Learning Weekend for Taylor Hagler at Road Americaadmin
A weekend of ups and downs didn’t bring the results that Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis were hoping for at Road America. But the duo learned some key lessons and continued to hold on to their championship points advantage after combining for a run to 11th in the Road America 120 on Saturday – the seventh stop on the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) schedule.
During the opening practice on Friday, the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR experienced mechanical issues within the first laps of the weekend. The mechanical gremlins required an engine change for the Hyundai, and prevented participation in both practice sessions.
“While it is disappointing not being able to get any practice laps in, the team addressed these issues so we can race without worry,” said Hagler. “Right away during the first practice Michael (Lewis) had alarms going off that at first we couldn’t find the source of. The BHA crew quickly diagnosed the problem and got to work changing out the engine. We will regroup and do what we can to continue hunting for championship points.”
With a fresh engine, Hagler turned her first laps of the weekend during Saturday morning’s qualifying session. She navigated seven laps of the 4.0-mile course in the allotted 15-minutes, slotting the No. 77 BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCR on the sixth row.
Prior to the race start, the BHA crew suited the No. 77 Hyundai with rain tires as gray skies threatened above. Hagler took the green flag ready for 120-minutes of racing although green flag conditions did not last for long with the first yellow flag appearing on lap three.
Focused on the track ahead, Hagler quickly maneuvered the Hyundai into the top ten on the restart moving up the running order, setting the fastest lap of the race for the No. 77 on lap 14 and raced as high as seventh by lap 16. Completing the mandatory driver time, Hagler brought the No. 77 BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCR to pit lane for a driver change, fuel and a set of slick tires.
The switch to the slick tires was a gamble that didn’t pay off as heavy rain began to fall with 45-minutes remaining. Lewis held on in ninth while conditions quickly deteriorated. Radioing in concerns of continuing in the rain on slicks, Lewis came to pit lane on lap 32 to return to wet tires and for a splash of fuel. He returned to the course in 11th on board the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR and brought the car to the finish in that position.
“It was a difficult weekend for us,” said Hagler. “We were pushed and challenged like we haven’t been before, but we learned a lot because of it. Our biggest issue today was the weather. We made the gamble to go to the dry tires but when it began to rain we weren’t able to keep the pace we had. It’s the game you play in racing and today we didn’t win. Michael (Lewis) and I will take what we learned and look ahead to our ultimate goal which is the championship.” Hagler returns to IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge when the series heads to the west coast at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship weekend for the Laguna Seca 120 on September 11th.