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Ford Aims for Michelin Pilot Challenge Crown At Daytona

Ford Performance may be back in full swing at the Rolex 24. (Photo: Jared Bokanoski | The Podium Finish)

Ford Performance may be back in full swing at the Rolex 24. (Photo: Jared Bokanoski | The Podium Finish)

It has been seven years since the familiar Blue Oval stood atop the podium at Daytona International Speedway for the Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener.

If the Roar Before the 24 is any indication, that could change this weekend.

Ford turned the fastest Grand Sport (GS) class lap in four of the five test sessions. The only time a Ford Mustang GT4 did not set the pace was when a practice session was shortened due to rain.

Luca Mars, a 16-year-old driver with a quickly rising stock in sports car racing, clocked the best overall lap of the weekend in the opening test session on Friday, at 1 minute and 53.042 seconds (113.373 mph), driving the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Mustang at the 12-turn, 3.56-mile Daytona road course.

Mars set the top lap in another session with Zane Smith, the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, in the No. 42 PF Racing Ford Mustang.

Michelin Pilot Challenge veteran Chad McCumbee (No. 13 McCumbee McAleer Racing with AEROSPORT) put a  Ford atop the scoring pylon in other sessions.

Mars will have an opportunity to continue Ford’s success that he’s seen early in his career as he will team up with Bob Michaelian in the No. 59 KohR entry throughout the season.

Certainly, Mars, along his Ford teammates, remains optimistic about his chances in Friday’s four-hour race.

“This track really plays into Ford’s favor because the car just has a crazy midrange coming onto all the banking,” Mars said. “The car just takes off. I think a Ford can win here; hopefully it’s us.”

There are five Mustangs in the 32-car GS class for the season opener, the first of 11 races on the 2023 Michelin Pilot Challenge calendar.

Aston Martin leads with eight Vantage GT4s entered while there are six Mercedes-AMG GT GT4s.

With the Volt Racing team and GS champion drivers, Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman, moving to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year and IMSA great Bill Auberlen focusing on the WeatherTech Championship, the GS season chase appears wide open.

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera. I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO. The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth. Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras. My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports. See you at a track soon

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