After a plethora of lead changes in the Touring Car (TCR) class, Tim Lewis gapped the field in the closing laps and drove on to the class victory in the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR. Lewis, who shared the car with Roy Block, won by 9.524 seconds over the reigning TCR champions, Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler in the No. 1 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
Tim Lewis took the lead for good with a half-hour remaining when he passed Stephen Simpson in the No. 54 Michael Johnson Racing with Bryan Herta Autosport Elantra. It led to Block’s fourth Michelin Pilot Challenge win and the third for Lewis, who delivered Alfa Romeo a pair of breakthrough victories in 2021.
“This is my seventh year in IMSA, and for six years I’ve had my heart broken at this track, my home track, because I live in Orlando,” Block said. “What a result, what a team effort. Tim was just a Swiss army knife watch. He just kept turning out the laps. This field is good top to bottom.”
Lewis said attrition was a factor. Friday’s race is one of just two on the Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule to run four hours; the remaining eight are each two hours in length.
“Some of the cars I was running with at the beginning had mechanical issues,” Lewis said. “I was hoping we’d have a seat at the table at the end. It was a total team effort. We drove flawlessly, our pit stops were flawless, our strategy was flawless.”
Third place continued the inspirational story of the week, with Robert Wickens getting a podium finish in his series debut in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai. It was Wickens’ first race since he was paralyzed in a 2018 IndyCar crash.
He logged nearly 90 minutes in the car before handing off to co-driver and fellow Canadian Mark Wilkins.
“Physically, I’m fine,” Wickens said. “I’ve been working hard the last few months just in case I had this opportunity. I could have done another stint and another stint after that. I was just having a blast. It felt really good out there.”
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge resumes March 16-19 with the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway.