Third Place Finish For Canadian Duo Wickens-Wilkins In TCR At Daytona
A THIRD PLACE THAT WICKENS SAVOURED ON THE PODIUM WITH TEAMMATE WILKINS
All eyes during the Roar and this weekend’s Rolex 24 have been on Robert Wickens making a comeback to racing following a long recovery from his injuries.
Since the announcement of his return with Bryan Herta Autosport to drive the no. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR, you could feel the hype in the paddocks. Well, They may have had a bit of luck to get to third place with competitors dealing with reliability issues but as Robert mentioned during the press conference “in the end, that’s motorsport.”
The win in TCR went to no. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 9.5s ahead of second place no. 1 Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR. Wilkins and Wickens finished 4.5s behind their teammates.
Asked about his thoughts on the race, you could feel it was a special moment for Mark Wilkins. “Robert drove an inspiring drive right out of the gate so I was very inspired to continue that momentum. The race was going very well for us. Our last pit stop did not go so well as we had a small issue affecting the idle of the car or I just made a mistake or a combination of a couple of factors. We ended up stalling but managed to get it going and lost a few spots that made my job just a little harder. The Alpha was quite quick and I am not sure we had the pace for them but certainly second place. A drive with conviction. I feel like we had to get on the podium here. There were some close battles, close calls and some luck as well. I’m just very thrilled with the result today. I think it is the start to something pretty awesome and I’m really excited to get to Sebring where I think we are even a bit stronger(than competitors, NDLR).”
When asked how it felt to be back in a competitive state, Wickens’s answer left no doubt that he is here to compete. “It was nice to know that my instincts did not go away. The first laps are always a little unique and last night I was watching YouTube clips of previous IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge races to see what Turn one looked like. One thing I saw was even though the outside looks appetizing under braking, everyone ends up going wide anyway. So I decided to keep it tight; almost like not gaining spots in Turn one and stay status quo and move forward later in the lap. I was able to pass into turn three and I think the two cars ahead had an issue so it was kind of a bonus spot for me. Then we settled into a rhythm in P5 until the pit stops. We were not the fastest here in Daytona but we were able to get two Hyundai on the podium.”
As for his pace, Robert mentioned the no. 33 had some electronic issue where they could not see their laptimes on the dash so it was difficult to know from inside the cockpit what kind of rhythm he had. He is to look at the data with the engineers in the weeks to come but his combative spirit summed it all up.
“Honestly, the only thing at the end of my stint that I was disappointed with is that I wasn’t the lead Hyundai when we came in for the pitstop because I’ve always believed that in order to win a race, first you have to be the lead car in your team.”
There is no doubt that Robert Wickens’ return to racing is to compete and there is more to come as the season progresses. “I had some pretty strong goals internally. This whole thing is not just a marketing thing. I want to compete, I am here to win races. That’s why I was so happy to be teamed up with Mark (Wilkins, NDLR) because he has won championships in here and he’s been an influential part of Bryan Herta Autosport for a long time now. So he knows what we need for the car. So, for me as being an inexperienced driver in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, I leaned on him a lot. I’m pleased with the podium but as I have said earlier on, my goal is to be the lead Hyundai car.
Robert’s initial reaction when drivers picked up the champagne bottles to celebrate, he simply took a sip, actually a long sip. Jokingly, he did mention during the press conference that at first he did not know what to do because he can’t move around in his wheelchair to join the others as his hands are busy holding the bottle. To me, it surely felt he had his moment as he took his long sip.
Race results here.
Image : Patrice Marchessault / PMstills Photography