SEBRING, FL – The action-packed two-hour race saw both drivers charge to the lead during their stint and offered the ultimate redemption following their heartbreak at Daytona. The duo jumped from 13th to 5th in points and will return to Mid-Ohio in May for the next round, where they are the defending race winners from 2020.
Ernstone started the race in a career-best fourth place. He quickly moved to 3rd at the start and only a few laps later made a great move in turn 7 to take 2nd place from Mike LaMarra’s Honda. From there, he put his head down and ran a series of quick laps to close in on the leader, Brian Henderson, in the Atlanta Speedwerks Honda.
One lap 21, Ernstone stormed by Henderson in T17 and into the lead. As Morley watched from pit lane, he felt confident he’d have a nice easy cruise and collect mission during his stint. But of course, this is endurance racing, so the script is constantly changing.
As Ernstone closed in on the end of his fuel window, some of the TCR cars behind him started to pit in a roll of the dice. RSR knew the early stoppers would never make it to the finish or get in front of them without a full-course yellow falling in the precious few laps before Ernstone’s pit stop. Of course you can guess what happened next…
The feared full-course-yellow came out on lap 26 to clear the track of all the debris that had accumulated during a crazy opening hour. Ernstone came in from the lead to hand the car over to Morley.
The crew did a great job and got Morley back out ahead of all the cars on the same strategy, but he had to fall in behind the four cars who had stopped earlier. Those cars had all come in under yellow as well for a short splash of fuel, so they were now good to go to the end.
Morley restarted the race in 5th and quickly moved past Wilkins in turn 7 to grab 4th. Next up was the Hyundai of Parker Chase, who Morley dispatched in T17. Morley then had to try to get by Denis Dupont in a very quick Hyundai Veloster. Multiple side by side runs through T17 and T1 left Morley impressed with Dupont’s race craft.
While the two were battling, Matt Pombo arrived on the scene to make things even more interesting. He announced his presence by giving Morley a firm nudge from behind on the way to the apex of 17.
A few laps later, the two came together again in T1 while having a spirited 3-car battle with Dupont. The contact sent Morley off-track at the exit (a line previously explored and approved by Ernstone during qualifying) and Pombo into a half-spin. Morley lost less time with his maneuver and was finally able to put a gap on Pombo and redirect his focus on Dupont.
Morley finally got by Dupont in T1 to move into second place. He then set his sights on Mikey Taylor, who had pulled out a 3-second lead while Morley was battling Dupont and Pombo.
Morley laid down some of his best laps of the race to quickly reel in Taylor. Just as he closed to within striking distance, Taylor slowed out of Tower turn and allowed Morley to cruise by into the lead. He had an issue and was on his way to pit lane.
Morley said a quick “thank you”, checked his mirrors to see a nice gap and then settled in to cruise and collect mode with 30 minutes remaining.
A lap later that fantasy was ruined when he checked his mirrors again and saw Pombo closing in. Morley still had a good car under him thanks to the Erik Petersen’s setup, so he put his head down and railed off a few mid 2:15’s without looking in his mirrors, knowing spotter Mike Sweeney would let him know if Pombo was within striking distance.
After putting down the good laps, he took a glance in his mirrors and was shocked to see that Pombo was able to match his pace and even close in a little.
Morley knew he had a strong car leaving the corners, so for the next 20 minutes he just focused on being able to get to power at every single apex, confident that would be enough to stay ahead of Pombo.
In the end it is was and Morley brought the new Road Shagger Racing SEQ Audi home for the win in its first race!
Make sure to tune in for our next race at Mid-Ohio on May 15th at 3:30 ET. The championship battle is very tight between the top six driver pairings so RSR could very well leave Mid-Ohio at the top of the table!
Road Shagger Racing is a professional motorsports team racing in the TCR class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. They race an Audi RS 3 LMS TCR SEQ and are sponsored by Streamline Home Loans, Simply Vegas Real Estate, The Simply Group and Clear Title.