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.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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