New Zealand’s Ryan Yardley made a statement in his IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge debut over the weekend, mixing with the front-runners for his entire stint, having qualified the car fourth.
The Kiwi was a late call-up for the drive with Murillo Racing, sharing the No. 56 Mercedes-AMG GT4 with Eric Foss after regular driver Jeff Mosing was injured in a Porsche Carrera Cup race a week earlier.
Following a dash up to Wisconsin, Yardley got in a day of practice before qualifying the car for the team. His best lap of 2:15.777 was enough to put him on the second row, in fourth, out of 38 competitors.
A post-qualifying penalty for the #13 Ford Mustang GT4 elevated Murillo Racing to third on the grid ahead of Sunday’s two-hour race.
As the car’s qualifier, Yardley took the first stint and held off challenges from behind, remaining third over the first hour and looking set for a strong result.
An untimely Safety Car mid-race put paid to those chances, however, with the field bunching back up. Several contenders had made their compulsory stop by then, but Murillo Racing was caught out when the pit lane closed. Once it re-opened, Yardley would drive in to hand the car over to Foss, who emerged down the order.
The team then had to do a last-minute splash and dash for fuel to come home 12th overall. They were promoted to 11th when a competitor ahead incurred a post-race penalty.
“The Safety Car came out at the worst time for us,” Yardley posted after the race. “The pits closing under Safety Car meant the field bunched back up, and the cars who had already stopped, jumped us when pits opened back up.
“Eric did a fantastic job in the second stint, battling cars with a lot more straight-line speed than us. Strategy didn’t go our way, and we had to come in for a quick splash of fuel with 5 mins to go.
“[I’m] proud of what we achieved, happy with my time in the car, and hope I showed what I could do in a GT4 car. Thank you to Jeff for this amazing opportunity. Plenty of drivers he could have picked, but to throw a rookie in the car and give me a shot means the world to me.”