ALTON, Va. (April 29, 2018) – Mark Wilkins scored his second TCR victory in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge campaign Sunday at Virginia International Raceway with his No. 99 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR car in the 40-minute TCR event.
Wilkins, who captured the Round 2 race in COTA last month, started second in Sunday’s 21-lap TCR feature and followed his teammate Michael Lewis in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR for the first eight circuits at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course.
However, pole winner Lewis’ mount suffered front axle damage in the lead and had to retire from the Round 4 action. Wilkins had a mechanical problem in Saturday’s Round 3 TCR event with just four laps remaining while running second.
On Sunday, Wilkins took over the lead from Lewis and never looked back with an impressive 7.859-second win over Honda’s Ryan Eversley and Audi’s Jerimy Daniel.
“It was a great day for Hyundai and the i30 N TCR,” said Wilkins. “Michael and I hadn’t done a whole lot of practice starts in the car, so we were a little nervous to be honest. We knew the car from Europe would get off the line quite well so if we could do it right from the driver’s seat, we’d be okay. We managed to have a good start, as did Ryan (Eversley) and it’s nice the whole field was on the hunt for the first standing start of the year. I love the standing starts. It’s a whole other element. It’s a tough day for Michael (Lewis). He drove really well. But that’s racing and there’s always going to be adversity.
“I must thank Bryan Herta Autosport, and all the crew guys since they haven’t had much sleep this weekend. We had a bit of a tough weekend. We found some issues that we didn’t expect. We had a great weekend at COTA and thought that things went smoothly, so coming here it seems like we had to fight a little more adversity and we had to fight for that. Kudos to the guys for late nights and early mornings. It takes a vigilant and great team to put this together and we have one.”
Wilkins extended his margin Sunday to a 13-second lead late in the race and slowed his pace in the final few laps.
Both Wilkins and Eversley enjoy competing against each other in the TCR class this year after being teammates last year in the GT3 cars for RealTime Racing.
“I love running with Ryan and love racing with him,” Mark said after the race in the TCR press conference. “The cars are a bit diabolical for the first half lap, especially with the cooler ambient temperatures today. It’s hard to get heat in the tires, especially the rears. So, you go into turn one and you’re ready to go, the fronts are ready to go, but the rears aren’t ready yet. So, it took a little bit, but we got through it for the most part on the first lap. It was a great day for Hyundai and great follow-up to yesterday with Michael’s second-place finish.”
Despite his retirement from Sunday’s event, Lewis still recorded the quickest race lap for the second consecutive TCR race with a one minute, 54.604 seconds for an average speed of 102.71 miles per hour, over a full mile per hour faster than his best Saturday race speed.
“We had a great car today and I was looking to my second win of the season,” said Lewis. “But we had a problem in the lead and that is a disappointment for us. I thought we had the car to win with the Hyundai i30 N TCR. But, if I couldn’t win, I am glad it was Mark. I’m very happy for my BHA Hyundai teammate to win the race today.”
The Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian team now prepares for Pirelli World Challenge TCR Round 5 and 6 set for Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut May 25-26. Of course, BHA will be busy on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Marco Andretti drives the No. 98 in the 102nd Indy 500.