Bryan Herta Autosport makes its Pirelli World Challenge debut this weekend (March 23-25) at the 3.427-mile, 20-turn Circuit of The Americas road course with a pair of Hyundai i30 N TCR class sedans in the all-new TCR division with drivers Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis.
The TCR class marks its inaugural showing in the Pirelli World Challenge with a 14-car field representing five different auto makers. This will be the third year of the TCR competition throughout the world.
Bryan Herta Autosport, a two-time Indy 500-winning team, announced its partnership with Hyundai last month at the Chicago Auto Show and now campaigns the two Hyundai’s i30 N TCR race cars currently available to customers in Europe. Tested and developed by former World Touring Car champion Gabriele Tarquini, the Hyundai i30 N TCR has proven to be winner overseas.
“We are extremely excited about Hyundai’s i30 N TCR debut this weekend at COTA in the Pirelli World Challenge TCR class,” said Bryan Herta, president and CEO, Bryan Herta Autosport. “Our new relationship with Hyundai N has made for a strong partnership entering this highly competitive manufacturer-based PWC TCR class. Our recent testing of the Hyundai i30 N showed plenty of potential with the two race cars coming into the COTA weekend. We can’t wait to get started.”
The TCR Series, originated in 2015, was marketed as a cost-effective spin-off of the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), targeted at C-segment hatchbacks production-based touring cars.
Wilkins, the veteran racer from Mulmur, Ontario, Canada, has been a Pirelli World Challenge race winner in the GT and GTS divisions and brings experience with front-wheel-drive road racing vehicles. Wilkins says he is anxious to get to the COTA race circuit for the Hyundai i30 N debut.
“With three days of testing last week with the Hyundai i30 N TCR, we were extremely pleased with the car’s characteristics and the car ran flawlessly,” said Wilkins. “We basically learned as much as possible about the car. We were thrilled to have Gabriele Tarquini, the car’s development driver, with us last week to give Michael and I plenty of input about the car. There is a lot of excitement with this new TCR class, and we have a new car for a new season. As a driver, you are always a little nervous entering the first race, but I am ready to go this weekend at COTA. It’s a great race circuit and we believe our Hyundai i30 N TCR can be competitive in its opening doubleheader weekend. The TCR platform is a great format and we think the series is the start of something special. The TCR class is going to grow.”
Lewis, the Laguna Beach, California-based GT Sprint and GT SprintX race winner, has been impressed with the performance of the Hyundai i30 N TCR in early testing and the professional aspect of the Bryan Herta Autosport organization.
“The whole testing program with the new Hyundai i30 N TCR was very thorough with test driver Gabriele Tarquini and our team engineer John Ward,” said Lewis. “I am driving a front-wheel-drive race car for the first time, but I was able to get up to speed quickly in testing. Working with a veteran like Mark is exciting for a younger driver like myself. We worked well together in the test and the Hyundai i30 N TCR ran through its paces very well. I see potential with this car in the tough TCR class. Plus, I worked on standing starts again which the TCR class will have in the second event of the COTA weekend. It’s always fun to drive at COTA and even better with the new Hyundai i30 N TCR.”
Pirelli World Challenge TCR action begins Friday (March 23) with the first of two practice rounds set for 9:30 a.m. CDT. The first 40-minute sprint race is scheduled for Saturday (March 24) 4:55 p.m. CDT with a rolling start, while the Round 2 event set for Sunday (March 25) at 2:25 p.m. CDT with a standing start.