Motorsport News

TCR Class Ends In Controversy In Sebring

Harry Gottsacker during the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway, 3/16/2023 (Photo: Courtesy of IMSA)

In the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 Thursday (March 16), KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. and Roy Block claimed their first win of the year. It was far from a normal victory, though.

After the Hondas of LA Honda World Racing’s Mat Pombo and HART’s Steve Eich had contact while racing for the lead, Bryan Herta Autosport’s Robert Wickens assumed the lead in his Hyundai Elantra N TCR. Wickens had a pretty fast car, but Lewis had the advantage of a little more straight-line speed in his Alfa Romeo Giuletta TCR.

With 11 minutes remaining, Lewis got a run on Wickens on the run to turn 10. Lewis got the Alfa Romeo on Wickens’ inside, but Wickens was able to hold him off.

Lewis kept charging on Wickens’ side headed towards turn 13. However, at the same time, the full course caution came out due to two separate cars, Fast Track Racing’s Toby Grahovec and VGRT’s Karl Wittmer, stalling on course with separate mechanical problems.

Replays seemed to indicate that Wickens was in front of Lewis when the caution flew. In addition, Wickens’ Hyundai had an in-car camera pointed back towards Lewis’ Alfa Romeo. It did not appear that Lewis got any part of his car ahead of Wickens until after the caution was out.

Note that a double yellow flag, as shown in the clip, denotes a full course caution. It appears that Wickens was still just a little bit ahead when the yellow was displayed.

After a couple minutes of deliberation under the yellow, IMSA officials declared that Lewis was in the lead. The explanation given on the broadcast was that Lewis was “in the process of making the pass” on Wickens at the time of caution.

Needless to say, this whole explanation confused some people. Wickens was in that camp.

“I don’t think [we were completely] side-by-side,” Wickens said after the race. “To be honest, the visibility in these cars is quite challenging and I could see that he was close and wasn’t sure if I was exactly clear, so I left him some space and then I saw the flashing light [signifying a caution flag] in my car, so I lifted. And he proceeded to overtake me.”

Once the track was clear, Lewis was in front for the one-lap shootout to determine the winner. He was able to put the Grand Sport-class McLaren of Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare between himself and Wickens in turn 1, while…

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