Despite holding the lead in the drivers’ title race, Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins say their primary focus is on helping Hyundai secure the TCR manufacturers’ championship in its first year of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition.
Lewis and Wilkins head into today’s penultimate round of the season with a five-point lead over Bryan Herta Autosport teammates Harry Gottsacker and Mason Filippi, who are a further four points ahead of to the No. 37 LA Honda World Racing duo of Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock.
The battle for the manufacturers’ championship is even closer fought, with Honda holding a one-point advantage over Audi and Hyundai just two points adrift from the Japanese manufacturer.
While class wins from either of the BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCRs in the final two races would give the title to the Korean brand, both Lewis and Wilkins realize the task at hand.
“It’s all about Hyundai, at the end of the day,” Wilkins told Sportscar365. “That was the way Michael and I approached last season [in TC America]
“We both wanted to win the championship and were both racing against each other, but like we have done this year, we have worked together all year.
“As long as we can push our manufacturer goal, that’s our main goal.
“If we’re there, we might be in a position to win drivers’ and teams’ as well, which would be great.
“But in terms of team orders, it’s so close.
“Harry and Mason have been on point and really strong in the last few weekends, and we need to get back up there and have a couple of good ones to end the year.
“They’re strong, and if they’re in a better position then we have to factor that in at the time, and vice versa.”
Wins in two of the last three races has seen the pair of Hyundais vault to the lead of the championship although Lewis believes the turning point came with their maiden victory at Mid-Ohio in May.
It came in only the team’s third race with the new-for-2019 Veloster N TCR and in IMSA competition altogether.
“[After] we got our first race under our belt we had to analyze how to improve, and after Sebring we have been gelling really well. Both cars have,” Lewis said.
“It’s awesome to have a good set of teammates in Harry Gottsacker and Mason Filippi, and obviously Mark in the No. 98 car, because maybe one car can try one thing while we try another thing to combine our efforts for what we need.
“Having that has really helped us be where we are right now, being 1-2.
“Obviously the No. 98 is leading, which is great from a personal side.
“But for the manufacturer, we’re trying to get Hyundai their manufacturers’ championship. If it was the No. 21 out front, we would be helping them out.”
Wilkins added: “We can’t really control the result, other than to just go out there and execute our job the best we can.
“I think the team synergy is great and it’s been developing all year, whether it’s between the drivers or working together which is super important.
“The team is great, and I think that environment just bodes well for good results at the end of the day.”
Wilkins: Level of Competition Has Been “Some of the Best All Around”
Wilkins believes the TCR class in Pilot Challenge has offered some of the most competitive racing in North America.
While launching last year largely as an Audi-only class, there have been wins from six different driver pairings in eight races so far, with three of the four manufacturers having visited victory lane.
“The level of competition in Michelin Pilot Challenge is great,” Wilkins said. “It’s what we want, everybody wants a good bed of competition.
“I think our racing has been some of the best all around.
“Mid-Ohio was a great example. Michael had the pressure and we all felt it in the pit lane, and I think back at head office as well, but it was a great first win and one that we will remember for a while because it was really well-earned.
“We had been knocking on the door up to that point.
“The competition is good and we’ve had to be on our game. That’s the way you want it to be.”