JULY 8, 2023
By Mark Robinson
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Down 20 seconds halfway through, Mikey Taylor wasn’t sure he could claw back and win the Touring Car (TCR) portion of Saturday’s race. But cagey strategy coupled with a bump-and-run pass for the lead on the penultimate lap took Taylor and co-driver Chris Miller to victory in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR.
Miller started from pole in the No. 17 and led the bulk of his stint, with Harry Gottsacker in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR hot on his heels the entire time. Gottsacker pitted from second position with an hour and 7 minutes to go, turning the No. 33 Hyundai over to Robert Wickens – the latter seeking a second straight win at his home track.
Miller stopped five minutes later but Taylor was staring at a 20-second deficit when he returned to the track in the No. 17 Audi. From there, the South African put on a calculated comeback as Wickens tried to conserve fuel in a gambit to make it to the finish.
“The team was just telling me what numbers to hit and what to do, and we were closing down on those guys,” Taylor said. “Save fuel, go fast, it’s a bit of a balance. It was just a management game the whole race.”
The leaders ran nose-to-tail late until Taylor dove inside Wickens into Moss Corner with under two minutes to go. The cars made contact, forcing Wickens wide and allowing Taylor to take the lead. Sensing damage to his Hyundai, Wickens made another pit stop for a splash of fuel and a quick check of the car. He returned nearly a lap down but still came home second, ahead of the sister No. 98 Hyundai shared by Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi.
“There was a little bit of contact but we were both saving fuel and he was saving a little bit more than me,” Taylor explained. “I went down the inside and he turned in and I was there. That’s racing.”
Wickens said his car was challenging to drive on top of the need to conserve fuel.
“That was the only pace I had and I knew he was catching me,” he said. “My only plan was hopefully to have enough tire left to make a run at the end. Unfortunately, he hit me in (Turn) 5B to take the lead and then we had to pit the next lap. It is what it is.”
The win was the first for Miller and Taylor since Lime Rock Park last season and the first in the updated version of the Audi RS3 LMS.
“We’re learning more about this new Audi every race,” Miller said, “and it’s been a great job by the team to continue to develop it, get better with our pit stops. I think we’re in great shape for the rest of the season now.”
Despite losing out on the victory, Wickens and Gottsacker unofficially took sole possession of the TCR class lead after five races by 20 points over Wilkins and Filippi and 30 up on Miller and Taylor.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for us today, but it’s coming,” Gottsacker said. “It’s good points for us but we want that win pretty badly.”
The Lime Rock Park 100, a TCR-only race at the Connecticut road course, is next on the schedule on Saturday, July 22.