Not the results wanted but still positive for our Canadians in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge


Although disappointed with the outcome of the race, when we spoke to the drivers following the 4 hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona, they still came out with positive views from the first race of the season.

Kuno Wittmer, who started on pole after a blistering lap in qualifying in the AWA Racing McLaren in the GS class, feels the team had a positive weekend.

“We had good start obviously. We started on the pole position and you can’t start better than that. The team was buckled down and ready to tackle the four hours and everything was lined up pretty good. The first stint was roughly 45 minutes and I managed to pull the lead in front of the competitors and comfortably through traffic so the car was really good traffic and was able to gap second place even more up to a point of plus 10 seconds. So that was that was pretty good. And when it came time to the pit stops, I came into pit lane, handed a car over to Orey. The stop was spot on and we came out in the lead again. Orey was so good so good with the car as he had pace and he proved himself today quite well and he could run right there with me in terms of pace. So that’s actually impressive to be very honest.”

“One point around the two hour mark, Orey radioed that he started seeing an electrical failure. He came in for a stop, reset the car and the failure went away. And after that I took over, as I was leaving the pits, I accelerated the car up to the pit speed limiter(60km/h, NDLR), but it was not functioning properly and it caught me by surprise. The lights were flashing telling me that it was active but there was no limiter. So, I slowed down as I was slightly over the limit permitted. We ended up getting a drive-though penalty for speeding in the pits. With 40-45 minutes to go, we had a front right brake failure. The brake pads needed up metal to metal. The guys did a good job putting brake pads back on the car so we could go and finish. And so we did. We collected some points that are going to be helpful throughout the season.”

“Still a positive weekend. We got pole, we lead as a team and now we have to look at the positives and build on the negatives. As a team I can we make it better.”

Kyle Marcelli had his first experience at the wheel of KorH Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in a late switch from Ford Mustang. The team is still in the learning phase with the car although Kyle seemed pleased with the first race.

“You know, overall we are very pleased to have finished fifth in today’s four hour race. And this was a big project for KorH Motorsports to take on. They’ve just received the car three weeks ago and had to learn quite a bit in a short amount of time. I think they really went through a big learning curve with the fuel cell. As a matter of fact, we are maximized as to how much capacity we can run and is part of the BoP system. And they had a really difficult time trying to get the fuel cel out and I think it’s took hours and hours and finally got that sorted. And then we show up here to the racetrack and the car was quick. We had a pretty good baseline setup on the car and then again that was unknown as well. But we knew the car was quick for a lap and Nate did a good job in qualifying to get us fourth.”

“We were just a little unsure of what it was going to be like for four hours. And if we’re going to have any mechanical teething issues to deal with, what the tires were like and over the course of a long stint how it would burn fuel. We found out that it burns fuel quick. The stints were really short. I think we were arguably one of the worst cars on fuel. So we’ll have to look into that going forward. We’re also a little harder on the tire than I expected. So I guess having to make more pit stops wasn’t really a bad thing because we took new tires every time.”

Is this something to do with maybe with car setup?

“It very well could be car setup. Again. We’re just so inexperienced with the car still. So I think we might do a test at Sebring, you know, sometime soon before the next race. But we finished fifth! This series with the point system is so tight that you just got to finish races. And if you finish inside, even the top seven every weekend, you’ve got a good shot at being in the championship at the end. In the last two years in a row, we have not finished this race. So it’s been a come from behind championship and in 2018, we ended up second in the championship with the DNF here. So this this is a great start. And now we just need to, you know, slowly work our way onto the podium and win some races.

And on to Sebring.

“Sebring is next and as I said, we are going to try to go there for a test day. It’s a very different circuit than Daytona. We’re going to keep working on the setup. Trying to make the tires last a little bit longer for a while.”

Marco Signorotti and co-driver Scott Maxwell had started 13th for the 4-hour race. While running in the mid-pack throughout the race, they were not running as the checkered flag was waved.

Mark Wilkins enjoyed a good weekend as well with his new teammate Harry Gottsacker in the #21 Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR starting from the front row of the TCR field. We asked Mark to take us through his race.

