Two Drivers on Parallel Paths – Meet the Next Generation
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Talent scouting is always a fun task, whether it’s in looking toward the next generation of stick-and-ball stars or eyeing future great drivers who establish themselves in development series. This year, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class received two drivers whose rise has paralleled each other and now are full-time freshmen in 2023. Meet Kay van Berlo and Sebastian “Seb” Priaulx. Two drivers who have had much success in their IMSA careers prior to their first full-time WeatherTech Championship seasons. If you were paying attention to the recent Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, van Berlo’s name should sound familiar as he and co-driver Alan Metni took home first-place GTD honors in the No. 91 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R (992). But back to where they started. How they got to America from the Netherlands (van Berlo) and Great Britain (Priaulx) in the first place came thanks to maximizing connections and opportunities. After a pair of starts in the non-points Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore in 2018 and ‘19, van Berlo earned a Kellymoss Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America test from Jeff Stone following the 2020 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Without his own gear on-site, van Berlo enlisted the help of fellow drivers, borrowing a helmet from Scott Andrews, a firesuit from Guy Cosmo and driving shoes from Nicky Catsburg to complete the test and ultimately earn a seat.
Priaulx studied and learned through Harry Tincknell, a multi-time Mazda Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race winner who shared a Multimatic-built, Chip Ganassi Racing-run Ford GT with Seb’s father, Andy Priaulx, during that program’s tenure in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The younger Priaulx promptly won his IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge debut in the Grand Sport (GS) class at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with Austin Cindric in a Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4 in 2019. Priaulx and van Berlo’s paths intertwined in 2021 as teammates at Kelly Moss Road & Race in Carrera Cup North America’s debut season, where they battled for the title. The pendulum swung midseason from a van Berlo-dominated first half to a Priaulx-dominated second half, and the young Englishman beat the younger Dutchman. “Kay was a tough teammate to beat for sure!” Priaulx said. “He’s a good driver, super kept me on my toes. Being his teammate made me a better driver.” Van Berlo added, “Looking back at it, having him as a teammate progressed us as a team and helped us to develop. We had more wins but also more DNFs. We had so many good battles over the season.” Van Berlo fought back at their next head-to-head showdown as part of Riley Motorsports’ 2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class lineup while Priaulx finished second co-driving the No. 33 for Sean Creech Motorsport. Priaulx enjoyed a busy 2022 spending time across IMSA and the FIA WEC, while van Berlo sought to claim the Carrera Cup title, but again came up short – this time to Parker Thompson. Fittingly, van Berlo and Priaulx are now WeatherTech rookies, in the same class (GTD), and in the same type of car: the new Porsche 911 GT3 R (992).
Van Berlo continues his relationship with Kellymoss, now partnered with Riley. Priaulx, meanwhile, has landed in the new AO Racing program, which so far has made headlines for its striking Swap Shop throwback and “Rexy” dinosaur liveries. Leading up to van Berlo’s recent win, the duo’s results to start the 2023 WeatherTech Championship season haven’t matched the talent at their disposal. While van Berlo has struck first, Priaulx is optimistic better results will come later this year. “IMSA feels like you can always win, even if you’re two laps down,” says Priaulx, who shared the No. 80 AO Racing Porsche with Gunnar Jeannette at WeatherTech Raceway. “Being around this paddock feels like home,” he added. “It’s a top championship. The goal for me is to run with the pro driver times.” For van Berlo, a student at the University of Miami (Fla.), there’s several goals: finish school, improve in GTD and eventually spend a year racing with his brother, Glenn. “Doing both school and racing is difficult, not going to lie,” said van Berlo. “But I love being busy,” he continued. “And I love racing in America, in IMSA. The competition is sky-high. You want to race the (GTD) PRO guys too, being cautious since they’re in their (own) race. “But it’s competition; naturally, you want to move forward!”