TCR Talk Review: 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge at Watkins Glen


Michael Lewis put the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster on pole with a time of 1:56.888, nearly a half second faster than the #54 JDC Miller Audi RS3 LMS DSG of Michael Johnson.  Jay Salinsky and the #23 FAST MD Racing Audi RS3 LMS DSG was third quickest as the teams prepped for the 4-hour race.


The #73 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR of Mike LaMarra and Matt Pombo took the victory after skating home in the rain on slick tires.  This was the third victory for a LA Honda World car this season after the sister #37 machine won the opening two rounds.  The pole-sitting #98 Hyundai would come home second with the #61 Roadshagger Racing by Audi RS3 LMS DSG of Gavin Ernstone and Jonathan Morley third, the pair’s second-straight podium finish.

With 35 minutes left in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Watkins Glen, it was hard to imagine the Honda Civic of Matt Pombo and Mike La Marra would salvage a finish in the TCR class.

Pombo became a victim of the rain on slick tyres, skating into the Turn 11 barriers alongside a GS car to bring out a full course yellow. Running second at the time, Pombo was able to hold the position and continue on before restarting with around 15 minutes left.

Not having changed tyres, the Honda suffered early on the restart and Pombo watched the Hyundai Veloster N driven by Mark Wilkins pull away on wet tyres. But the track dried, and conditions came back to favour the Honda. After trailing the Hyundai by more than five seconds, Pombo captured the lead and sped off to an impressive 21-second victory.

Wilkins and co-driver Michael Lewis – the polesitter for the race – finished second, while sneaking into third, earning their second straight podium finish was the Audi RS 3 LMS of Gavin Ernstone and Jonathan Morley.

The tyres – especially the front left ones – were a decisive factor in the 4-hour race. After a blown tyre forced the championship-leading Honda of Tom O’Gorman and Shelby Blackstock to start from the back of the grid after a crash in Qualifying, a series of flat tyres resulted in incidents during the race.

Three Honda cars crashed at the very same corner: Matt Mullan’s, Chad Gilsinger’s and Todd Lamb’s; only the latter was able to rejoin. Michael Johnson’s Audi too was a victim and collected the other Audi of Nick Galante. The O’Gorman-Blackstock Honda crashed again but rejoined to finish fifth and so its drivers retained the lead in the standings, eight points clear of Lewis-Wilkins.

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Tim Lewis and Roy Block was classified sixth after fighting for the lead during the first two hours.

The #37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic still sits atop the championship standings with 122 points with the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai second with 114.  The #12 Rowe Racing Audi sits third with 107, just ahead of their team #61 car with 104.

The Michelin Pilot Challenge series is next in action at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario on Saturday July 6th @ 1:45pm ET with the race streaming live on IMSA.TV.

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