Time is winding down for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers in their 2023 season. With only three races left, the event weekend at VIRginia International Raceway for the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix marked one of the final chances for Van Der Steur Racing drivers Tyler Maxson and Bryan Ortiz to secure the much-needed championship points.
A two-day race weekend saw Friday hosting three on-track sessions with practice one in the morning, practice two in the afternoon, and qualifying later that evening. Practice one was green flag running all the way through as Tyler Maxson and his co-driver Bryan Ortiz finished fifth in class as they continued to gather information about the track.
As practice two rolled around that afternoon, Maxson once again took the start for the session however, a red flag flew with just over 14 minutes remaining, halting the session and ruining some drivers momentum. With just over five minutes remaining, the green flag flew restarting on-track action. Maxson and Ortiz secured third in this session proving their knowledge of VIR was continually growing in preparation for qualifying.
As the green flag waved for the final event of the day, qualifying, the TCR class hit the track first before their GS counterparts. A short qualifying left minimal time for error and when time dwindled down and the checkered flag flew, the #91 had claimed the fifth fastest lap amongst the TCR to start the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix on the inside of row three.
On-track action resumed Saturday, with the green flag flying to mark the start of the two-hour race shortly after 5pm local time. The green flag racing was short lived however with a yellow flag before the half-hour mark. After the original yellow, there was a mixture of green flag racing, pit stops, and more caution periods that controlled the middle of the race. A successful driver change between the Maxson and Ortiz duo, Tyler Maxson was behind the wheel to push his Hyundai Elantra N TCR entry to the finish.
Less than ten minutes were left on the clock when there was the final yellow flag setting up a shootout to the end. As the race almost finished behind the pace car and with only a minute remaining, the green flag flew making for a last lap shoot out for positions. As drivers battled hard for position, Maxson pushed to keep his entry in the top-five but eventually crossed the stripe in the sixth position.
“We started the weekend off with a good plan and some speed in practice,” explained Maxson. “We had a decent pace in the race but not what we needed. The lengthy cleanup during the last yellow flag period made the final lap shootout shorter than what I was hoping as I think we had a chance to move forward if we could have raced for more than a lap.”
Photo Credit: IMSA