Elkhart Lake, Wis. – Sunday afternoon at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Road America, GTSA driver Mike Hedlund scored a third place finish, earning the 95th podium for Flying Lizard Motorsports. The No. 45 Audi R8 LMS GT4 drove to his fourth podium finish of the year, leading the team’s three car charge in the double header weekend.
The weekend consisted of over 40 cars this weekend, as Pirelli World Challenge combined all five GT classes to compete in two races at the 4.048 mile road course. The new schedule format for the event allowed for additional practice time, but shorted the qualifying time for each class.
In his return to Pirelli World Challenge, Andy Wilzoch qualified the No. 46 Porsche 911 GT3 R in sixth place in the GTA class in race one. A red flag early into the GTS qualifying session cut the run short, with the field only able to put in two warm up laps. Both Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS cars started near the rear of the field, keeping clean as the group of over forty cars roared into turn one. While Wilzoch and the Porsche created a comfortable gap and maintained position to the checker flag, the pair of Audis were not as fortunate.
Mike Hedlund had a strong start, passing ten cars in his first lap. As the race went on, he continued his climb, maneuvering his way through traffic, making daring passes to gain position. He made his way into the top five in the sixteen car class. Near the halfway point, the No. 45 Audi R8 LMS was hit by a competitor and forced off track, spinning and having contact with a tire wall. Hedlund brought the car into pit lane for repairs, and finished six laps down, sixteenth in class. Adam Merzon and the No. 23 Case-It Racing by Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS started 18th overall in GTS and 13th in class, and worked his way up several positions to fight for another top ten finish. In the final lap of the race, contact from another car forced Merzon off track. He was able to continue and complete the final lap, but finished in fourteenth place.
Andy Wilzoch and the No. 46 Porsche 911 GT3R qualified sixth for race two and kept pace with the field through the entirety of the race to finish in his starting position. Adam Merzon and the No. 23 Case-It Racing by Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 started 13th and maintained position in heavy, competitive GTS traffic. By the first and only full course caution, he brought the car up to 11th position, and used the final 15 minutes of green racing to make the pass for tenth place in the GTSA class. Able to set a fast lap in race one to qualify for race two, Mike Hedlund and the No. 45 Audi started the second event from eighth in class, eager to again charge to the front. He methodically worked his way up to fourth position by the time of the caution and grabbed third place by on the restart. In the final turns of the final lap, the two cars ahead of Hedlund had contact, sending one off course. Hedlund moved up to second position, and ultimately finished third at the finish line, earning his fourth podium of the year.
Only three races remain in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge Championship, as the series makes its return to Portland International Raceway July 13-15. Flying Lizard Motorsports ran at Portland International Raceway in 2004, 2005, and 2006 in the American Le Mans Series, earning a second place and a fourth place finish. In its three attempts, the team holds four top five finishes at the track.
It’s been two years since I raced in Pirelli World Challenge, and it was great to be back. The Stiles Machinery Porsche 911 GT3 R is a beautiful car, and she performed very well. The support from the fans, eager to see another Porsche in the Flying Lizard garage was always great. They’re so welcoming. I’m looking forward to running again at Portland International Raceway and Watkins Glen International.
Our car was really fast all weekend. We had a hang up in qualifying with some confusion with race control on track limits. We had one lap, but it was taken away, leaving us in the hole for race one. We started in the back, and up a few positions, but had lots of contact with other cars during the race. While we weren’t at fault, it still stymied our effort in the first place. Starting race two, we didn’t have a good lap in race one, but we were able to have a strong car and make up a lot of positions in the race. I fought hard the whole time, and ended up with a podium, which is a good reward for the guys after they worked hard on the car after the first race.
Race one was probably the most fun racing I had all year! I had a terrible start, but once I recovered I was able to grab seven or eight positions and was really enjoying my race, but on the very last lap a Ginetta tried to out brake me from about a mile back and took us out. He got a penalty post-race but it didn’t make a difference for us. After learning my lesson on the start of Race one, I made sure to have a clean start and was able to make a few moves and move up the field a little bit. I think this weekend was the best I’ve raced this year and I’m really happy to get a top 10 finish.