Inception Racing show pace at IMSA Motul Petit Le Mans debut
The Wakefield-based Inception Racing team travelled to the US to make their debut at yet another American circuit this season, having previously raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway four weeks prior to arriving at Michelin Road Atlanta.
What looked to be an opportunistic weekend was sadly short-lived following a safety car restart incident just four hours into the race at which, at no fault of their own, the #70 McLaren 720S GT3 got caught up in.
Having raced together in Le Mans back in August, Brendan Iribe and Ben Barnicoat were joined by silver driver, Frederik Schandorff in place of their usual co-driver, Ollie Millroy.
The newly formed trio took part in a rigorous amount of testing on Thursday ahead of the event, with both Ben and Frederik showing strong pace from the offset, and the latter setting the second fastest GTD lap time of the opening session.
Friday proved to be a quieter day out on track for the Yorkshire based team, with only two 15-minute qualifying sessions in the afternoon. The first session comprised of silver and bronze drivers only, with Frederik taking the reins of the McLaren to set a 1:19.800 on his final flying lap.
The 24-year-old capitalised on the previous day's pace to see the McLaren qualify on the fourth row of the GTD grid.
Saturday morning saw the 15-minute warmup session, giving the team one last practice out on track before the start of the race. The forecasted rain was substituted in for clear skies and intense sunshine as the pit lane filled with fans ahead of Motul Petit Le Mans.
As the lights went out at the start, Frederik made a superb getaway. Heading three abreast down into turn 10, the Dane unleashed the McLaren down the inside and held the racing line, along with his nerve to gain five places in the opening five minutes of the race.
An unproblematic stint for Frederik followed, seeing him challenge for the top three within class. A series of full course yellow flags were to follow as the 2.540-mile-long circuit proved difficult for some. As the laps continued, Brendan then jumped into the #70 McLaren to make his IMSA race debut just 40-minutes into the main event, continuing to push on for inception racing to run P6 in GTD before pitting.
Ben left the pits with 7H 30 left on the clock and headed out to make his racing debut at Road Atlanta, steering clear of trouble and made progress quickly to fifth in class.
Looking to profit on another Safety Car period four hours into the race, a strategy call saw Brendan return to the cockpit for his second stint after an impressive run in the earlier stages. As the field primed for the restart, Brendan suffered a heavy hit from behind. The incident of which involved seven cars from the GTD grid caused race-ending damage to the McLaren which, unfortunately, brought an end to the team’s hard-fought efforts on their IMSA debut.
Whilst certainly not the result nor outcome the team had wanted, it was a tremendous effort from all concerned. The team now have a small break in their schedule before heading out to South Africa where the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit will play host to the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Bas Leinders, team manager, said: “The main thing is that Brendan is okay, it wasn’t his fault at all and there was nothing that he could do but it was disappointing to go out of the race with this incident.
"However, at the same time as a team we’ve learnt a lot here at Road Atlanta. All the team did very well with the preparations, the car and strategy of the race. It’s been our first race in IMSA, and we look forward to hopefully coming back."
Ben Barnicoat said: “It was a great shame to end our IMSA debut in the way it did, the incident was no fault of Brendan’s whatsoever.
"There’s nothing that he could’ve done to avoid it as several others in that crash couldn’t have done anything either. It was a great shame, not only for us but also for a lot of people. Up until that point the race was going perfectly for us.
“Fred had an amazing start; I’m really impressed that he was able to do that with it being his first race start in the car. Brendan also did a great job in his stint too, keeping it clean. I felt that my stint also went well, we pitted five or seconds from the lead of the race, so everything was going just as we wanted it to.
“We were robbed of a very good result today which is a shame, everyone here within the team did a great job of adapting to IMSA. We had a very fast car which I thank each and every member of the team for. It’s been a great learning experience for everyone and definitely a good foot in the IMSA Championship ready for inception to come back in 2022.”