Mark Wilkins, BHA Lead Pirelli World Challenge TCR Action Friday at COTA in Hyundai i30 N TCR Debut
Canadian Paces 14-car TCR Field; Lewis in Top Six Friday
AUSTIN, Texas – The debut of the Hyundai i30 N TCR in the Pirelli World Challenge Friday at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was extremely impressive with veteran Mark Wilkins recording the quickest time in the 14-car TCR field in the No. 99 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR.
Friday’s official practice runs mark the first time for the Hyundai i30 N TCR cars in U.S. motorsports competition and Wilkins and his BHA teammate Michael Lewis did not disappoint at the spectacular 3.427-mile, 20-turn Texas racing plant.
The Mulmur, Ont., Canada racer set the pace in the second of two 40-minute practice sessions with a blistering time of two minutes, 21.188 seconds, some seven tenths of a second quicker than his nearest competitor Friday. Wilkins’s average speed was 87.47 miles per hour in the initial outing for the Hyundai i30 N TCR.
“We had a good day with the Hyundai i30 N TCR,” said Wilkins. “We have been learning a lot about this new car for our team and working on getting more pace with each run. But we will see where everyone else is on Saturday. I think it will be very close with all five auto manufacturers. We have been working on our race strategy and tire wear too. Michael and I are working well together and learning many things about these cars. We have found something in the two cars that will work well for us. We knew we had to work on tire longevity with the front-wheel-drive cars that could prove to be most important element in the races for us this weekend.”
Lewis, the 27-year-old Laguna Beach, Calif., driver, timed in third in the first practice round in the morning Friday at COTA with a 2:22.475 lap (86.68 m.p.h.) in his No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian and improved to a 2:22.319 (86.78 m.p.h.) to placed sixth overall in the TCR class timing chart.
“Getting up to speed quickly is the name of the game here in the TCR class,” said Lewis, a former GT class race winner. “Mark and I have discovered that we are very similar in our driving styles and that works well when we are working on improve our race cars. We are new to the Hyundai i30 N TCR as well as the team. But we are getting the feel for the car now. It’s the first time I’ve driven a front-wheel-drive race car and it is easy to scrub the front tires hard with the TCR car. Overall, I’m pleased with the direction of the setup with the cars and our engineer, John Ward, is doing a great job working with Mark and myself.”
The top five drivers in TCR practice were with five different auto manufacturers Friday at COTA.
Second overall Friday at COTA was Denmark’s Martin Jensen in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR at 87.02 m.p.h. followed by Ryan Eversley in a Honda Civic Type-R TCR at 87.00 m.p.h, Jerimy Daniel in an Audi Sport RS3 LMS TCR at 86.83, Mason Filippi in a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR at 86.82 m.p.h. and Lewis at 86.78.
TCR qualifications are scheduled for 10:55 a.m. CDT Saturday with the first TCR 40-minute sprint race in Pirelli World Challenge history starting at 4:55 p.m. CDT at COTA. Sunday’s Round 2 TCR event is set for 12:25 p.m. CDT.