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Wittmer set for back-to-back World Challenge races at Honda Indy Toronto

- July 14th, 2014

SRT Motorsports has announced that Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer will pilot the No. 92 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R in the Pirelli World Challenge at the Honda Indy Toronto Saturday and Sunday.
Wittmer, coming off a pole sitting, second place in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship this past weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is excited at the prospect of back-to-back races on the temporary street circuit around Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto in the World Challenge series.
“It’s definitely a great step for the Viper program,” he said. “I think the Pirelli World Challenge has evolved a lot over the past four or five years.
“The last time I raced in it was 2010 and it was already very competitive. Seeing how the championship has grown, it’s more competitive in all the right ways and it will be fun.”
Make no mistake about it, Wittmer has all the tools to make a difference in this event, even though he won’t get much time to prepare.
“We can’t forget that this is a one-off appearance on a street course and we don’t get much track time,” he said. “It’s tough. There are half hour sessions and if you get a red flag from another class, you can lose a lot of track time.
“It’s very vital that we get all our laps in as quick as we can, get the right setup right away and it’s going to be very, very important that everything goes as perfectly as possible.”
Wittmer is also counting on the fact that the one day between the two Honda Indy events will give the team a chance to fix anything that might have gone wrong in the first race.
“Luckily, it’s two races and not just one race — it’s a doubleheader, so we can afford to play around a little bit,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to win. But let’s be realistic, get a solid result and showcase what this car can do.”
The goal, of course, is to put the SRT Dodge Viper in front of race fans and race teams on a competitive circuit.
After all Ralph Gilles, CEO of SRT Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, said that racing is about is selling cars and Dodge wants to sell a lot of these SRT Viper GT3-Rs.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to have Kuno step into the Pirelli World Challenge and test his skills in the Viper GT3-R against the top class in the series,” Gilles said. “This is a test Viper that Riley Technologies prepared and we see this race as an opportunity to showcase our customer program.
“We’ve had success in the series with Dan Knox taking the Viper to the winner’s circle during the Detroit race weekend and we want to continue building momentum with our Viper GT3-R program.”
Knox, who competes full-time in the World Challenge in the No. 80 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R, ranks third in the GT-A class standings and claimed the Viper GT3-R’s first series victory in a May race on Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit last month at the Belle Isle IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Detroit.
“I believe that the Viper GT3-R is a benchmark car across the world,” Wittmer said. “The Viper has a lot of potential and this is a great opportunity to showcase the car in the GT class.”
Wittmer previously competed in the World Challenge from 2008 to 2010 and tallied six victories in the series, including two Viper wins in Salt Lake City and Long Beach, Calif.
He will have SRT’s Matt Bejnarowicz, who currently serves as the lead engineer for Wittmer’s IMSA TUDOR Viper, as the lead engineer for the No. 92 Viper GT3-R entry.
“I spent a lot of time in the World Challenge as a race engineer and for me it’s like going back home,” Bejnarowicz said. “That’s where Kuno and I met and he had a lot of talent and potential. We ended up getting paired up, cut our teeth together and we’ve been together since.
“It will be like the old days — a lot of fun and we’re going to try to put the Viper up front.”
The Toronto race weekend is the only scheduled appearance for Wittmer and the No. 92 Viper GT3-R entry in the World Challenge.
Knox will continue to run the full series schedule in pursuit of the GT-A class championship for Lone Star Racing and the Viper GT3-R racing program.
dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

