Austin, Texas — Michael Lewis began the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season at the front of the 33-car field and earned a respectable 7th in the series’ first race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
After taking possession of two brand new race cars direct from Germany, the EFFORT Racing team, with Michael Lewis at the helm of the No. 41 EFFORT Racing/Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3 R, quickly showed the race car’s competitiveness. During the very first practice of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season on Friday, March 4, Michael set the second fastest time in practice at 2:05.702, just behind his EFFORT Racing teammate, Patrick Long, who posted a time of 2:05.574. They were two of only three drivers who broke the 2:05 mark during practice.
Qualifying for Race 1 took place Saturday morning with Michael running 9th fastest in a field of 33 cars, setting a time of 2:05.428.
Michael explained that his qualifying effort was “a nice start for the year. It would have been even better to be up toward the front a bit more, in the Top-5, and closer to Patrick, but this is the first of many qualifying sessions for the year. Thank you to the team for working so hard to get the cars prepared with such great performance and in such little time. Congratulations to Patrick for his pole position, and I’m really looking forward to our first race later today.”
Michael placed the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche in 9th position on the starting grid for Saturday afternoon’s race. The green flag waved for the rolling start where Michael lost one position on the first lap. A caution flag soon appeared on the first lap due to contact among some of the competitors. The race went green again on lap 5 and after some chaos leading into the first turn, Michael made a major move of the race when he passed five cars to improve up to 5th position. As the race progressed under green, he eventually lost two positions and finished in 7th, still earning a Top-7 finish. Michael’s teammate Patrick Long claimed the win for EFFORT Racing.
“First of all, congratulations to Patrick Long and the EFFORT Racing Team on winning the first race of the year. They brought Porsche their historic first win for the 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 R,” said Michael. “It was a great return for Patrick to the series, so congratulations to him. From my side to finish in P7, it was just managing the chaos of the first few laps. There were a lot of cars flying off track and banging into each other. I was just trying to avoid all of that, and I did. Eventually, I had a hard battle for 6th all race long. I couldn’t really hang on to 6th in the final part of the race and I slipped back to 7th where I finished. It’s still two spots up from where we started. The car had a nice pace, and for Race 2 tomorrow, we’re going to try and put some more grip into the car with the use of new tires.”
For the second race on Sunday, March 6, Michael started in 7th position after setting the 7th fastest time of Race 1. As the race began, unfortunately, Michael’s teammate, who started in 2nd place, was hit from behind, which caused him to go off the track and make contact with the outside barrier. Although the No. 31 car sustained damage to end its race, Patrick was able to climb out under his own power, showing the extensive safety features incorporated into the car. When the caution period ended a few laps later, Michael made a move outside of the competitors in front of him. As he battled for position among several cars, his No. 41 made slight contact with another racer, which propelled his car off course into a spin. Michael was able to recover, but he was at the back of the field. Knowing he had a fast car under him, Michael immediately started setting fast times allowing him to move through the field, ending the race in 20th position.
“It was a pretty tough day for the team,” said Michael. “I’m happy to know that Patrick Long is okay. That’s the most important thing. He took a hard hit at the beginning of the race. After seeing that and going into the restart, I began to get right back into focusing on the leaders. The car felt quick and I was in a good position. Unfortunately, exiting Turn 2, I had some side-by-side contact that sent me spinning at a high speed. There was no contact or anything afterwards and I had to restart the car as fast as possible. Seconds felt like minutes. Once the car was on, I put my head down and worked to gain as much time back as possible during each lap, hoping for a yellow. I could feel that the car was really good. My engineer made nice changes to improve the balance of the car from yesterday. Again, it’s a tough day for the team, especially with Patrick being out of the race after his win yesterday. I feel really dejected from my inability to bring the team the strong result that they deserve. The car was fast and it was a missed opportunity on my part. Thank you to EFFORT Racing for preparing such a good car for this race.”
To watch Rounds 1 and 2, CBS Sports Network will broadcast the races on Sunday, March 13, at 10:30 a.m. ET / 7:30 a.m. PT.
Michael and the EFFORT Racing team will participate in the next two rounds of the PWC, March 11–13, at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in Florida.