Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec (GT) and Mark Wilkins, of Toronto (GTS, pictured middle), scored victories in their home country at Sunday’s Pirelli World Challenge at the Honda Indy Toronto, Round 10 of the 2014 season. Additionally, Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, captured the GT-A victory to provide EFFORT Racing its second win of the weekend.
The win is Wittmer’s seventh of his career; he drove the No. 92 Dodge/SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R. Wilkins’ fifth and second this season (Round 3, Barber) in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima came at a new closest GTS margin of victory, 0.039 of a second over Alec Udell. Winning in Canada means a lot to both drivers.
“It’s extremely special,” Wittmer said. “There’s not a lot of Canadian events in North American series; so when you do have a chance to race in front of your home crowd, it’s really special because you grew up racing in Canada. You look up to be at this level.”
Added Wilkins, “The first time I raced here was Canadian Formula Ford in 2001; that was a long time ago. In 2003 I was leading in Formula Renault and got taken out. It’s a great feeling to win. There’s not a lot of opportunities to race on Canadian soil and you have to make the most of them. That was the goal. Thanks to the fans.”
In GT, Wittmer staged a huge battle with his Saturday nemesis and Round 9 winner Nick Tandy, of Bedfordshire, England in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R after both drivers passed polesitter Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra in the opening laps.
Wittmer started second but passed Skeen on the run down to Turn 3 on the opening lap, around the outside, a move that was named the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race. Tandy, who started third, eventually made it past Skeen on Lap 7. From there, it appeared Tandy had the advantage, as he looked inside and outside to try to pass Wittmer, but was never able to make it past.
A single caution flag on Lap 13 – caused following contact between Bret Curtis, of Austin, Texas, in the No. 32 Spectra Resources/United Steel Supply/Valspar Paint Audi R8 Ultra and Walt Bowlin, of Tarpon Springs, Fla. in the No. 23 Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers Audi R8 Ultra exiting Turn 3 into Turn 4 – tightened the field.
But from the restart on Lap 16, the battle once again could rage. Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 made the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the race, getting around Skeen for third place following the restart.
Although Tandy came close, his race would end in sheer disappointment following a spin on Lap 23 at Turn 1 following contact with Wittmer. Nick Mancuso, of Chicago, in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, hit Tandy exiting the corner as Tandy was trying to right his car. That knocked both drivers out of the race; Tandy was left stranded at Turn 2 for the remainder of the day.
Wittmer held on from there over Lazzaro by 1.260 seconds, with Skeen able to bag a fortunate podium in third place.
“It’s definitely an extremely special feeling to win a home round,” Wittmer said. “It doesn’t come close to anything else. Hats off to the entire Dodge/SRT Motorsports team, who did an incredible job preparing this Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R.
“For the race itself, it was super exciting even just from my seat, so I can only imagine what it was for the fans!” he added. “The fight we had with Nick was really good. I broke on the racing line; he popped out and tried to go for it. I knew he was there so I didn’t pitch the line as tight as I would, went wide, but there was slight contact on my right rear. It broke something on his car.”
Robert Thorne, of Littleton, Col., drove a consistent race in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 to finish fourth for his second top-five finish of the year. Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was the best finishing Cadillac, fifth in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R. Teammate and GT points leader Johnny O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., ended eighth in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.
In GT-A, Mills led from start-to-finish in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R to deliver his second win of the season (Round 2, Long Beach). Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R was second with Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., third in the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
“We’re still making up points; the gap isn’t insurmountable,” Mills said. “We are thankful to Porsche for offering up Nick Tandy this weekend; it kind of woke everything up. Positive weekend with his overall win yesterday and mine today.”
The GTS battle was as consistently tight and gripping as in GT. Wilkins, who had the pole by virtue of setting the fastest race lap in Saturday’s Round 9, controlled the pace to heed off a snarling pack of five other drivers in class.
Wilkins’ closest pursuer was Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas in the No. 17 Watson Racing/MDG Ford Mustang Boss 302S, who started second and had the edge, pace-wise, everywhere on the 1.755-mile street circuit except the straights. Wilkins consistently gapped Udell on the streets while Udell would close through the corners; more than a couple tenths rarely separated them.
Udell made one last ditch effort coming through Turn 11 and nearly got Wilkins on the run to the checkered flag. But the teenager came up just fractionally short despite trying to Wilkins’ outside on the exit of the left-hander.
“Never give up! We had a lot of adversity this weekend, starting from the back yesterday, but I just kept my head down, drove really hard, stayed out of trouble. That’s what you have to do on these street courses,” Wilkins said. He also praised Udell’s race craft.
“I have to say Alec Udell drove a fantastic race,” Wilkins added. “He was clean, we had a great battle, and he made me drive down the inside of the track. That made it fun and stressful at the same time! I used up those front tires. We have a lot of momentum to go after this thing.”
This 0.039 winning margin breaks the previous mark, 0.326 of a second, set by Paul Brown over Peter Cunningham at Mid-Ohio in 2011. The closest class margin of victory in 2014 had been 0.839 of a second at Round 1 in St. Petersburg, when Lawson Aschenbach beat Andy Lee.
Behind them, Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., scored his second straight third-place finish in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R.
Fourth was Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S with Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., fifth in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.
Of note, Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., took home the Optima Batteries Best Start Award with a gain of three positions from 15th to 12th, where he ultimately finished in GTS in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima. Additionally, Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col., bounced back nicely in the No. 02 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4 with the Sunoco Hard Charger Award; he started 16th and ended eighth in GTS.
Results and points are unofficial until posted as final. O’Connell and Wilkins are projected to continue in the GT and GTS points leads, respectively.
The next rounds for the series are at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (August 1-3), with Rounds 11 and 12 for GT, GT-A and GTS classes while TC, TCA and TCB classes race Rounds 9 and 10.
Photo by Melissa Smith / Pirelli World Challenge