Conquest Racing stood on the podium for the third time this season at NOLA Motorsports Park for the second round of the Pirelli GT4 America championship. Michai Stephens and Jesse Webb crossed the line first by 0,004 sec to be classified later on with a controversial second position after review of a finish line photo shoot.
The pairing had two great qualifying sessions on Saturday, with Jesse Webb securing pole position in Race 1, and Michai Stephens slotting the team into third on the grid for Race 2. However, the unpredictable Louisiana weather had its own plans, with heavy rains resulting in the first race of the weekend getting postponed to late Sunday morning instead, with the second race being rescheduled to take place at another event later in the season.
Webb was behind the wheel for the first half of the race, which was unfortunately plagued by multiple full course cautions for the majority of his stint. Although he was overtaken in the long straightaway leading into turn one on the opening lap, the young Canadian maintained pace and kept up with the leader, putting the team in a good position when it came time to hand the machine over to Stephens for the second stint.
Stephens fought tooth and nail for the entirety of his duration on track, he even stated that the last lap was one of the most intense moments in his racing career. Spectators around the track held their breaths, as Michai Stephens was side by side with the AutoTechnic Racing BMW. No one was able to call who won the race, as both cars crossed the finish line within 0.004 of each other at the advantage of Michai Stephens. A cellular phone photograph across the line was used by the officials to determine that the BMW had the upper hand by mere millimeters, leaving the Conquest Racing machine in second place. Official results showed the BMW won by 0.001 sec after the cell phone picture reviewed taken from race control.
“We only had one race this weekend due to inclement weather, however, to be able to walk away with a podium result is tremendous for our championship hunt,” Stephens said after the podium celebrations. “This weekend really challenged the team in many ways, but as always the Conquest Racing and JMF Motorsports crew rallied together and we were able to put our best foot forward. It’s such a privilege to be here on behalf of the organization and on behalf of Mr. Farrow. Racing here with Jesse was such a great time. Off to COTA, we’ll see what Texas brings us next!”
“We had a great battle right to the very end that kept us on the edge of our seats,” added Jesse Webb. “It was unfortunate to lose out on the win, but it’s still great to take home P2 and a very valuable amount of points. This result is very important for our championship overall and this is all part of the process, you have to take both the highs and lows and sometimes things don’t always go your way. We have another race weekend coming up soon and that comes with more opportunities to win, which I know we’re capable of doing!”
Paulo Carcasci and Custodio Toledo had a tough few days at the office, as the duo qualified 7th in class. Although both drivers were motivated to make their way up the field to clinch another podium, it was a hard task to accomplish. The 40-car field ran tightly, leaving little room to overtake and move into clear air. Though the race was punctuated by multiple cautions, Carcasci and Toledo were able to make up some ground, climbing the ladder of the AM Class up into the Top 3 with a podium contention nearly in their reach. However, their progress was halted when they were plagued with a penalty for jumping the start, which further relegated them to 15th in class when all was said and done.
“NOLA Motorsports Park is a challenging race track, but I still loved it,” stated Paulo Carcasci. “We did not get the results we expected, but that only fires us up to return even stronger for the next event. We know what this team is capable of and we’ve proved that we have what it takes to fight for podiums and wins. Custodio did everything right this weekend, but luck wasn’t on our side.”
“It unfortunately was not meant to be for us this time, but we’ll always keep pushing,” added Custodio Toledo. “We were making a solid amount of progress and things were looking up after a challenging qualifying session, but this is racing and sometimes you get thrown an unexpected curveball. We’re motivated and hungry to step on the podium again, and I’m confident that Paulo and I will do it again soon.”
The #34 and #35 cars will be back on track for the third round of the Pirelli GT4 America championship in a few short weeks. The action will be taking place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas from May 19-21.