St. Patrick’s Day provided the second wheel-to-wheel IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge event of the season and it was one in which Tyler Gonzalez and his co-driver, Rory Van Der Steur, would need to overcome a difficult qualifying session to have success. Taking on the Sebring International Raceway and the 15-entry strong grid, Van Der Steur would start the race as Gonzalez would drive their Hyundai Veloster N TCR to the finish in the sixth position.
“I always love Sebring,” express Gonzalez. “The track is physical, and the bumps are like nothing else. Also, it is pretty close to my hometown, so I have a lot of friends, family and partners that are able to attend and cheer us on in person.”
After showing speed during Wednesday’s opening practice session turning the second quickest lap time, the #19 entry of Van Der Steur and Gonzalez worked on race setup in session two as they ultimately were not searching for the fastest lap in their Hyundai TCR machine. With the 11th fastest lap of the session, the focus would shift to qualifying on Wednesday afternoon that would set the grid for the Alan Jay Automotive 120 the next day. Confident in their pace, the session would be over for the Van Der Steur Racing entry before it even began as a punctured tire on the out lap saw the duo unable to put down a flyer as they would be forced to start their race from the tail of the field.
“We definitely had highs and lows on Wednesday,” explained Gonzalez. “To be at the pointy end of the grid in the first practice was great, and we were also happy with our race pace, so motivation was high going into qualifying. Unfortunately, the racing gods were not on our side and the only way that we can go tomorrow is forward.”
With Rory Van Der Steur taking the wheel for the opening stint, he would drive the #19 forward from his 14th place starting position to well inside the top-five before handing the controls over to a hungry Gonzalez. In a caution filled race that would hurt the long-distance pace of the Van Der Steur Racing entry, Gonzalez was forced to overcome several difficult restarts to either move forward or defend his position. Racing inside the top-five and battling hard, Gonzalez eventually crossed the stipe in the sixth position to add their second top-ten result of the season.
“I think we did well to get to the point of the race where we thought we could attack, but several caution periods ruined that for us,” added Gonzalez. “Rory did a great job to get the car towards the front in his stint, and it was my job to keep it there. To come home with a sixth-place result after starting 14th is something that we can build upon for the future.”
As one of the only privateer efforts in the series, Gonzalez and Van Der Steur have finished fifth and sixth in their first two events of 2022 and sit inside the top-five of the championship point standings.
Next up for Tyler Gonzalez will be round three of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca over the April 28 – May 1 weekend.
For more information on Tyler Gonzalez, please search for him via his social media pages at ‘Tyler Gonzalez Racing’.
Photo Credit: IMSA