Back in 2022, American racing driver Mike Skeen entered his first full season of IMSA racing with Gilbert-Korthoff Motorsports and their Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3. With plenty of experience behind the seat, the team came out of the box stronger than anyone expected having achieved a 3rd place finish at the Rolex 24 Hours and a 2nd place finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Inconsistencies mid-season however saw them drop as leaders of the GTD points standings, eventually finishing the year in 3rd place.
2023 has seen significant improvements for the young Ohio based team, currently sitting 2nd place and one point behind the leaders in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup and 5th place in the GTD standings. After finishing the first half of the season on a high note, Mike Skeen sat down with us after the sixth round at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park to talk about the team, what it takes to win, and more.
The team is a relatively new one in IMSA and was able to finish 3rd in the championship standings last year, what are some things you’ve learned from other teams and series that you’ve carried over with you to help make you as successful as you have been?
With any team, it’s always important that all the people mesh well. That sounds cliché but it’s important to make everybody maximize their own performance together not just having a bunch of strong individuals. I think we have a great group of people that are working well and starting to hit our stride really well minimizing mistakes, and maximizing the performance at all events.
After the 6 hour of Watkins Glen, you’re 2nd in the endurance championship with IMSA. What do you think your chances are of winning that?
As with any GT3 racing, the BOP is very important so hopefully we will be good at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans, but I’m sure we will have good strategy and consistent pace regardless. The biggest thing at Petit Le Mans is managing the prototype traffic with such a fast and flowing circuit. At the end of the year, everybody is always aggressive so staying out of trouble is always key.
You just finished on the podium at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, but no wins yet. What are some things your team is hoping to implement to get there?
I think we have consistently been in the hunt to finish on the podium or at the top and take some wins. Lime Rock should be good for our car. We were strong there last year and had a good chance of winning if there hadn’t been an unusual yellow at the end of the race, so I think going there looks good for us. We continue to execute well and have a quick car. We just have to make sure that we finish out a weekend strong without any mistakes and I’m sure that we will get those wins sooner rather than later.
You’ve driven many types of cars in many series. How does the level of aggression in IMSA hold compared to what you’ve driven? Especially in endurance races as they wind down to the end?
The level of aggression in IMSA is pretty high. Even the endurance races turn into sprints for the most part. For sure the final stints become pretty cutthroat. At some points in endurance racing, the strategy determines that you have to be more cautious or to back off the pace to fuel save, but you’re always looking for the maximum performance, it might just be compromised towards fuel economy or some other target.
We’ve noticed you’re very tall. Whats your height? What is the shortest co-driver you’ve ever had? What do they do to deal with the height difference?
I am pretty tall at 6’3”. Most of the cars now have movable pedals and movable steering columns: on top of that we can do different seat inserts that pop in and out pretty quickly so the driver size thing is not too much of an issue anymore. The smallest co-driver I’ve had is probably Maxi Buhk. We ran together at Alegra Motorsports because I filled in for a sick driver at the 2021 Daytona 24 and didn’t have my own seat insert. It was a bit cramped for me there, but in general, you can work out those kinks ahead of time.
One final question and a fun one at that; one race, one place, over and over again like groundhog day. Where would it be and why?
The Nurburgring. It’s really its own thing. The track is so different to all others. It’s a great challenge really cool environment. Lots of cool cars and racing available there so that would be the “be all end all”.
Interview by Christian Rodriguez
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.