Michael Lewis is coming off of a wildly succesful season racing for the Bryan Herta Autosport squad that saw him finish as vice-champion in the Pirelli World Challenge TCR class.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Lewis details the transition to TCR racing, gives his assessment of the 2018 season, and let’s us know what he does to stay sharp in the offseason.
What was your first impression of racing in TCR in PWC?
“Before I get into that, I really want to say thank you to Bryan Herta for giving me the call and to give me the opportunity to join his team this year and to join Hyundai.
“It was pretty cool to get the call from him. I’ve known him a little bit over the years since karting and through my car career, and to get a call to race for his team was pretty sweet.
“I was 100 percent ready to go when he asked me, so first and foremost a big thank you to Bryan Herta for getting this team assembled and putting a good team together.
“To to first place right away [with a win at Circuit of The Americas] was something pretty special. The cars had been tested and there was a lot of development behind them, but still you have to execute.
“Even though the car was good, even though the team was solid, to actually do it is something different and we managed to do it in the first weekend and contend for all of the championships.”
What were your biggest challenges throughout the year?
“I’d say the team that we were racing hard against for championships, the RealTime guys, beating them was our biggest challenge.
“They were really good with their pace and having strong drivers, so from my side I’d say the competition of who we were racing against was really strong and that was our biggest challenge.”
What do you think about the TCR platform and the momentum that it’s gaining in the States?
“I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m really confident that TCR is a reasonably affordable way to go racing.
“That’s pretty cool because it gets people more involved in the sport. That’s the main thing. And it’s not just about getting in at a lower rate, but it’s professional.
“You have the global platform, so if you’re in a regional championship, you can see that there’s a global thing and you can make it there.
“It’s not just a cheaper way to go racing, but it’s fully professional and I like that. The racing is hard and it’s good.”
What was the adjustment like for you to the front wheel drive car and the race format of TCR?
“When Bryan called me and Mark to drive for his team I was super excited to do something new.
“To drive the car, and this is a testament to Hyundai, it was honestly like driving a rear-wheel driven car in the sense that it was balanced and it was doing everything you wanted it to do.
“When you turned, it turned. When you applied the throttle it responds the way you want it to. Honestly, after a half day of testing I got the feeling for what this car is about and it was like normal for me.
“You’re not going 200 miles per hour down the straights, but the way you feel in the car is like you’re driving a GT3 car, and that’s what I kept telling Bryan. It’s many of the same sensations.
“We had a lot of GT4 drivers coming over to our tent asking to learn more about these things because we were going about as fast as them and they are in the bigger class.
“It was cool to see people interested in the car because of the speed, and we got a lot of positive comments on the look of the car.
“It’s kind of like a rally car with the big spoilers and things like that. It’s a solid little car and provided some good racing.
What do you do to stay active in the offseason?
“If you’re able to race a lot on some other teams, that helps you. I’m in California so there’s the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, and if you can get into that and get some more track time, that’s the way.
“Keep doing races every month that you can, even if it’s at the amateur level.
“I also ride my mountain bike a lot. It’s not driving, but exercising is one big thing to keep you on your toes. I don’t do downhill stuff with mountain biking, but it keeps you with a sensation of speed.
“And karting is the other thing that really helps in the offseason to keep going, and simulator work is good if you have access to it.”