Alton, Vir. (10 October 2021) - After three hours of dramatic race action, Jr III Racing raced to a third place result in the fifth round of the 2021 IMSA Prototype Challenge championship on Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway. The hard-fought podium is the second of the season for the team, which has continued to develop its program in just its second full season of IMSA competition.
No. 33 Airbnb Ligier JS P320
The driver combo of Ari Balogh and Garett Grist proved that patience is key as the duo secured a third place finish with just three corners remaining on the final lap.
Balogh took the green flag in the No. 33 Airbnb Ligier JS P320 from seventh. He settled into race pace as the field quickly spread out, clicking off laps. On lap 23 the first of four full course cautions appeared. Opting for an alternate strategy, the No. 33 Ligier stayed out as pit lane began to fill with LMP3 competitors. Balogh cycled to the overall lead where he would stay for the race restart. Balogh came to the end of his stint on lap 34 bringing the orange and yellow Ligier to pit lane for a driver change, fuel and four new Michelin tires.
With Grist in the driver’s seat, the No. 33 Ligier returned to course in eighth although a lap down. Getting back on the lead lap was Grist’s first objective. The Canadian quickly worked through traffic passing the overall race leader while setting the fastest lap of the race to return to the lead lap with one hour left on the race clock. Still utilizing the alternate pit strategy, Grist took over the race lead on lap 65 for five laps before making his final pit stop.
Grist returned to the running order in seventh where he once again began marching up the running order. A well timed final yellow regrouped the lead pack and set up a shoot out to the checkered flag. Pushing the Ligier to its limits and utilizing the draft from the cars ahead allowed
Grist to catapult into fourth with six laps remaining.
Heads up driving by Grist kept the No. 33 in contention as he pounced in the closing moments of the race to avoid the front runners as they went off track on the final lap. Grist brought the No. 33 Airbnb Ligier JS P320 to the checkered flag in third - the first podium result for the entry.
“It is fantastic to be able to represent Jr III Racing on the podium today,” said Grist. “On the last lap I saw how close the leaders were running so I held back a bit just in case something happened. The team did a fantastic job all weekend and I am beyond excited to have such a great result.”
No. 3 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320
Making his first official IMSA race start, Marc Sharinn teamed up with sports car veteran Mike Skeen in the No. 3 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 for the three hour race at VIR.
Sharinn took the opening stint quickly pushing the No. 3 Ligier at the drop of the green flag. Managing the opening lap melee, he maintained his running position settling in for his 55-minute stint. Executing lap after lap Sharinn raced as high as sixth while running his fastest laps of the weekend with clear track ahead. Completing 28 laps, Sharinn brought the No. 3 Ligier to pit lane for a driver change, fuel and new tires.
Taking over the controls, Skeen returned to the 3.27-mile track a lap down in ninth. A slight contact with a competitor in turn one sent Skeen off into the grass but he held onto control of the Ligier and was able to get back up to speed. He pushed the No. 3 while he set his personal best time of the weekend on lap 69.
Skeen continued to hold on for 21 laps to bring the No. 3 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 to the finish line in seventh.
“This program is great and very professional,” said Sharinn. “Mike (Skeen) did a great job coaching me through everything I could need to know for a race and the Jr III Racing guys did a great job preparing the car. I just wish I was able to move it up a little bit. In the end I am happy with how my first IMSA race went but I do wish it was better and want to do so in the future.”
“Jr III Racing is really one of the best teams I've ever been a part of and so always happy to be a part of the program and especially be able to be in the car racing,” said Skeen. “ It was a bit of a frustrating day today. We went down a lap early and fought the entire race trying to get it back, but at the same time not wanting to get in the way of the leaders at the same time. I am happy that Marc (Sharinn) got a good run. Hopefully that leads to more for him going forward. Of course I will love being in this car and look forward to the next time I am called up to race again.”
Jr III Racing will return to IMSA Prototype Challenge as the 2021 season comes to a close at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on November 11-13th.