbed to fourth with less than one hour to go - but on lap 40, the Full Course Yellow interrupted his pace and bunched back up the TCR class field.
At the final restart, Mikey Taylor led the pack alongside Chris Miller - who ultimately took the #17 Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi to their second seasonal TCR class win ahead the #54 Michael Johnson Racing Hyundai Veloster of Stephen Simpson and Micheal Johnson.
Lewis fought against the other Bryan Herta Autosport sister car, driven by Mark Wilkins; Lewis/Hagler would finish in the top five, adding more important points in the TCR class standings with one more race on the calendar.
In the GS class, Sheena Monk had more of a troubled race in her #3 McLaren but still took the chequered flag in P8 overall.
The competition saw the #16 Wright Motorsports' Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 by Jan Heylen and Ryan Hardwick battling against Stevan McAleer and Patrick Gallagher at the wheel of #23 Notlad Racing by RS1 Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
After claiming the GS pole position, championship leader Bill Auberlen had a difficult first half of the race but recovered and was just one position short of a podium finish. Nevertheless, a post-race decision changed the result.
While the victory went to Jan Haylen with less than 15 minutes to go, Stevan McAleer and Patrick Gallagher had taken the chequered flag in second place, but were demoted to last after failing the post race technical inspection for fuel capacity.
The #7 Aston Martin of Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfosson was thus promoted to second and Bill Auberlen/Dillon Machavern completed the podium.
"Racing is as frustrating sometimes as it is rewarding so it's tough to comprehend the inconsistencies of performance across our class right now" - wrote Sheena Monk on her social media feeds after the weekend.
"Race after race we roll a car off the truck that simply can't fight for wins against the other manufacturers." - she added.
"P8 after a solid effort from the team at VIRginia and that wasn't much more we could have done. Heads down for the final race of the year . Our luck is sure to change at some point."
Monk and teammate Spencer Pigot remain fifth in the championship standings.
Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta will set the stage for the 2021 IMSA Pilot Challenge season finale on November 14. Taylor Hagler retains the lead of the TCR championship and will have to play all her cards right to clinch the title at her second season in the series.
"Although we are still very much in contention for the TCR Championship, it is disappointing to not be on the podium today as we had a great Hyundai Veloster,” said Hagler.
“The Bryan Herta Autosport team did everything they could to give us a fighting chance today and I am so proud of all their hard work. Now we look ahead to the season finale and focus on our ultimate goal.”