It isn’t often that a crash you have nothing to do with completely ends your charge but that’s what happened to Scott Maxwell in the second IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Road Atlanta this season.
After qualifying lower down than expected in eighth spot, a motivated Maxwell made a very strong start to the two-hour race and had already moved the #22 Ford Mustang up to sixth and was gaining on the leaders before it all suddenly unravelled. The Aston Martin that was next in Maxwell’s sights got it all wrong going into Turn 11 and made heavy contact with the infamously unyielding Road Atlanta bridge abutment, completely destroying the car and ripping off a complete corner assembly which was fired across the track. In a million to one case of bad timing Maxwell’s Mustang and the stray chunk of Aston Martin met under the bridge with a massive impact, destroying a large piece of the right front corner of the Ford.
Maxwell said: “I didn’t even see it coming as I was through the incident and looking down the track by that point. The impact was really heavy and a total surprise, I had no idea what it was. The car was in a bad way and I headed straight for the pit lane, which was the natural trajectory of the car anyway as I had lost a lot of steering control at that point.”
With the right front corner seriously torn-up, Maxwell limped into the box and the Multimatic team set to work putting it back together, luckily with the race under full course yellow. It was a herculean effort, including a download to assure that the brake system was operating correctly, that had the car back on track in-line for the restart just five laps down. A second yellow just a handful of laps latter allowed the team to get one lap back but the short race wasn’t going to offer enough opportunities to turnaround a four lap deficit.
The commentator said as the Mustang returned to the fray: “That was a great bit of Battlefield Engineering by the Multimatic squad.”
The remainder of the race saw a lot of caution periods, with the longest green period being only just over 20 minutes. Seb Priaulx jumped in for the run to the flag, lapping at the same pace as the leaders with the heavily compromised car, climbing through the pack but ultimately finishing 18th in class.
“Our free practice pace was strong and while our qualifying result wasn’t as high as hoped, we knew we had the speed to move forwards in the race,” said Priaulx. “Unfortunately the incident at the start of the race was a case of wrong place at the wrong time with no way to avoid the wheel. The Multimatic Motorsports team did a brilliant job to get the car back on track so quickly and while we didn’t get to do much racing from there, it felt good to get the car to the chequered flag. Ultimately it hasn’t been our weekend, but we’ll push hard for success in the closing rounds.”