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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.”

Lowdon, Booth bid farewell to Manor in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Manor Marussia Team Principal John Booth and Manor Marussia President and Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon arrive in the paddock before final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth both bid emotional farewells to Manor Marussia Formula 1 Team in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after resigning from their roles last month.

Lowdon and Booth were instrumental in the formation of Virgin Racing in 2010, which ultimately evolved to become Marussia F1 Team.

When Marussia collapsed financially in 2014, Lowdon and Booth managed to keep the team going and revive it as Manor for the new season, securing its place on the grid.

However, following disagreements with team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick over the future of the team, both Lowdon and Booth tendered their resignations, with today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marking the final race in their roles.

“This is of course my final race with the Manor Marussia F1 Team,” Booth said.

“At a time like this, there is so much to say but I think the single biggest sentiment I will take away is incredible pride at just how much we punched above our weight for such a small team.

“It was a greater challenge than we ever anticipated, but six years on we are still here fighting.

“I wish the team every success in the future and I will be following their progress with a great deal of satisfaction at what we created together.”

Lowdon took to Twitter to thank the Manor team, but left the door on F1 open by only saying goodbye ‘for now’.

Manor’s final race of the year ended with another double finish as Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi finished 18th and 19th respectively. After the race, both drivers paid tribute to their outgoing bosses.

“I would like to thank everyone in the team for their support, but in particular John and Graeme, who we say goodbye to here today,” Stevens said.

Merhi added: “I would like to thank the whole team, not only for this opportunity but for the hard work throughout the season. We’ve had some difficult times, but I am very proud of us.

“My thanks also to John and Graeme and I wish them well for the future. I am sure we have not seen the last of them!”

Alonso: I will be racing in 2016, “that’s 100%”

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda arrives in the paddock before final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso has once again rejected speculation claiming he could take a sabbatical from Formula 1 in 2016, telling NBCSN that he will be racing next year.

Alonso saw a miserable first year back at McLaren come to a disappointing end in Abu Dhabi on Sunday as he finished 17th, two laps down on race winner Nico Rosberg.

Deficiencies with the Honda power unit used by McLaren have blighted Alonso’s efforts all season long, prompting a number of outbursts that continued in Abu Dhabi when he threatened to retire the car.

The Spaniard finished the season with just 11 points to his name, marking his worst F1 campaign since his debut year with Minardi back in 2001.

Earlier in the race weekend, it was suggested that Alonso could take a year out of F1 if McLaren and Honda were unable to provide him a competitive car for next year.

Alonso denied such speculation on Saturday, and confirmed to NBCSN after the race on Sunday that he would definitely be racing in 2016.

“No, I will be racing. That’s 100%,” Alonso said when asked if he would be taking a sabbatical.

“If I had to choose a sabbatical, I would choose this [year]! I was here, I was pushing, I was giving my maximum, and I will always do.”

Alonso spent the entirety of his race in Abu Dhabi alone at the back of the field after a first lap collision with Pastor Maldonado and a penalty for his part in it.

“Being last with no battles all the race, it was pretty much alone,” Alonso said.

“We say always that there are some test races for us, but today it was more than ever a test because I was alone all the race.

“Hopefully we got some useful information for winter to develop the car but it was a very difficult race from the start.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Abu Dhabi GP post-race (VIDEO)

xxxx during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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The final round of the 2015 Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi may not have had a great deal riding on it with both championships already decided, but with the foundations already being laid for the new year, there were a number of storylines running throughout an eventual race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Nico Rosberg managed to see off a late challenge from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to pick up his sixth win of the year and, for the first time in his F1 career, a third in a row.

The German driver controlled proceedings from start to finish, while Hamilton was forced to settle for P2 once again ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

For the final time in 2015, Will Buxton brings you all of the news, interviews and insight following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the latest edition of Paddock Pass.

Grosjean delighted to sign off from Lotus with points

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus is pushed onto the grid by his team before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean was delighted to end his long-running association with Lotus by picking up two points for ninth place in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Grosjean started back in 19th place after being hit with a gearbox penalty on Sunday morning, but managed to fight his way through the order to stand on the brink of the top ten in the closing stages.

With fresher tires, the Frenchman battled past Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat to move up into ninth place, securing two points for Lotus in his final grand prix for the team.

The result also ensured that Grosjean finished the year 11th in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship ahead of his move to Haas F1 Team for 2016.

“It’s been an emotional journey for me and I’m so happy to be able to reward everyone at Enstone with points in my final race for the team,” Grosjean said.

“I had to push all the way and it wasn’t always plain sailing as there was a lot to manage on the car. The calls from the pit wall were great and my pit stops were fantastic.

“I owe a lot to this team and it really feels like a family to me. I hope to be back one day in the future. This has been the best season of my career.”

Teammate Pastor Maldonado’s race ended at the first corner after he was crashed into by Fernando Alonso, leaving him with terminal suspension damage.

“It’s sad to end the race in the first corner because we were looking good for the race,” Maldonado said. “Today we had a good strategy to go with our better race pace, but anyway this is racing and it can happen.

“I didn’t see the contact I just felt it in the back of the car from Fernando. I tried to restart but then I saw the suspension damage. Imagine if that incident had been the other way round, it would’ve been big news then!”