Race Team Alliance Should Set Off Alarms In NASCAR

- July 8th, 2014

The announcement on Monday that NASCAR’s most powerful multi-car teams have formed something called Race Team Alliance should be setting off alarms across the garage.
Two names in what could turn out to be an unholy alliance jumped right off the page of press release that gave notice of the birth of the group — Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske.
For those who don’t remember it was Ganassi and Penske who were at the forefront of team owners who led the revolt in the early 1990s that all but destroyed IndyCar racing in North America.
It resulted in a decade long death march where open wheel racing went from the top of the racing world to barely hanging on to its core support.
Now, even more than five years after the ill conceived Indy Racing League and CART Series unified, IndyCar racing is only a shadow of its former self.
And don’t think the same thing couldn’t happen to NASCAR.
The break away CART owners thought there were not getting their fair share of revenues from the Hulman-George family that owned IndyCar and its biggest asset, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This new group seems to think the same thing — that they are not getting their fair share of NASCAR revenues from the France family.
Just look at the opening salvo in what could turn out to be a nasty war:
“By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport,” the statement read. “Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues — the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners.”
Between the lines this says the owners want more of the $8.2 billion US television deal that kicks in starting next season and that they want more money from side deals like track and race sponsorships.
Sounds exactly like what Ganassi, Penske et al were seeking when they challenged the supremacy over IndyCar of the Hulman-George family.
NASCAR’s response so far has been muted, to say the least, and consisted of a brief release from public relations boss Brett Jewkes.
“We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose,” Jewkes said. “It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now.”
If I was working in the NASCAR fortress in Daytona right now I would be battening down the hatches.

C’est Magnifique

- June 22nd, 2014

Not since Ron Fellows restarted at the back and came through the field of the Sprint Cup cars at Watkins Glen in 2004 to finish second behind Tony Stewart has there been such a dramatic comeback by a Canadian in NASCAR as Alex Tagliani pulled off on Saturday at the Nationwide Series Gardner Denver 200 at Road America.
And he did it mostly in the rain.
If the race had been another 100 yards, I am convinced Tagliani would have beaten race winner Brendan Gaughan.
What made Tagliani’s finish that much more impressive is that he had run out of gas in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford Mustang with one lap left.
A caution on the final lap allowed Tagliani to be pushed to pit lane where he gassed up, put on four fresh Goodyear slicks and went to work on the green-white-checkered finish.
In two laps he went from 23rd position to the bumper of Gaughan’s No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
The native of the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie showed team owner Roger Penske he picked the right driver to pilot his Nationwide car in two races this season.
“It was pretty intense,” Tagliani said afterwards. “Maybe I threw a bad spell on myself because I said it was impossible that I was going to win this race, like something’s going to happen, and then on the white flag, something happened (ran out of gas).
“It’s what it is and it has to be in the cards, and if it’s not, you just have to take whatever comes to you.”
It was somewhat ironic, however, that in the winner’s circle Gaughan credited Fellows for helping him hone his road racing skills at his Ron Fellows Performance Racing School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Nevada and that was the main reason he was able to finish ahead of Tagliani.

Hinchcliffe on front row at Long Beach

- April 12th, 2014

Canada’s James Hinchcliffe was the victim of some unfortunate mechanical problems at the Verizon IndyCar Series 2014 season opening race at St. Petersburg in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda but he will start on the front row on Sunday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Hinchcliffe, finished second in the Fast Six qualifying round with a lap of one minute, 7.940 seconds in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
His teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay will start beside him on the pole with a fast lap of  1:07.821.
Hinchcliffe expects he can use the qualifying as momentum on Sunday afternoon to get a top result.
He has a podium finish on his resume at the 11 turn, 3.167 km temporary street circuit in 2012 giving him added confidence he can bounce back from the mess at St. Petersburg.
Of his three IndyCar wins last season two of them were on street courses so he knows what he is doing.
“The biggest thing about these street circuits is trying to stay ahead of the track,” he said. “It’s one thing to be quick in the first practice, but the track evolves, you need to evolve the setup and kind of stay one step ahead of it, and that’s something we haven’t been awesome at in years past.
“We just missed the Fast Six last year, but the United Fiber & Data car was quick, and hopefully we can stay ahead of things.”

NASCAR team owner gets F-1 licence for 2015

- April 11th, 2014

NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas has been granted a Formula 1 racing licence that will see an American team in the world championship in 2015, for the first time since the Ford Motor Company and its Jaguar division  quit the sport in 2004.
Haas, the co-owner of Stewart Haas Racing, will begin work immediately to get the team ready for next year’s calendar of races.
Haas already owns a factor in Belgium, from which he could base the team.
He also owns one of the world’s most advance rolling wind tunnels based in North Carolina near the SHR shop.
In a statement released by SHR Haas expressed gratitude the deal was finally done.
“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One.,” Haas said.
“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid.
“I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”