Salinas, California — Michael Lewis closed his 2016 race season in his home state of California last weekend, but a first-lap shunt dampened his hopes of finishing the season with a win.
Qualifying for Round 20 of the GT-GTA classes in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) got underway on Saturday, October 8, with Michael placing his Calvert Dynamics / Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3 R in 13th starting position of the 28 competitors.
Michael and the Calvert Dynamics team had to wait until Sunday afternoon for the series’ final event of the 2016 season. The field approached the green flag for a rolling start and as soon as the flag waved, Michael made a clean start and passed several cars to move up through the field. He was running in 9th position as he approached Laguna Seca’s infamous “corkscrew,” but his car was hit from behind, causing him to go off the course then into the pit area for repairs.
Michael rejoined the field at the back of the pack and when the race went green again, he began to pass competitors with the goal of moving toward the front for a strong finish. He methodically gained positions and even though he experienced heavy traffic in the GT race, he set the 7th fastest lap of the race. With 15 minutes left in the 50-minute race, he had moved into 15th position. With just under 11 minutes left, a full-course caution appeared when a driver went off the track into a tire barrier. With one lap to go until the end of the race, PWC officials waved the green flag again, and Michael soon crossed the finish line in 11th place.
“Our final race weekend was filled with a lot of action,” explained Michael Lewis. “The car was fast and it was a pleasure to drive the No. 98 around such a great track. For the GT qualifying and race, things didn’t go our way as we didn’t maximize qualifying. It was partly on me, and so when the race began on Sunday, we were right in the middle of the pack where all the chaos usually occurs. I had a great start and moved up at least three positions. However, I was hit off the track in the corkscrew by another competitor who lost his brakes on that same opening lap. From that moment on, we had to make a quick pit stop to change a flat left rear tire and then rebound back to finish P11. The car was fast; we were just unlucky in the race.”
In addition to competing in the GT category, Michael and team owner Preston Calvert also participated in the PWC SprintX Rounds 5 and 6 last weekend. Of 25 teams, they placed 5th in Saturday’s feature race as well as set the 2nd fastest lap of the race. Then on Sunday, they had qualified for the 2nd starting position, but moved into pole position when the team set to start in 1st was unable to begin the race. Michael set the fastest lap of the race while leading the field, but unexpectedly had to retire the car on lap 8 due to a mechanical issue.
“On the SprintX side of things, my teammate Preston drove very well,” Michael said. “He qualified 7th for the first of the two SprintX races. Together, we brought the car home in P5 for SprintX Race 1, which was really great! Then for SprintX Race 2, we started on pole position. We were originally supposed to start P2, but another competitor’s car couldn’t make the start of the race. So, in SprintX Race 2, from pole position, I opened up a nice gap in the lead. I was working to give Preston a big gap to hand the car off so he could have a good gap to work with. However, around lap 8, exiting Turn 3, I lost all forward drive and had to pull off the circuit. Our race was over.
“It has been a pleasure to race alongside Preston and his crew,” Michael continued. “I hope to be able to again work with everyone on this No. 98 in the future. It has been an interesting second half of the season, and we all put our heart and soul into the No. 98 Porsche and in our work to go for the best results we could.”
Michael added, “Thank you to my partners, friends, and family for being with us through the highs and lows of this year. Literally, without these people, this season wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you to Preston Calvert for his contributions and his friendship. Thank you to Stefan Pfeiffer, Dave and Erin Gahagan, Mark Woodworth, Kurt Rezzetano, Andrew and Joe Aquilante, and all at Calvert Dynamics. You are all friends and such meaningful people in my life. Thank you to our fans for the continued interest in our career. Let’s see what incredible experience next year holds! ”
Even after missing four rounds of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season due to the closing of EFFORT Racing and Michael then joining Calvert Dynamics, he still managed to finish the season in 11th position in the 2016 GT Class Drivers Championship.
Full Round 20 event coverage is scheduled to air on CBS Sports Network on Sunday, October 16, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. EDT/12:00 p.m. PDT.
Please visit Michael’s website www.MJLRacing.com and follow him on social media during the off-season for an announcement about his plans for the 2017 race season.