Taylor Hagler close to a podium finish in her Bryan Herta Autosport debut
In the 2021 Daytona IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener, American driver Taylor Hagler narrowly missed out on a TCR class podium, after briefly leading the pack in the final stages.
One of the most awaited support events of the Daytona 24 hours classic endurance race, is the prestigious season opener of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which saw its 2021 season kicking off in style last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. The race marked young Texan Taylor Hagler's debut with the #77 Hyundai TCR of Bryan Herta Autosport, after completing a positive rookie season in 2020, driving the #77 Honda Civic Type R TCR by LA Honda World Racing.
Having qualified for the first round of the season on the sixth row, Hagler got behind the wheel for the opening stint and took the strat from the 11th position. After a promising first stage, the race was interrupted by multiple Full Course Yellows.
The first yellow flag came out on lap 11 and Hagler used this Safety Car phase to pit for new tyres.
The race resumed - but it was a long-lived green flag, as just 2 laps later another caution was called out. Taylor Hagler managed to get another positive restart and fought for P6 before the third yellow flag, which also marked opening of the driver change window.
Micheal Lewis jumped in the #77 BHA Hyundai and continued the battle for the top 5: the former European F3 racer reached the top 3 before a fourth caution freezed positions.
Taylor Hagler's teammate continued his run and led the TCR field for seven laps when the top 4 drivers got tangled at the chicane in a very hectic battle for the lead. Lewis remained in P1 until had to stop for the final trip to pit road.
Lewis ran a solid final stint in second but, one last yellow flag with 12 minutes left on the clock allowed the TCR class rivals to close the gap: it was the #17 JDC Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS driven by Mickey Taylor, Milliam Tally and Chris Miller to prevail, preceding Eversley-Lamb-Strelzoff and Simopson-Johnson on the class podium. Taylor Hagler and Michel Lewis crossed the line with a 0.037-second gap from the third spot.
"This weekend was nothing short of amazing,” said Hagler. “We learned so much about the Hyundai Veloster N TCR that we can use for the rest of the season. While it’s disappointing to just miss out on the podium, a fourth place result gives me confidence that Michael and I are going to be able to win. The Bryan Herta Autosport crew did a great job executing pit stops cleanly and quickly. I am already looking forward to getting back in the car at Sebring" - said Hagler at the end of her debut weekend in the Bryan Herta Autorsport team.
“We salvaged the top four and we were so close to a podium. - added Lewis.
"Starting the season off on a high makes me look forward to other tracks that I know suit the Hyundai well. Taylor did an excellent job. She gave me the car with it still having good brakes. All I could do was attack to the end - but congratulations to Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson on capturing that final spot on the podium."
"Now I just can't wait to get the season going knowing that we got off on the right foot here at Daytona.” - he concluded.
Sebring International Raceway will host the second round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season on 17-20 March.