Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell had a clear goal this weekend and that was to get the #22 Ford Mustang on the podium. Priaulx got proceedings off to a strong start by taking the duo’s best qualifying position of the year, grabbing third place on the grid. The young racer loves the Road Atlanta track and won there on his US racing debut in 2019.
When the four-hour race got underway on Sunday, Priaulx quickly settled into a comfortable second place, pitting after 40 minutes as a full course yellow flew within a lap of the team’s schedule. Maxwell left with fresh tyres and a full tank of fuel, dropping a few spots to the cars that had come in just before the caution period. The #22 ran a trouble-free stint amongst the front five, the fast pack breaking away from the balance of the field, before pitting a second time for fuel and left side tyres only, so as to leave two fresh sets for Priaulx at the end. A strong first half of the stint saw Maxwell run in third until another safety car period occurred, during which half the field followed the unwritten rule to come for fuel whenever the opportunity is offered. Team Engineer for the event, Larry Holt, chose to leave the Mustang on track with a gamble that the race would go green and still allow the #22 it to make the penultimate fuel window. The calculated risk played perfectly and despite Maxwell dropping back to ninth, due to the competition who took the yellow stop having fresher rubber, the team got the car in with a litre left in the tank exactly when needed to make the end in two equal stints.
Priaulx was reinstalled, given a fresh set of Michelins and a full tank of fuel with instruction to “drive it forward”, which he proceed to do. The split strategies made the positional situation difficult to follow but those that had used the yellow would still need a stop and a splash so it was a race for only half the field. Another yellow didn’t rectify the problem and although it would allow the #22 to run past the final window the team decided to dive into the pits as the window opened so as to facilitate a faster fill with only left side tyres being installed. This allowed the #22 to jump the cars that hadn’t made the final stop putting Priaulx in P4 with 12 laps to go. A spectacular pass on Trent Hindman’s Porsche in the Turn 10 chicane achieved the driver pairing’s podium target, but then the #56 Mercedes AMG GT ran out of fuel on the final lap allowing Multimatic’s strategy to take second place for the Mustang team.
“The car was strong today and it was a lot of fun to race it at Road Atlanta,” said Priaulx. “It’s a fast track, where a lot seems to happen on every lap, which just makes it more fun. I could have happily carried on for another couple of hours. It feels good to finally get that podium finish as we have been after it for a while now. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.”