IMSA Michelin Challenge: Pole for Mark Wilkins in TCR; Kuno Wittmer third in GS


The Michelin Pilot Challenge Series had their first practice session yesterday afternoon and it was followed by an early morning practice today. Just before qualifying took place, the teams had a chance to set their car in a short 15 minutes practice session just after lunch.

After a short break, the TCR cars took to the track for their 15 minutes qualifying session. Bryan Herta Motorsports driver, Toronto Mark Wilkins, sat on the pit wall for this qualifying as his teammate Michael Lewis qualified the Hyundai Veloster N TCR.

A good job he did as he came out with the fastest lap to take pole position for tomorrow’s 4hr race. Second place went to JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS and third to Fast MD Racing Audi RS3 LMS. Interviewed as he came out of the car, Michael praised his teammate Mark Wilkins on setting up the car.

When we spoke to Mark about the compliment given to him by his teammate, he was quick to return the compliment. “Michael is a super nice guy, he did a great job and it did put down a great lap so that is full credit to him. It is very nice of him to say that, but we have been working very hard in a short time since we did not get a lot of track time before qualifying. We really had not run new tires on the car or even run on low fuel, so we did not really know where we were in terms of qualifying pace since we did not have that much track time. We mostly concentrated on long runs. So, great job from Michael, the team and engineer to get us pole today.”

Looking at tomorrow’s race, Mark is confident of having a consistent car for the long race. “Tire wear is a bit of an issue here as there are several long fast corners where the tires are working hard so we have been working on how to get the most out of the tires over the long runs. Not necessarily get the quickest lap but the most consistent laps over a run.”

The expected forecast calls for possible showers for Saturday morning. When asked if this could mix things up a little, Mark feels quite comfortable with the changing conditions. “The forecast calls for most of the rain in the morning. If so, this will change the track conditions as we know it now. The asphalt is pretty good on the wet so if we do end up running in the rain, it will still be quite grippy I think. We had a great car at Mid-Ohio in mix conditions (they won the race NDLR) so we might end up with something similar and we are not afraid of that at all. Whatever we get, we are in decent shape. There are a few cars out there that are quite fast in a straight line and the Hondas have been quick too, so we have got our cut out for us tomorrow event though we start ahead.”

The GS class took to the track right after for their qualifying session and Kuno Wittmer had the task of qualifying the McLaren GT4 for Compass Racing. Sitting in the pit lane while others went out right away, Kuno gave himself some room to get his lap in, he still had to deal with slower traffic. In the end, his effort was good for third place. 

Asked about his qualifying session, Kuno was happy with the result. “Even if we would have qualified a little lower down the order, we would have been happy. I had to deal with slower traffic in the beginning, so I could not get my lap in. I managed to find the gap and then had the possibility to finally get the lap that counted for P3.”

4hr race is a long race, it’s not a sprint for these GT4 cars. Thanks to the hard work of the team the car has been getting faster throughout the sessions and I think we are ready for it.  Regardless of the weather tomorrow, rain or heat like today, we are ready to tackle the field,” Kuno mentioned. “We did not do any testing since Mid-Ohio,” Kuno continued, “but the team has work hard back at the shop in Toronto to best prepare the McLaren GT4 for this weekend. So, a big thanks to them.”

Other Canadians in the GS class: Motorsport In Action’s Jesse Lazare/Corey Fergus are to start in ninth place. Kohr Motorpsorts’ Anthony Lazaro/Nate Stacey are to start in 10th. AWA’s Scott Hargrove/Orey Fidani will start in 14th. Kohr Motorsports’ Kenny Wilden/Ron Randall/DJ Randall are to start in 33rd.

The 4hr race is scheduled for a green flag at 1:55pm Saturday.

Image: PMstillsPhotography

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