Pirelli World Challenge’s GT classes double up in Canada (SPOILER)

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge races from the streets of Toronto. NBCSN will broadcast the Toronto races on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

The Pirelli World Challenge’s GT-based classes – that’s GT, GTS, and the GT-A subcategory – had their own “2inT.O.” doubleheader this past weekend on the 1.75-mile Honda Indy Toronto street course.

Saturday’s Round 9 started off inauspiciously with a multi-car incident that was triggered by contact between Bret Curtis and Brent Holden and ultimately blocked up Turn 1. The melee knocked GTS polesitter Nic Jonsson and several others out of the running; at least 10 cars came away with some sort of minor damage or issue.

On the restart at Lap 7, British sports car veteran Nick Tandy got ahead of a good battle for second in GT and overall between Canada’s own Kuno Wittmer and Johnny O’Connell. While that progressed, a race for top honors in GTS heated up between Dean Martin, Lawson Aschenbach, and Jack Roush, Jr.

A second caution on Lap 20 bunched up the field for a restart with just over five minutes left, but Tandy was able to stave off Wittmer, who applied heavy pressure before coming up half a second shy of Tandy for the GT and overall win. O’Connell earned a third-place and podium finish.

Back in GTS, Martin and Aschenbach had one final scrap for the win but it was Martin who hung on for the class victory over Aschenbach and third-place Roush.

In GT-A, Marcelo Hahn claimed the checkered flag after a Lap 20 incident took out teammate and class leader at the time Albert von Thurn und Taxis. Michael Mills and Henrik Hedman rounded out the GT-A podium.

Sunday’s Round 10 in GT/GTS/GT-A had what’s assumed to be a satisfying outcome for the home fans as a pair of Canadians scored wins.

Wittmer and Tandy continued their duel from Saturday in GT, with both men passing pole sitter Mike Skeen within the first seven laps. Their fight continued after a Lap 13 caution, but ended on Lap 23 when Wittmer and Tandy made contact in Turn 1.

Said contact sent Tandy spinning out and he was then hit by an oncoming Nick Mancuso, ending both of their races. Wittmer, a native of Montreal, would lead Anthony Lazzaro and Skeen to the checkered flag.

In GTS, Toronto’s Mark Wilkins started from the pole but had his work cut out for him as he sought to hold back a group of five drivers. Marc Udell had the best shot at Wilkins, often pulling within striking distance through the corners before putting up a last-lap attack.

Udell attempted to pass Wilkins on the outside in Turn 11 coming to the checkered flag, but Wilkins had just enough to beat him to the stripe. The margin of victory – 0.039 of a second – became the closest in GTS class history. Behind them, Roush got his second P3 finish of the weekend.

After finishing second in GT-A on Saturday, Mills went one spot better after leading wire-to-wire. Dan Knox was runner-up, and Hedman again came home third.

The Pirelli World Challenge’s next event is an “all skate” on Aug. 1-3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. GT/GTS/GT-A will have Rounds 11 and 12, while the TC/TCB/TC-A classes return to action for Rounds 9 and 10.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.