Lewis and Wilkins Extend Points Lead with Podium at Laguna Seca

The penultimate round of the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is in the books, and it was another weekend of firsts for Hyundai and Bryan Herta Autosport, as they locked in the front row, qualifying first and second.  It was the fourth pole position of the season for Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins. 

Fresh of his pole winning performance earlier in the day, Lewis had a great start and controlled the pace of the race through his stint.  Despite several caution periods and re-starts, he held onto the lead and turned over driving duties to Mark Wilkins just under an hour into the two-hour race.  With the championship lead to protect, Wilkins had the pressure of keeping his closest competitors in the points at bay, whilst saving tires to be able to race hard at the end.  The Audi of Jon Morley slipped past Wilkins and through GS traffic opening a 13 second gap.  While preserving his tires, Wilkins raced hard to close the gap to less than two seconds, creating and exciting battle with Morley for the race win. In the end, Wilkins was just a corner short, the Audi ran out of fuel immediately after taking the victory.  Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis finished second, earning their fourth podium of the season and extending their points lead.

It was another notable performance by Rookies Mason Filippi and Harry Gottsacker this weekend.  Filippi, a native of the area, set the second fastest qualifying lap and earned his first IMSA front row starting position. The green flag fell and Filippi dropped to fourth on the start, but he quickly recovered the positions, outpacing the Honda and Audi to race back to second within the first fifteen laps. This was even more notable because Laguna Seca is known to be a very challenging circuit to pass on.  Mason turned the #21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR over to co-driver Harry Gottsacker in second position just before the halfway point.  The #21 BHA team completed a perfect pitstop and exited the pits as the race leaders.  Gottsacker defended his position and led the ensuing Audi of Jon Morley (2nd) and teammate Mark Wilkins (3rd) through the much of the second half of the race.  Unlike the first half of the race, there were no caution periods, and ultimately Gottsacker, like many other TCR competitors was forced to pit for a half-gallon of fuel in the closing laps and lost several positions, finishing tenth.

Catch all the action from the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on NBC Sports Network Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at 1pm ET.  The season finale, The Fox Factory 120, round ten of the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge takes place at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia on Friday, October 11, 2019.

#98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR          

Started: 1st         

Finished: 2nd

Michael Lewis (started)

“It was a delicate balance of trying to push and create a gap but also save tires. Our Hyundai Veloster N TCR was a blast to race out there, John Ward gave us a perfect set-up.  It was fun racing with Mason, he did a we were carving our way through the GS traffic together, I really enjoyed my stint.  Mark had the toughest job, but as usual, he did a great job and we’re looking forward to the finale.  It’s nice heading into the final round with a bit more of a points cushion, we really want to bring this home for Hyundai.”

Mark Wilkins (finished): 

“Michael was perfect in his stint; he went out and scored another pole today then completely controlled the first half of the race.  In my stint, it was all about pushing hard but still protecting the car and the tires.  It was a battle the whole run.  The 61 Audi got around us early, they were strong, but I thought we’d get them at the end with tire management.  I was flat out, one more lap we would have had them.  At the end of the day, it was a good weekend for the championship and once again the Hyundai Veloster N TCR car was terrific.”

#21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR          

Started: 2nd   

Finished: 10th

Harry Gottsacker (finished): 

“At the end of the day it was an unfortunate finish, but once again Mason and I had great pace this weekend.  It was tough out there, taking care of the tires was probably the most important, and also the most challenging aspect of the race.  We’re going to come back and go for the win at Atlanta.”

Mason Filippi (started): 

“The start was hectic, and I lost a few positions.  That led to some epic battles, it was tight but the Veloster N TCR was perfect and the BHA team gave an awesome set up. At one point after passing back to second, we thought we may have damage, it was such a close battle, but we made it through ok.  Our result doesn’t represent our speed today, but we’ll take that to Atlanta for a strong finish to the season.”

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