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Pit+Paddock Makes its Big Daytona Debut with Montreal Motorsport Group in Four-Hour IMSA Enduro
BY Mike Maravilla //
January 29, 2024
@openinanewtab
Photography: George Bucur
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  • IMSA’s season begins on the brightest stage of the calendar at Daytona International Speedway, adrenalizing the Michelin Pilot Challenge teams and drivers to a four-hour endurance race.
  • The #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR, under Montreal Motorsport Group’s stewardship and Karl Wittmer’s guidance, qualified P2 for the Friday contest, with the sister car in P6.
  • As customary for endurance contests, the Daytona race was incident-ridden with several full-course cautions, bumps, and mechanical attritions.
  • The race made it clear that the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR was going to be a force to be reckoned with throughout the Michelin Pilot Challenge season.

A lot can happen over the course of four hours. As a result, IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener at Daytona International Speedway is notorious for the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and a lot of surprises when the checkered flag finally waves. While shorter sprint races can rely solely on outright grunt, an endurance contest means that you’ll need to bring more to the table to stay at the front, especially in a field that touts 45 entries between GS and TCR classes — the most crowded entry list to date.

The #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR, under Montreal Motorsport Group’s stewardship and Karl Wittmer’s command, qualified an impressive P2 for Friday’s contest. The team’s sister car qualified well within the top 10 as well — P6 — so hopes were high as Thursday’s running came to a close.

AS IT HAPPENED

Since Wittmer took on the task of qualifying the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR, the race was his to start. Not even five minutes after the green flag flew, Wittmer seized an opportunity to snag P1 and kept it through one of several full-course cautions. Montour in MMG’s #6 sister car, worked his way up the TCR field to trail Wittmer when the yellow flags waived and assumed the lead briefly when race action resumed.

A routine pit stop at 2:57 was coupled with a driver swap, and Yoshihara was able to log the first laps of his IMSA debut. By the halfway mark, Dai inherited first place while a majority of the TCR field dived into the pit lane during another full-course caution; however, a wave-by penalty was soon to be served — one that likely resulted from a persistent radio failure. When the dust settled, the #93 car was down in P14. While this may have been deflating to most, Wittmer, Yoshihara, and the Montreal Motorsport Group’s resilience made most of the situation.

Collective grit and pure pace saw the Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R climb forward as the time ticked down. Two more full course cautions at 1:42 and 1:05 helped tighten the field again; when the green flag dropped, it was nose-to-tail in both GS and TCR classes until the very end. The #93 car under Wittmer’s command crossed the finish line in 7th. It was proof that nothing’s over until it’s over and the points result left the team with a lot to look forward to in the upcoming rounds.

FROM THE DRIVERS

Work ethic, comradery, and gratitude were consistent themes from both #93 drivers, which points to a great team atmosphere to start the season. Wittmer was complementary of Dai’s performance behind the wheel of his first-ever IMSA drive. He continued, A mix of incredible work ethic and execution by the whole team led us to score good points, despite a recovery drive and fight our way back from 14th in the race. I can’t thank everybody enough for their constant effort and hard work this week. I’m very proud of our first outing together!”

Dai was quick to confess that he still has a lot to learn, but being on the main stage with such an incredibly capable and supportive team feels like home; the encouragement has afforded him the confidence to extract an impressive pace — one that we saw all year long in TC America — right out of the gate in Michelin Pilot Challenge. “The pace was there for us from practice through the race, which was promising,” said Yoshihara. “The radio blackout was a bummer, but we have to be proud of putting points on the board. I’ve said it before, but I’m incredibly thankful to the team, Karl, and all of our sponsors for making this happen. I’ve never trained harder for an opportunity, and my priority before the next race is even more so I can do my best at Sebring.”

FROM THE TEAM

Our very first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway was intense,” revealed Sabrina D’Amico, Montreal Motorsport Group’s team co-owner and Logistics and Communications Manager. The radio issue was nothing the team could repair on site, and despite the resulting penalties, the team was proud of the effort to bounce back into the points.

D’Amico had plenty to say about JAS Motorsport and Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) support from practice through race day. “Montreal Motorsport Group is incredibly thankful for HRC’s and JAS Motorsport’s technical support. As a new team in IMPC with two new Civic Type R FL5 TCRs, their knowledge of the product is incredibly beneficial to our mutual goal of competing for an IMSA Pilot Challenge championship.”

But perhaps one of the best takeaways is the way that the two #93 drivers have gelled; Dai and Karl have formed a bond over their time spent together during The Roar and the Daytona IMPC four-hour race. “We feel that this dynamic is important as they grow together as co-drivers and team members,” D’Amico continued. “As Dai gains more seat time, we are incredibly confident about his future with MMG and his performance behind the wheel of the Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR.” Montreal Motorsport Group remains highly motivated and positive to come back even stronger for its second event at Sebring in March.


Thank you to ARPENEOSTurn 14 DistributionMishimotoWhiteline, and DBA for supporting Pit+Paddock’s inaugural IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge campaign with Montreal Motorsport Group.


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