The three Bryan Herta Autosport cars were fourth, fifth an sixth. Basically, we didn’t have the pace of the Audi overall. The Audi’s were in a league of their own on in straight line performance. Michael and Mason had a good run, and they kind of gave them their best fight. And as far as our car performed, we had a bit of a mechanical issue in the race that hampered our performance. We were okay at the beginning of the race and by the time I got in the car we really didn’t have the performance that we needed to have and this even with our sister cars. So, we were more or less just hanging on and trying to get the best result we could just to get the points and you know, for us finishing 4-5-6 is still quite a good result.

Have you been able to identify the cause of the issue?

Just something that had developed in the race and the team still trying to determine what it is. we didn’t have the speed to actually run with the with the other group. We were just hopeful the car would be make it to the end, which it did. We just didn’t have the performance that we should have had or that we needed. That being said, the other cars were fine but still didn’t have the speed to compete to beat the Audi. I think we had a better balanced car in the infield, but at Daytona it doesn’t really matter. You’re just putting so much time on the banking that if you don’t have that straight line speed your in trouble. We knew Daytona would be a tough track for us as it was last year. I think it’s probably our toughest track of the year. For the balance of the year, we will be where we used to be last year.

Do you feel that IMSA might make a BoP adjustment for Sebring?

I guess we were a little bit surprised to see that the Audi received a substantial weight break for Daytona. You know, last year, the Audi was always the fastest in the straightaways, they always win in straight line speed battle. So when they took more weight off for Daytona, we were really, really surprised because we expected that, irrespective of that change, they would have been very quick anyway. So we were not in the least surprised that they were as fast as they were. And we kind of had said that before we even started the weekend. But Daytona is so much about speed. From Sebring, we’re moving to tracks where there’s more of a handling focus and our car will excel which was the case all last year. So we’re not worried about it. I think 4-5-6 place is really good and second in manufacturers for points. We have everything running well. We have a lot of new to the team with the addition of a third car and new personnel. To be quite honest, it just flowed really well from the end of last year into this new year, even with all these changes. It just felt like a continuation of where we left off.

Even with your new teammate Harry Gottsacker, it feels things have came together well.

I always said we were a team of four drivers and last year Michael and I worked with Harry and Mason a lot and vice versa, we just shared everything. So when we made the change, it really wasn’t a change. I mean, we had already developed a really good relationship there and so it’s been very seamless and then Gabby(Chaves) and Ryan(Norman) coming in, you know, they just fit right in with with the rest of us. Now we’re we’re just the six of us are all working collective and it’s great. I mean, the dynamic is really strong, and we’re having fun and the cars are great. So all and all it makes it a fun place to be and that makes a difference.

Alright, so now moving on to Sebring, will there be any on-track preparation?

No, that’s it. It’s a little bit of downtime. There’s a Hyundai fitness camp, actually, at the end of February. So we’re going to participate in that. We’re not quite sure the specifics on that yet. But that’s an exciting new initiative for Hyundai drivers. And then I’ll the be in Chicago in a couple of weeks at the Auto Show with Hyundai as well. But in terms of on track component, it will be at Sebring in March.

Where is this fitness camp to take place?

It’ll be in Indianapolis at Pit Fit. Yeah, it’s a cool new initiative that Hyundai’s offering up to their drivers. And now that we’ve got some more Hyundai racing teams and drivers being with Forty7 Motorsport or even Copeland Motorsports in the World Challenge, there’s a growing base of Hyundai drivers that would really benefit from this program.

As Mark Wilkins mentioned, the Audi RS3 LMS TCR were really fast and one to take advantage of this early on was James Vance driving the #23 Speed Syndicate Motorsports who led the field at the end of the first hour. Unfortunately for James and the team, the car suffered a fuel pick-up problem and needed loosing a lot of time figuring it out.

The other Audi RS3 LMS TCR with Canadians in it was #81 TWOth Autosport/Best Line Autotech who quietly made their way though the field from 15th place to finish in eight place. A very good showing on their part for their first visit to IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Images: Patrice Marchessault / PMstills Photography

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