Another top-5 for Taylor Hagler at Lime Rock Park
Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis made the most out of a challenging weekend at Lime Rock Park and, with a great charge in the final minutes, were able to score another top five that extends their championship lead in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge's TCR category.
The greatest athletes are not the ones that win every time, but the ones that are able to navigate through difficulties and make consistency their strength.
This is certainly true for Taylor Hagler and Micheal Lewis, teammates and co-drivers of the #1 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: two weeks ago, the reigning champions in the TCR class had reconquered the top of the standings at CTMP, Canada, after another strong recovery that gained them second place at the end of an action-filled race.
Strong of their winning record at Lime Rock Park - where Hagler had claimed her first pro victory last year - Hagler and Lewis had high expectations for the 2-hour race on Saturday, seventh round of the 2022 IMPC season.
“We know the Elantra N TCR has great speed, and I really enjoy the high speed and flowing nature of the Lime Rock circuit,” said Hagler before the event. “So, this could be the perfect track to bring us a victory again."
The BHA duo raced to four podiums in the first six rounds and is aiming for their first win of the season.
"You have to be defensive, and it’s very easy to run into traffic, so that is definitely something we will be keeping in mind all weekend", continued Hagler.
"Michael [Lewis] has been such a powerful co-driver, and I can’t wait to see how we run at Lime Rock Park and hopefully repeat what we accomplished last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai."
Starting from eighth place on the grid of the TCR class, Taylor Hagler was behind the wheel of the #1 BHA Hyundai for the first part of the race and soon gained two positions.
Hyundais locked out the front of the pack in the early stages, with two-time winner Robert Wickens scoring pole position and leading Gottsacker, Johnson and Filippi at lights out.
Harry Gottsacker moved into the race lead after a few laps, with gaps remaining minimal - but with a few GS entries to separate the TCR field. Taylor Hagler made her way up the order and climbed to fifth when the third-placed Unitronic JDC Audi of Miller spun and Muss (#2 BHA Hyundai) was handed a drive through for incident responsibility.
With a very solid first stint, Hagler was back in the top five at the first Full Course Yellow, brought out by the #40 PF Racing Mustang of Pesek and the #59 Mustang of Michaelian made contact; Pesek hit the barriers hard and track repairs meant that most teams opted to pit under caution at 1 hour and 19 minutes to go.
Hagler handed over to Michael Lewis, who rejoined P9 once the race went back to green. He soon gained one position and continued his run in P8 until a hectic moment in the overall lead saw the #46 TeamTGM Porsch of Plumb being hit by the Murillo Mercedes of Eric Foss; the accident gave the chance to the crew of the #1 Hyundai to pit for tyres and fuel before the rivals and Michael Lewis moved into third place in TCR once the second caution was out.
With 33 minutes left on the clock at the restart, everything was looking good for Hagler/Lewis' fifth podium of the season out of seven rounds - but a contact from the #15 Audi demoted Lewis to tenth in class. Despite bodywork damaged over the tyre, the #1 Hyundai could continue and Lewis was committed to recover as many positions as possible in the final laps of the race.
With four cars battling for class victory up ahead, Lewis was quickly back up to seventh, charging through with strong pace. A contact for the lead between Gonzalez (#19 Van Der Steur Racing Hyundai) and Dupont (#15 Audi) saw the Hyundai having to retire with suspension damage and paved the way for Mikey Taylor (#17 Unitronic JDC Audi), who took the win of the two-hour race.
Michael Lewis, meanwhile, had managed to claim two more positions and was back in the top-five with an outstanding recovery. With fifth place at Lime Rock Park, Hagler/Lewis extended their championship lead in class and now hold a 70-point advantage.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” Hagler recalled. “We didn’t end up where we wanted to be with the car, but to come out of here fifth and earn good points, I think that’s a good weekend overall."
"When Michael got hit, it looked like the race was over. But fortunately we were able to keep going and he kept moving up to take fifth at the end, so that’s really solid", she said.
"The balance wasn’t exactly what I was looking for today, but the Elantra continued to make progress all weekend long, and I’m already looking forward to Road America.”
With now three rounds to go, Taylor Hagler aims to keep momentum and defend her title thanks to her proverbial consistency.
The eighth round of the 2022 IMPC season is scheduled for August 6 at Road America.