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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Mark Wilkins

This week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass with Bryan Herta Autosport driver Mark Wilkins…

Photo: Brian Cleary/PWC

This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Mark Wilkins looks back on the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge season which marked the debut of the Bryan Herta Autosport-run Hyundai program in the series.

What were your expectations coming into the 2018 season?

“The opportunity to join Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai came about shortly after the New Year and was a wonderful surprise that I’m most grateful for!

“Naturally, my expectations for the program were quite high. The i30N TCR showed tremendous early capability over seas and with the rapid growth of TCR worldwide it looked very promising.

“That being said, the car was quite new and it was a brand new program for BHA so heading into the first two rounds at Circuit of The Americas I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

“For the first year of a new program I think we all felt like podiums would be a great accomplishment and wins a real bonus.

“One of my main goals was to help Hyundai achieve a manufacturers title, knowing full well this would be a tall order in year one.

“The first two rounds of the championship went extremely well for us and it became apparent that Hyundai Motorsport had delivered us a well sorted and well developed platform in the i30N TCR.

“Expectations following COTA certainly took a bump up and our focus was set on capturing the drivers, manufacturers and team championships.”

What was the highlight of your season?

“The highlight of the season for me was the win at Portland. Ryan [Eversley], Michael [Lewis] and I all ran nose to tail most of the race.

“In the closing minutes Ryan caught a TCA car in a tough spot and it opened the door for me to get through.

“Michael kept the pressure on and we achieved our third 1-2 finish of the season for Hyundai. We had a number of Hyundai guests that weekend cheering us on which made the strong results all that much sweeter.

“Achieving our goal of capturing the manufacturers championship for Hyundai in year one was also an incredible highlight for all involved.”

How did the Hyundai i30 N TCR compare to previous cars you have driven? Were there any surprises?

“The Hyundai i30N TCR was not only a blast to drive but also quite easy to drive hard on the limit. The car inspired tremendous confidence right out of the gate and to me that’s the tell tale sign of a well sorted race car.

“The biggest surprise for me was actually how well balanced the car was and how well it turned into the corner. The car quite honestly did not have a typical front wheel drive feel or driving dynamic.

“I’ve driven quite a few different cars in my career from prototypes to GT3 cars and other front drive cars. All are quite different and unique in their own way so it’s hard to compare them directly.

“For me it’s all about finding the balance and ability to run on the limit lap after lap. The i30N TCR is certainly one of the most enjoyable cars I have driven and raced.”

What has the addition of TCR done for Pirelli World Challenge?

“TCR is a growing worldwide platform showcasing some of the coolest cars and closest racing anywhere.

“Bringing TCR racing to North America is a sure bet and gives the fans the opportunity to share in the excitement and see some of their favorite cars first hand.

“I believe diversity in the classes and showcasing as many different types of cars as possible brings a great deal of value to Pirelli World Challenge.

“The fans love to watch their favorite exotics while also appreciate the attainability and accessibility of their favorite TCR cars.

“Over the course of the season, I had numerous Hyundai owners speak passionately about their vehicles and tell us how excited they were to see Hyundai in motorsport.

“Undoubtedly, bringing TCR action to PWC has enhanced the show and brought in new fans and teams alike.”

What track not on the 2018 schedule would you most like to see TCR cars race at in the future?

“I would certainly love to see TCR cars run around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road Atlanta. These are two of my favorite more traditional circuits, and I think the TCR platform would put on a great show at these venues.

“For me, the more old school race tracks are a little less forgiving and a bit more technical. Both circuits offer great vantage points for the fans to see the strong suits of their favorite TCR cars.”

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