Birmingham, Alabama — Top-5 and Top-7 finishes this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park have allowed Michael Lewis to stay in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season championship battle.
Michael’s race weekend started with a solid performance in Friday’s second practice session with the 5th fastest time. Michael was confident heading into the qualifying session on Saturday morning, April 23, and finished the 20-minute session with a time of 1:22.916, which was the 3rd fastest time of 22 GT and GTA competitors. This time would place him in the 3rd starting position for Saturday afternoon’s Race 1 of the Grand Prix of Birmingham presented by Porsche event weekend, or Round 6 of the PWC championship.
“It’s nice to be up toward the front,” to start Race 1, explained Michael Lewis. “It’s really close to pole. We have a really good car and it’s exciting to be in the Top 3. I can’t say enough about EFFORT Racing. We’ve been working so hard—my teammate Patrick Long and I with our engineer Stefan Pfeiffer—and we had a great car for qualifying, which we’ll tweak on it for the race. We have a good look into the first two turns. I’m happy, and maybe we can get a podium or even the win. It’s difficult to pass anyone, especially toward the front, because those guys are really good. I’m just going to wait for one of them to make a mistake, then make my move.”
Michael lined up the No. 41 EFFORT Racing / Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3 R on the starting grid in 3rd position, and the field of 22 cars drove onto the track from pit road for the rolling start promptly at 1:45 p.m. When the green flag waved, the cars immediately battled for position as they headed toward Turn 1. Michael was able to avoid contact with the other competitors, but fell back to 7th. He then dropped in line behind his teammate Patrick and they worked together on the track for a number of laps. On Lap 8 a full-course caution occurred as a competitor hit a barrier, and the car needed to be removed from the track. The race restarted on Lap 14 and Michael remained in 7th. With 12 laps to go, Michael was in the center of a six-car train, and unfortunately was unable to pass, so he stayed there until the end of the timed 50-minute race, claiming 7th.
“This isn’t the race my team or I hoped for,” confirmed Michael after Round 6. “But it was a fast car out there. I got shuffled back during the start, and just stayed back there for the rest of the race. Patrick was in a similar situation and earned a P5. We had a nice car for a whole lap and got P4 starting position for Race 2. We’ve got another shot at it and hopefully I will get a better start for Race 2.”
Indeed, Michael set the 4th fastest lap of Round 6, so that placed him on the outside of Row 2 for Sunday morning’s second race of the weekend. Round 7 began as the field of 21 GT and GTA competitors headed for the 2.28-mile track’s start line for the rolling start. The field quickly spread out after the green flag waved and Michael held on to 4th position entering Turn 1. After a couple turns, he battled for 3rd but couldn’t make the pass stick. Michael’s teammate was directly behind him and they ran together in 4th and 5th, respectively, for several laps. However, Patrick was running just a slightly quicker pace, and when Michael’s car became loose, Patrick was able to get by him and went on to challenge the competitor in 3rd. The race remained green, and Michael brought the car across the finish line in 5th place.
“We had a great start today, which was really exciting,” explained Michael. “I was nearly into P3 in the first few turns, which was a great change from yesterday. I ran in P5, and got loose in Turn 2, and Patrick got by me. I was just trying to follow him and he was quite good. I was hoping he would catch the leaders, and I could be right there. I ended up staying 5th, and earned some decent points. Overall, I’m happy I got a good start and a good finish for the team today.”
Michael Lewis and EFFORT Racing will next compete May 19–22, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, for Rounds 8 and 9 of the Pirelli World Challenge.