PWC: Wittmer to run Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R in Toronto

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SRT® (Street and Racing Technology) Motorsports and driver Kuno Wittmer will make a surprise entry into the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge Championship Series doubleheader race weekend in Toronto in a Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R that will compete in events on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20.

Wittmer, a native of Montreal, will pilot an all-new No. 92 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R prepared by Riley Technologies in the ninth and 10th rounds of the sports car championship on the downtown Toronto street circuit in an effort to promote the SRT Motorsports’ customer Viper GT3-R racing program.

“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,” said Ralph Gilles, CEO of SRT Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC. “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.

Wittmer will compete in the World Challenge’s GT class in Toronto one week after racing at nearby Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport) for an IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship event in the No. 93 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R, his full-time ride, on July 13. The native of Canada has tallied three podium finishes in six starts in the IMSA TUDOR series in 2014 and won the pole position for the Mosport race.

“I believe that the Viper GT3-R is a benchmark car across the world,” said Wittmer. “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.

SRT’s Matt Bejnarowicz will serve as the lead engineer for the No. 92 Viper GT3-R entry. Bejnarowicz currently serves as the lead engineer for Wittmer’s IMSA TUDOR Viper and the pair previously worked together in the same roles in the World Challenge in 2009 and 2010.

“I spent a lot of time in the World Challenge as a race engineer and for me it’s like going back home,” said Bejnarowicz. “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.

“Since his first race with us in 2006, we have enjoyed watching Kuno race. We look forward to seeing him racing on the Toronto street course,” said Scott Bove, president and CEO for Pirelli World Challenge/ WC Vision.

The ninth and 10th rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge will be contested at 11:25 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 19 and 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, July 20. The race television broadcast will be aired on NBC Sports Network on August 10 at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Additional Quotes from SRT® Driver Kuno Wittmer

Kuno Wittmer, driver of the No. 92 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R

Are you excited to enter the Toronto doubleheader?

“It’s definitely a great step for the Viper program. 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.”

Is it realistic to think you can win in your first appearance in the series since 2010?

“We can’t forget that this is a one-off appearance on a street course and we don’t get much track time. 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. Luckily, it’s two races and not just one race – it’s a doubleheader, so we can afford to play around a little bit. Ideally, we would like to win. But let’s be realistic, get a solid result and showcase what this car can do.”

Is the purpose of this entry to showcase the Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R program?

“That’s exactly the purpose – to showcase this Viper GT3-R. The thought is, ‘Hey, there’s a Viper here that’s being built by Riley Technologies, so let’s show what it can do.’ This Viper has been on the market for sale to race teams and drivers for less than a year and we need to start showcasing that this car is a very competitive car against world class manufacturers and talent.”

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.