World Challenge Heads North of the Border TORONTO, Canada - Now at the midway point of the 12-race season, the GT season still has some questions entering the Acura Sports Car Challenge, part of the Honda Indy Toronto. It's the second event and...
World Challenge Heads North of the Border
TORONTO, Canada - Now at the midway point of the 12-race season, the GT season still has some questions entering the Acura Sports Car Challenge, part of the Honda Indy Toronto. It's the second event and third race north of the border for the World Challenge Championships, following a Round Three and Four doubleheader at Mosport.
Kuno Wittmer won the last GT street race, at Long Beach.
The first question is who will win at Toronto? That's a tough question to answer in this year's GT field. Ron Fellows won the past two races at Mosport and Watkins Glen in cameo appearances for CRP Racing, but isn't scheduled to appear to attempt three-in-a-row.
Any discussions of a race favorite have to begin with Randy Pobst, the current Championship leader. Pobst, driving the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, won in the only other World Challenge appearance in Toronto.
Is he the only contender? Not likely. Kuno Wittmer, driving the No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, has earned a win, a pair of runner-up finished, and a fourth-place finish in the past four races. The Montreal driver also gets to race on native soil, adding to his advantage. He also won at Long Beach, which has similarities to the Toronto circuit.
Three other drivers are looking for wins in Dodge Vipers this weekend. Wittmer's teammate, Jeff Courtney, will drive the No. 99 Kenda Tire Dodge Viper, while a two-car effort under the Daskalos Roberts Racing tent is also on the prowl. Jason Daskalos, in the No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper, has four top-five finishes this season and sits fourth in the Drivers' Championship. Toronto-native Fred Roberts currently leads the GameStreamer GT Rookie-of-the-Year standings behind the wheel of the No. 89 Direct Energy Home Services Dodge Viper.
So is it only a Volvo S60 or a Dodge Viper that could win? If you believe that, you've forgotten a few teams. Six drivers are behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 at Toronto, and while the Porsche hasn't won since St. Petersburg in Round Two, it's been a contender in nearly every race. Additionally, Pobst was behind the wheel of a Porsche for his 2007 win, and obviously the manufacturer knows its way around.
Leading that effort is a trio of Global Motorsports Group machines, with Dino Crescentini sitting third in the Drivers' Championship and owning the St. Pete win in the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3. James Sofronas, in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3, is fifth after a couple of podium finishes this season, despite missing one of the two Mosport rounds with a scheduling conflict. Either could claim a win, with Crescentini already scoring a street circuit victory and Sofronas finishing no lower than fifth on the streets this season. They'll be joined by Bill Ziegler in the No. 05 Swisher Racing/GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3.
The Porsche team with the latest podium finish, however, is TruSpeed Motorsports. Patrick Lindsay ran a strong third in the first Mosport race, and finished fifth in the last round at The Glen despite spinning while in third and trying to chase down the leaders. He'll certainly be hungry for more in the No. 57 Horton/Sloan Securities Porsche 911 GT3 in Toronto. Father and son duo Charles and Rob Morgan also return for TruSpeed, with the elder Morgan in the No. 47 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche, and son Rob in the No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3.
Let's not forget that Corvette has captured the last two World Challenge checkered flags. This week, that banner will be flown solely by Tony Gaples in the No. 29 Kleinschmidt/Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette.
Can anyone else win? The least surprising victor might just be Andy Pilgrim, who may be having the most frustrating season of any driver in the World Challenge paddock. A nine-time Series winner in his career, his No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 has been plagued with mechanical difficulties since a pair of podium finishes to open the season. When that changes, and it will, Pilgrim will be ready to pounce.
World Challenge Touring Car and GTS -- The Future Is Now
The future is now in the World Challenge Touring Car class, as a very talented group of young drivers have taken over. At the midway point in the season, six of the top seven places in the Drivers' Championship are held by rookies.
Leading the way is 18-year-old Robert Stout, who has won three of the last four Touring Car races and shows no sign of slowing down. In his debut season as a professional racer, Stout has placed his No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC no lower than fourth at the end of the race -- and has only finished outside the top-two that lone time. Fifth in the championship is his teammate, Dan Gardner, in the No. 36 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lepper & Associates Scion tC. Gardner has split time in the car this season with Tom Lepper, but earned three top-five finishes in the first three races of the season as the pair compete in the World Challenge team championship.
Sitting behind Stout is Eric Meyer, who earned his first career pole position at Watkins Glen in the No. 32 XOWii Racing/Samaritan's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8. Contact relegated Meyer to seventh, but consistent finishes throughout the year leaves the driver second in the championship.
Brett Sandberg sits third in the Touring Car Drivers' Championship through six rounds based on consistent finishes, but would like to earn his first career podium finish this weekend in Toronto driving the No. 28 Whitehall Stable Acura TSX.
Volkswagen trails Scion in the Manufacturers' Championship, and this weekend has four drivers representing the brand and gunning for a win. Go 4 It Racing has added a pair of Volkswagen Jetta GLI machines to their stable after running in the GTS class at the early events on the calendar. Michael Pettiford (No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk) and Greg Shaffer (No. 40 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk) will drive in TC on the streets of Toronto.
Robb Holland's No. 22 303 Motorsports/Track Pro/Enich VW Volkswagen GTI, and Don Istook's No. 01 Revo Technik/Stoptech Volkswagen GTI also return to World Challenge action this weekend.
The Honda Civic Si is represented by two teams in the Toronto field. RealTime Racing, which currently has Acura leading the Manufacturers' Championship in GTS and drivers in the top-two of that class's Drivers' Championship, is racing the No. 93 HPD/HondaRacingline/RealTime Honda Civic Si with Nick Wittmer behind the wheel. Wittmer raced the same car for the team at Long Beach, and Kuno's younger brother placed it on pole.
Shea Holbrook will climb behind the wheel of the No. 67 Shea Racing/Autohaus/MD&F Honda Civic Si for her fourth career World Challenge start this weekend, her third on a street course.
All-time World Challenge wins leader and current GTS Championship leader Peter Cunningham is searching for his 36th World Challenge win, his fourth this season, and his second overall at Toronto. Cunningham, now driving the No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, won the Touring Car class at Toronto in 2007.
He'll be joined by Nick Esyaian, who has a pair of second, third and fourth-place finishes this season. His No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX trails only his teammate in the GTS Championship.
Ernie Jakubowski will battle the RealTime Acuras for the win at Toronto in his No. 91 Fuchs/CDOC/Forgeline Porsche Cayman S, after a third-place finish at Watkins Glen.
-source: scca pro racing