Photo: Tony DiZinno

Callaway confirms Keilwitz, Cooper for PWC

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INDIANAPOLIS – Callaway Competition USA announced last month it would be racing in Pirelli World Challenge next season, providing a spark to the series’ headlining GT class with a pair of Corvette C7 GT3-Rs.

Further program details have been revealed about Callaway’s participation today in the series during the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The full release is below.

Thursday morning at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, Callaway Competition USA unveiled the Corvette C7 GT3-R, announcing Daniel Keilwitz and Michael Cooper as the two full time drivers for the 2018 factory GT effort in the Pirelli World Challenge.

Team owner Reeves Callaway and Pirelli World Challenge President and CEO Greg Gill opened the press event alongside a matte black carbon Corvette C7 GT3-R, one of two that will be entered as full season factory efforts in the GT class. The GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R will compete in the GT class in both the sprint races, as well as the two driver format SprintX races. Drivers for the SprintX events will be announced at a later date.

“We are proud to have Daniel and Michael on board for our 2018 effort,” said Callaway. “Both drivers have won several championships and will be excellent brand ambassadors for the Corvette C7 GT3-R’s debut year of American Competition. Daniel brings with him a wealth of knowledge about our team and the car, and Michael has years of experience on the tracks we’ll be competing on. Together, with the team we’re assembling, this will be an excellent program to show our future customers what the Corvette C7 GT3-R is capable of.”

While Daniel Keilwitz may be new to competition in the United States, the 28 year old German is no stranger to sports car racing or Callaway Competition. Keilwitz began his career in go karts in 2000, spending four years there before moving up to the German Production Car Championship in 2005. After finishing tenth in the championship, he competed in the ADAC Procar series, finishing second in the 2006 championship. In the three years to follow, he continued his driver development in the Mini Challenge, twice finishing in the top five championship results. This first of three championship titles came in 2010 when he clinched the FIA GT3 European Championship with Callaway Competition. Keilwitz joined the ADAC GT Masters series in 2011, and has risen to become the most successful driver in the series with 19 overall race wins. Together, Keilwitz and Callaway clinched the 2013 championship, and have finished in the top three in the 2014, 2016, and 2017 championship standings. In 2017, Keilwitz earned the ADAC GT Masters team title, with teammate Jules Gounon also on the effort. Although Keilwitz will be new to all the tracks on the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge calendar, his eight years of experience with Callaway Competition and two years behind the wheel of the Corvette C7 GT3-R will prove invaluable to Callaway Competition USA’s North American Debut.

“I’m really looking forward to join Callaway Competition for the Pirelli World Challenge in 2018,” said Keilwitz. “I have done a lot of races for them in Europe and now I’m really happy to join them also in the USA for my ninth year with the team. The car is really amazing and was performing really well in Europe against all the big manufacturers, so I’m sure that it will perform also well in USA. Of course we have to get some experience with the car on the new tracks, but we also bring a lot of experience from Europe to the USA from the past two years racing with this car. We clearly want to show that the Callaway C7 GT3-R is a great performing and winning car. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

Fresh off winning the 2017 SprintX Championship, American racer Michael Cooper joins the team, bringing with him four championship titles in six years of competition. The 28 year old began his racing career in the 2010 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge, earning two wins and three podiums in his rookie season. In 2011, he clinched the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup championship title, and the following year, the Pirelli World Challenge rookie again wheeled his way to the top of a championship, as the 2012 TC champion. In the two years to follow, Cadillac racing twice tested with Cooper, and in 2015, made him a GM Factory driver in their Pirelli World Challenge efforts. Cooper wasted no time proving himself, earning the 2015 GTS championship title with Blackdog Speedshop, and finishing third in the 2016 GT championship with two wins and seven additional podiums representing Cadillac Racing. Cooper returned to the GT class with Cadillac Racing in 2017, finishing second in the driver championship, and earning the inaugural SprintX Championship alongside Jordan Taylor.

“I’m very proud to be joining Callaway Competition USA for their factory effort next year,” said Cooper. “The Corvette C7 GT3-R has already proven itself on track in Europe, and I’m eager to start testing. The team that is being assembled by Callaway is top-notch, and will no doubt put us in contention for the championship. This will be an exciting year for the car’s debut in the Pirelli World Challenge.”

Introduced to competition in 2016, the Corvette C7 GT3-R, designed, manufactured and homologated on behalf of General Motors by Callaway Competition GmbH produced a successful debut and sophomore season, winning the 2017 ADAC GT Masters Series Driver and Team Championships with Jules Gounon and Daniel Keilwitz. Now available for competition in the United States, the Corvette C7 GT3-R will no doubt be a championship contender again in 2018. The season will begin March 9-11 on the streets of Saint Petersburg, Florida. For more information, visit callawaycars.com and world-challenge.com. Inquiries on a customer racing program can contact GT3@Callawaycars.com.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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