When a race group options two 16-year-old drivers named Tyler, addressing them turns into an important facet of group communication. That explains the nicknames.
“Mine is T-Gon, his is T-Max,” Tyler Gonzalez stated concerning the monikers used to differentiate him from teammate Tyler Maxson. “For brief, it’s T.G. and T.M. more often than not. Collectively, all people calls us T’n’T.”
It’s not a foul drawback to have. After two races this yr within the IMSA Michelin Pilot Problem, together with final week’s Alan Jay Automotive Community 120 at Sebring Worldwide Raceway, Copeland Motorsports is planning a full season within the Pilot Problem Touring Automobile (TCR) class in 2021.
Judging from the primary effort — a runner-up end within the collection debut Oct. 16 at Michelin Raceway Street Atlanta — the full-season plan holds promise. Particularly for 2 youngsters who love the automobile they’re driving.
“You are feeling each minute element within the automobile,” Maxson stated of the group’s No. 27 Hyundai Veloster N TCR. “They developed this automobile in such a means that it offers all the facility to the motive force. It truly is simply unbelievable to drive this factor. It’s actually quick, because it’s confirmed this yr. It’s undoubtedly a really, very quick automobile, and it’s actually nice for the drivers.”
The thought to subject a TCR group got here from veteran racer Dean Copeland, whose success as a driver and proprietor within the World Mazda MX-5 Cup Collection led to the chance to develop. He already had two kids in his secure, and he knew they’d work nicely collectively at the next stage.
“The principle factor with each of those children is that they each like the identical traits in a race automobile,” Copeland stated. “It makes my job simple and makes for a profitable duo. The seating place is similar, however they each just like the automobile to deal with the identical. They’ve the identical driving fashion — very quick, very up on the wheel. It’s onerous to search out two drivers with the identical fashion in endurance racing. I’m fortunate sufficient to have that occurring.”
At their Michelin Raceway debut, Gonzalez began sixth and labored the No. 27 Hyundai into rivalry. Throughout Maxson’s stint, he took the lead late within the race earlier than settling for a runner-up end behind the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai co-driven by Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi.
Afterward, the 2 longtime teammates — the nicknames return to their karting days — had been informally addressed as T-Max and T-Gon.
“That’s actually the one means we will differentiate ourselves,” Maxson stated with fun.
The nicknames are prone to final for a time. After ending 10th in TCR of their second Pilot Problem race at Sebring, Copeland Motorsports is waiting for the total season in 2021 with the 2 Tylers within the No. 27 automobile. Copeland additionally has a sister automobile deliberate for no less than a part-time TCR schedule. And, with the Mazda MX-5 Cup shifting below the IMSA umbrella in 2021, he’ll have his complete fleet of vehicles on the similar tracks a lot of the time.
“We’ll be capable of have all of our groups on website at one observe at one time,” stated Copeland, whose store is situated in Stevensville, Maryland. “That’s thrilling for us subsequent yr. … Our plan is to run two vehicles in TCR and have our MX-5 Cup program on the races, so we’ll have fairly just a few vehicles on the observe. Hopefully, we’ll make a giant splash within the IMSA paddock and have some success.”
Each drivers began younger, mastering go-karts at an early age and shifting as much as vehicles by the point they had been 14. Earlier than the transfer to Pilot Problem late this season, Maxson gained 11 races and the TCR championship within the TC America collection driving a Veloster TCR N. Gonzalez, in a Veloster Turbo, gained 4 races within the TCA class. IMSA’s minimal age for drivers is 17, however that may be lowered by one yr on the discretion of IMSA officers primarily based on earlier expertise in organized racing.
That have in karting proved important to their speedy ascension by the automobile ranks.
“It’s the identical factor as using a motorbike,” Gonzalez stated. “Once you study it once you’re younger, you by no means actually overlook it. Simply the race craft alone; there’s no such factor as karting race craft anyplace else.”
What’s promising for the group is promising for the expertise.
“By the point these children are 18 years previous, they’re going to have two or three years of expertise within the IMSA paddock,” Copeland stated. “If any producers are in search of pro-level drivers, it’s onerous to argue with an 18-year-old child who’s been profitable in IMSA for two-plus seasons already.”