Sebastian Priaulx has made a welcome return to the podium in the Michelin Pilot Challenge after storming through to second place within a thrilling final two minutes of a four-hour spectacle at Road Atlanta this past weekend (05/06 September). Originally scheduled to take place at Watkins Glen International, travel issues due to COVID-19 meant the fifth race of the season was moved to Georgia. That pleased Priaulx, as he returned to the scene of a stunning race win on his championship debut last October. It also meant that for the first time this year, the Guernseyman benefitted from returning to a track that he’d already competed on. Utilising that prior experience, Priaulx hit the ground running alongside Maxwell, setting the fastest lap of the day in official practice on Friday. While not quite able to replicate that result in qualifying the next day, a great lap secured them third on the grid for the joint-longest race of the season. The 19 year old capitalised on his good starting position and put the second place car under immediate pressure in the early stages. Priaulx pounced on lap four to move into second and began chase to the leader, getting right onto his tail and piling on the pressure for a number of laps. A first full course yellow of the race at the 40 minute mark resulted in a change of driver for the #22 Mustang. In a race featuring a number of full course yellows and wildly different strategies amongst the leading pack, Maxwell put in a strong stint across the middle of the race to keep them firmly in podium contention when he handed back to Priaulx for the final 80 minutes. Pushing on with fast, consistent lap times in the glorious Georgia sunshine, once he’d completed his final pitstop the BRDC Rising Star knew the challenge that faced him. Settling into sixth place with less than half an hour on the clock, a podium was in his sights. Two drivers on different strategies ahead pitted to promote him to fourth, before he closed down a near six second gap to the car ahead and stormed past for third on the penultimate lap. There was further drama to come, as a rival running out of fuel secured Priaulx second place on the final tour. That secured Priaulx his second podium finish in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, 11 months on from his maiden success at the same circuit. It also marked a return to a podium alongside Scott Maxwell, the duo having picked up a trio of top three results in the British GT Championship last year. Sebastian Priaulx: “It’s been a fantastic weekend. I was excited to be heading back to Road Atlanta and once again the Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang was brilliant around there. To get back on the podium in the Michelin Pilot Challenge is a great feeling. “It was a true battle out there. We had to work hard for every position gained and it couldn’t have gone much better for us. Scott did a top job in his stint and the set-up was perfect for me to really push in the closing stages and get through to second place. “It’s all going in the right direction for us and now we’ve tasted the podium champagne again, it’s all about carrying this momentum into the remaining rounds of the season and staying firmly in the podium battles throughout.” Priaulx and the Multimatic Motorsports team will now make the near 700 mile trip north to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the next round of the 2020 Michelin Pilot Challenge in three weeks’ time (25-27 September).
Image from IMSA>