Wittmer Brothers Power Past Competition in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series ST Race at Trois-Rivieres TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada (August 18, 2007) -- Nick Wittmer showed his strength on the circuit at Trois-Rivieres in qualifying in ...
Wittmer Brothers Power Past Competition in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series ST Race at Trois-Rivieres
TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada (August 18, 2007) -- Nick Wittmer showed his strength on the circuit at Trois-Rivieres in qualifying in the morning and was joined in the afternoon by his brother Kuno Wittmer to complete a dominating day at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres with a near flag-to-flag win in Saturday's Grand-Am KONI Challenge race in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX.
"The hometown crowd here is awesome as usual," said Nick Wittmer who joins his brother in being natives of nearby Hudson, Quebec. "I have raced here three times and have managed to pull a hat trick. I have loved it here from the moment I stepped on the track in 2004. It was awesome to have the opportunity to bring home a win while driving with my brother."
Taking the lead from the start after qualifying on the pole nearly a second faster than the competition, Nick Wittmer set the tone for the team's performance at the drop of the green flag. He quickly opened up to a five second lead in the race's first lap and both brothers later led by nearly 30 seconds at times throughout the race. They lost the lead only briefly during scheduled pit stops and led all but four of the race's 93 laps. The winners crossed the finish line 28.446 seconds ahead of the No. 76 Kensai Racing Acura TSX of Billy Johnson and Karl Thomson. Third place went to the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i of Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood.
"Where else is better to be than here at Trois-Rivieres, the crowd is great and so is the track," Kuno Wittmer said. "Hats off to my brother, he led almost an hour and a half, and really showed his performance and gave me a great car to bring home for a win. With nine or 10 laps to go we had a 30 second lead so I slowed down three seconds a lap. The car was really handling well and the braking with the Cobalt Friction Brakes worked well all the way to the end."
Johnson was one of only three cars to lead today's race and was up front for three laps before giving the lead back to Nick Wittmer during a pit stop in Lap 70. Towards the end of the race, however, the No. 76 entry began to slow with brake wear and Johnson nursed the car home which extended the winner's margin of victory.
"We decided to try a slightly different pit strategy to get Billy out in some clean air, which we knew was very important," said Thomson, who handed the Acura over to Johnson on lap three. "The Kensai car was put together really well and it was just a matter of managing the brakes until the end, and Billy did a great job with that especially in the last three laps."
After qualifying in 13th position, Thomson gained three spots before pitting and the strategy proved to be successful. Johnson picked off each competitor on his way to the lead, and was running in third behind the sister No. 75 Kensai Racing Acura TSX of Benoit Theetge and Beau Buisson late in the race. On the 78th lap, Buisson lost a wheel at Turn 8, ending the day for the No. 75 entry and handing second position over to Johnson.
"We were trying to keep the car in one piece and at the same time keep the No. 95 BMW behind us for championship points," Johnson said. "We really wanted a yellow to bunch everyone back up and be able to push for a win, but we didn't get one. The team did a great job and we will look forward to the next race at Miller Motorsports Park."
The No. 75 Acura's wheel failure also allowed Hopwood to podium in the Turner BMW. Hopwood and Burrows are currently leading the driver championship in the ST class and are no strangers to the podium, but the duo are still searching for their first win this season.
"We were obviously hoping to grow our lead here this weekend, but after how this race started for us we're happy to at least hold onto the top spot," said Hopwood. "I think we might have been too conservative at the end, we probably would have had something for them at the end but that's racing. I have to thank Turner for giving us a great car. We knew this was going to be a bit of a survival race and it was great how the Stoptech brakes held up for us all the way to the end."
Today's finish narrows the championship lead between second-place Johnson and Thomson and points leaders Burrows and Hopwood to just four points at 260-256. With just two rounds remaining, the championship is still in the reach of either team.
The Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres will wrap up with the Sunday's GS race at 3:00 p.m. Following this weekend's event, the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series will appear again at Miller Motorsports Park for a combined race on August 14, and will conclude the 2007 season with split six-hour races at Virginia International Raceway on October 6 and 7.