Riley Dickinson, who won the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Pro class championship last year, displayed remarkable fuel-saving skills that made a daring pit strategy orchestrated by legendary engineer Bill Riley work to perfection.
Dickinson started the last lap in second place in the No. 91 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport but swept into the Grand Sport class and overall lead of the BMW M Endurance Challenge when Kenton Koch pitted the No. 92 Random Vandals Racing BMW M4 GT4 for a splash of fuel.
Dickinson, who teamed with Michael McCarthy and Brady Golan, had enough fuel on board to hold off a rapidly closing Daniel Morad in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 and win the season opener. The Kellymoss with Riley Porsche crossed the finish line with a 1.936-second advantage.
Matt Plumb and Owen Trinkler finished third in the No. 46 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 6.554 seconds in arrears.
Riley made the call for Dickinson to pit for fuel near the end of a full-course caution with an hour remaining in the four-hour contest. The No. 91 Porsche was in 10th place entering the final 15 minutes, but one by one, competitors were forced to stop for fuel.
Making Dickinson’s last stint even more amazing, he revealed it was the first time that he was ever in a position where he was asked to save fuel – Porsche Carrera Cup consists of 40-minute sprint races where fuel mileage is not a concern.
“Ultimately, we should give Bill Riley a pretty big shoutout for the strategy,” said Dickinson, a 21-year-old Texas native. “He was the mastermind behind the fuel save. That was the first time that I’ve done a live fuel save during a race, so it was definitely a bit of a learn-on-the-fly kind of experience.
“This was a bit of a last-minute program,” Dickinson added. “Not even three weeks ago, we decided to green light this thing. To be honest, to have this all happen the way it did is a dream come true. It’s been quite an up-and-down offseason for me, so this definitely feels quite rewarding right now.”
The debut in Michelin Pilot Challenge was an unexpected bonus for the Kellymoss organization, a longtime sports car stalwart now owned by Andy Kilcoyne and Victoria Thomas.
“We were really hoping for a top 10, best-case scenario, so we couldn’t be more excited,” Kellymoss with Riley co-owner Victoria Thomas said. “Riley’s strategy was absolutely spectacular, and the lineup of these three young guys, you can’t beat it. We’re so excited for the season.”
Meanwhile, TCR class driver Mikey Taylor won two races for JDC-Miller Motorsports on Friday.
The first was to and from Orlando (Fla.) Int’l Airport in the morning to pick up a critical part to be installed in the team’s No. 17 Unitronic Audi RS3 LMS TCR.
Miller and co-driver Chris Taylor then proceeded to charge to the front and capture the Touring Car class victory in the four-hour season opener.
After turning six laps in opening Michelin Pilot Challenge practice on Wednesday, the team was unable to start the car on Thursday. The No. 17 sat out Thursday’s practice and qualifying while the JDC-Miller crew scrambled to replace multiple parts on the Audi without success to get it restarted.
What they didn’t have on hand to swap out was the engine control unit (ECU), but the nearest one they could find was in Mexico.
Arrangements were made for someone to fly with the part to Orlando early Friday morning, and Taylor met them and the ECU at the airport and raced back to Daytona.
“We were not doing the speed limit to get back here,” Taylor said, “and we just made it just in time. Miraculously, the car started, because we had no idea that the parts [that] we had would actually fix the issue. It was a pure Hail Mary … and we were super lucky today.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he added, “and I don’t want to be part of it again because it’s too stressful.”
Starting at the back of the TCR grid, Miller knew quickly he had a fast car, and moved up to fourth in class less than a half-hour into the race. Taylor pushed the No. 17 into the lead for the first time just past the halfway point and wound up leading all but four of the final 53 laps around the 3.56-mile road course.
That’s not to say it was easy, however.
Taylor fended off challenges from Denis Dupont in the No. 76 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, Tom O’Gorman in the No. 15 Rockwell Autosport Development Audi RS3 LMS SEQ and Mark Wilkins in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai.
The margin of victory was 20.408 seconds over Dupont, Preston Brown, and Nick Looijmans in the No. 76 Hyundai, but only because Dupont ran out of fuel coming to the finish line.
It was Taylor’s eighth Michelin Pilot Challenge win, the sixth for Miller and their second together at Daytona – with the previous Daytona triumph coming in 2021.
It was also particularly rewarding for reasons other than the miraculous recovery. It soothed the wounds of the way last season ended, when an early exit from the season finale doomed a bid for the TCR class title.
Team members also learned Thursday night that Jay Cottrell, a former JDC-Miller crew member, passed away and dedicated the victory to him.
“It was nice to be able to do this and have the whole team rally around trying to win it for him,” Miller said. “It feels extra special because of that.”
The Michelin Pilot Challenge returns to action March 15 with the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
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