IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Second palce for Mark Wilkins/Michael Lewis in TCR
RACE DELAY, EARLY RETIREMENT FOR AWA (SCOTT HARGROVE/OREY FIDANI)
The race was scheduled to start at 1:55pm and with 15 minutes before the start of the race, officials decided to postpone the start due to some very inclement weather in the area of the track. The race officially started an hour later and ran the full 4hours.
Even if the race was scheduled for four hours, it got competitive pretty quickly and within the first couple of laps, the Porsche AWA racing of Scott Hargrove driving at the time got hit from behind and ended up hitting the wall quite hard and upon impact the car was sent back to the middle of the track.
Kuno Wittmer started the race for Compass Racing and was maintaining the pace with the leader. He then dove into the pits under a full course caution, due to another incident, handed over to teammate Paul Holton. Soon after the green flag, Holton got hit form behind. You could visually seee a puncture as a result but then the contact was hard enough to damage the rear toe link. Once the part was changed, Compass Racing was already a couple of laps down.
It has to be said, it is understandable that you want to gain position early on, but with the amount of contacts that happened in the early stage of the race, you would think it was a 10 lap shootout.
At the front, MIA(Jesse Lazare) and Kohr Motorsport(Kyle Marcelli#60 and Kenny Wilden#59) were battling for top position throughout the race.
With 40 minutes to go, a heavy downpour hit the track creating a little mayhem out on the track with some drivers waiting the longest before switching to rain tire. The caution came out not long after as 2 cars went into the tire barrier at the last corner.
It became a poker game as teams and drivers had to decide to either stay on slicks or switch to rain.
With 12 minutes, the race resumed and on a quickly drying track Jesse Lazare in the GS class initially drove away from the pack to but then lost track position in the last 3 laps to end up in eight place. at the checkered flag, it was the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG of Cox/Murry/Bleekemolen crossing the line in first place followed by the Bimmer World Racing of Clay/Jones and third went to Carbahn Motrosports Audi R8 of McQuarrie/Westphal.
Kohr Motorsport’s Mustang of Kenny Wilden(#59) and Kyle Marcelli(60) finished 10th and 12th respectively.
In the TCR, Mark Wilkins and teammate Michael Lewis in the Hyundai Veloster N TCR stayed in the tick of the fight all race long and kept their nose clean. When the weather came in towards the end of the race, they were shown leading the TCR class. Decisions needed to be made as to stay on slicks or change for rain. A team decision was made and unfortunately for Mark Wilkins the quickly drying track worn out the rain tires well before the checkered and lost the first place within minutes of the end to finish in second place.
It was LA Honda Racing World Honda Civic TCR of Pombo/Lamarra first to have crossed the line with the Hyundai Veloster N TCR of Wilkins/Lewis in second and Roadshagger Racing by eEuroparts.com of Ernstone/Morley in third.
Speaking to Mark Wilkins after the podium, Mark summed up the race and also the gamble taken for tire change towards the end of the race.
“Michael did a great job on his first stint and handed a perfect car to me. The car was fantastic; we really nailed the set-up today and the crew did a great job on the pitstops. We ran a perfect race until the last call(when the weather came in, NDLR). We needed to stay on the dry we were on, we elected to switch to the wet as we knew they would be quicker for about 6 laps but ended up only for three. So, with a drying track it was a massive difference in lap times. We loose as a team but I was a big part of that call as I thought the tires would last for those six laps and the team thought it was a decent call and with insight looking at where the sun was, we should have probably gamble the other way.”
“But, you know, we are leading the championship. That was a great points day today and the car was a blast to drive. I really enjoy driving this Veloster N TCR. It is awesome to drive. We are getting into our groove and looking forward to be at CTMP next weekend where I think the car is going to perform very well.”
Image: PMstills Photography