Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins dominated the all-new TCR class Saturday in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Texas with a stellar 1-2 finish in their matching Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR cars over the 14-driver field.
After Wilkins won the pole earlier Saturday in the No. 99 BHA Hyundai i30 N TCR, Lewis jumped to the lead at the start of the 40-minute sprint race on the 3.427-mile, 20-turn road circuit southeast of Austin.
Lewis held his ground over his Canadian teammate throughout the 17-lap race with Wilkins making a last-lap effort for the lead in Turn 1 before Michael held off the challenge and took the checkered flag by 1.137 seconds.
“It’s a big team effort and want to thank everyone at Bryan Herta Autosport, Hyundai and my teammate Mark,” said Lewis. “Mark got me in qualifying and we had a clean race into turn two. Under braking, he is better than me and he was pushing me. I really appreciate his help in this project.
“The Hyundai i30 N TCR was solid throughout the race and we need to consider tire life after this race. On the last lap, I saw a lapped car going very slow in a yellow flag area and I couldn’t pass him. Finally, I was able to get by the car and hold off Mark on the final lap for the win. Bryan said to get a clean start and see how the race developed. He wanted us to keep both car up front. We have a lot of Hyundai people here this weekend that made this program possible and I want to thank them for their efforts.”
“Michael did a great job and he had a good start,” said Wilkins, the former PWC GT and GTS race winner from Mulmur, Ontario, Canada. “We were side by side in turn one and the track was a little dirty outside of turn two and I didn’t want to press the issue. It was a great 1-2 result for the Hyundai i30 N TCR in its North American debut and we are thrilled with that. It is a start of a great new class and a great product.
“We did have some issues today with tire degradation and we have been learning every session since we didn’t test before last week. All in all, a great result for the N brand for Hyundai and for Bryan Herta Autosport. And I’ll start from the pole again on Sunday too.”
Placing third Saturday in TCR was veteran road racer Ryan Eversley in the No.43 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR with Denmark’s Martin Jensen fourth in the No. 70 Alfatcr.USA Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR.
Completing the top five was Anthony Geraci in the No. 69 Heinlein Racing Development Audi Sport RS3 LMS.
“Everyone at RealTime Racing has done a really good job getting this car up to speed,” said Eversley. “The team just got the cars two weeks ago from oversees and it has been very busy in the race shop preparing these Honda Civic Type-R TCR cars. We were able to test with no issues and we are happy to be on the podium today. Overall, everything went to plan, and we are happy to be on the box (podium).”
In the Touring Car division Saturday, veteran driver Vesko Kozarov secured the win in his Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec with a 1.634-second victory over his teammate Paul Terry in the No. 33 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec and Karl Wittmer in the No. 91 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.
Eric Powell captured a thrilling 0.171-second TCA victory with his all-new No. 95 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS sedan by holding off Tom O’Gorman of Mason, Ohio, in the No. 94 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Si. Third went to 2017 TCB series champion P.J. Groenke in the No. 25 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS.
Action in the Touring Car classes gets underway Sunday at COTA with the TCR/TCA Round 2 event set for 12:25 p.m. CT and the TC category at 3:25 p.m. All Pirelli World Challenge races will be live-streamed for free and without geo-blocking at World-Challenge.com.