16 Oct Race Report: Fox Factory 120 at Road Atlanta
On Friday, October 15, the Winward Racing team looked to carry its momentum from the win at Laguna Seca to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season finale. After practicing and qualifying both cars in the top-15, all four drivers were ready for the Fox Factory 120 that awaited them.
The No. 33 Mobil 1 GT4 and the No. 57 IBERIABANK GT4 showed solid speed all weekend. After practicing third and twelfth in first practice, the team had the confidence for the two-hour event ahead.
At the drop of the green flag, Bryce Ward, driver of the No. 57, flew through the field from 13th to 9th in the first corner. Unfortunately, on lap 14, a mechanical failure ensued forcing the Mercedes-AMG machine to retire from the race. While battling for position on his way to the front of the field, Russell Ward was defending his position when a competitor made contact and ended the race for the No. 33 Mobil 1 GT4.
While the IMPC season did not end as expected, the season is worth celebrating. Not only did the team bring home a win at Laguna Seca and a pole at Watkins Glen, but Winward Racing played part in the manufacturer championship for Mercedes-AMG as well. Mercedes-AMG won the manufacturer title by a minuscule margin, and it could not have been possible without Winward Racing’s win at Laguna Seca.
“We were the only Mercedes in the top-five, and we won it. If we hadn’t have won Laguna, Mercedes wouldn’t have won the manufacturer’s championship…it was that close,” said Russell Ward. “This is the second year that the Mercedes program has been around. We’ve watched it grow throughout the last few years. It’s nice that they take our concerns to heart, and they’ll do anything to help us win. They have the best support in the paddock because they do what they can to make the cars faster and more competitive.”
Even though the IMSA IMPC season has come to a close, the Winward Racing team still has one more stop on the schedule. On November 16, Bryce Ward, Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, and Kris Wilson will be competing as a team during the Hankook 24-Hour race at Circuit of the Americas in the GT4 division.
“This race means a lot to the guys here. We used to do a lot of racing at COTA…we started our first driving there at the track days with streetcars and then racing there. It’s exciting for us to do this event every year. We love it,” said Ward.
While this season has had its highs-of-highs and its lows-of-lows, the entire team is hungrier and more motivated than ever for next season.
“The win at Laguna was good for the team. It was obviously our first win in IMSA, but it shows the level that the team is at when things go the way they should,” said Ward. “Next year is really exciting for us. We have a full year under the belt with some of the new guys, and everyone is performing at the top of their game. I’m looking forward to gearing up through these next couple of months and coming to Daytona super prepared.”
Winward Racing couldn’t have completed this season without the dedication of our partners including Mercedes-AMG Motorsports, IMSA and its partners, Michelin, Mobil1, IBERIABANK, KW Suspension, Mercedes Benz of Sugarland, and Techemet.
Next up on the race schedule is the Hankook 24H at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas at 11:30 a.m. CST on Saturday, November 16.
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