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Pit+Paddock Claws Back to Secure a Top 8 Finish at Sebring International Raceway
BY Mike Maravilla //
March 18, 2024
Photography: George Bucur
  • IMSA’s keeps the series in Florida for its second stop, visiting one of the oldest circuits in the United States: the iconic Sebring International Raceway.
  • While the larger WeatherTech championship series runs a 12-hour enduro, the Michelin Pilot Challenge race is a two-hour battle on Sebring’s abrasive and equipment-testing surface.
  • The #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR, under Montreal Motorsport Group’s (MMG) stewardship and Dai Yoshihara’s guidance, qualified P8 for the Friday contest, with the sister car in P5.
  • Full course cautions and on-track scuffles were ever-present and slim margins dictated the results amidst the 30+ field spread.
  • Pace and grit continue to be reliable characteristics of the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR as we moved up to 6th in the Michelin Pilot Challenge championship.

After two hard-fought hours, only 1.817 seconds separated the top and penultimate steps in Sebring’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race at the checkered flag. The tension was palpable and the track’s notoriously abrasive road surface—one that tests the drivers as much as their equipment’s fidelity—helped write storylines throughout the contest.

The track has never been considered “easy”; it has gone through several revisions since its 1950 debut to make the layout safer for combatants. Still, many drivers will qualify that there’s one corner that will challenge the best of them: Turn 17. It’s often described as “America’s gnarliest corner”, some offering specific coaching on how to best make sense of it. It’s a hard corner to crack as a standalone drive, but factor in company—the turn can accommodate three wide here—and it’s a whole new ball game. Drivers understand that and it was a battleground at every opportunity among the 45 GS and TCR entries.

This time, the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR was entrusted to Dai Yoshihara for qualifying and thereby the first stint of the two-hour race. The two Montreal Motorsport Group-managed cars—the #93 and #6—earned P8 and P5 respectively for Friday’s contest.


As Wittmer showed in Daytona, the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR was formidable at the start. Yoshihara was able to follow suit to snatch 7th place within the first ten minutes of the race. Incidents soon followed in both GS and TCR classes. Not-so-friendly rubbing between the #92 M4 and #59 KOHR Motorsports Mustang ensued, a stricken #55 Gou Racing RS3 limped to the pits, and the #88 Archangel Motorsports Aston Martin caught ablaze.

This trio of incidents helped trigger the first large wave of pit stops at just over 30 minutes of racing. But it wouldn’t be the last. Another full course caution—thanks to a crunchy coming together of a GT4 RS CS and #66 Supra—was waved as we neared the halfway point and the sister #6 car was knocked out of commission by the #77 Elantra. Through it all, Yoshihara made the most of it. He climbed up to P3 at the 59-minute mark restart. He carried the car for another ten minutes before a P5 dive into the pits to execute a pivotal driver swap.

As luck would have it, a seatbelt error during the driver change set us behind and the following cautions weren’t kind to the #93’s strategy. Wittmer, as a consequence, fell 14 seconds behind the group. Still, resilience was fresh on the brain from Daytona and Wittmer soon proved that pace was the Ace up his sleeves. He was one of the fastest cars in the field during the second half of the race. Wittmer clawed the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR back into the top 10 with only two laps left, ultimately earning P8 on the official timetables.

As in most race series, consistency is key and the solid points haul moved the #93 up to 6th place in the Michelin Pilot Challenge championship. Not a bad way to close out a weekend.


You couldn’t ask for a better driver pairing than Wittmer and Yoshihara. The two have quickly built a formidable bond and gelled within the MMG team. Wittmer was first to highlight the team’s honest takeaways from Sebring: “The positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot this weekend; racing is never perfect. The Montreal Motorsports Group crew was incredible throughout the week and executed in every situation like true pros.”

Dai echoed Wittmer’s sentiment and was grateful to end the weekend with even more data to hone his driving for the next round at Laguna Seca. “Even though I didn’t pull off what I wanted in qualifying, I felt like I did exactly what I needed to do in the race. I was really happy with my driving and overall performance to give Karl the best car for his stint,” Yoshihara said. “I feel like I have a lot of homework to do (in a good way) and am excited to train hard for the next race in California.” Indeed, the multi-hour contests are very different from the drift demos and 40-minute sprint races from his previous year in TC America.

But Yoshihara, as ever, is up for the challenge and has taken to IMSA’s level of wheel-to-wheel grip racing with optimism and fighting spirit. Dai’s rapid development is a testament to the raw talent we knew was there all along, but for every ounce of progress he’s made, he’s equally quick to extend his gratitude to the people who support his journey. “I can’t thank the team and all of our sponsors—ARPENEOSTurn 14 DistributionMishimotoWhiteline, and DBA—enough for this opportunity. I still can’t believe I have a chance to drive on this level in the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR.”


Following a six-week break since Daytona, everyone at MMG (including drivers and crew) was excited to get back to the IMPC paddock at Sebring International Raceway. The goal was to provide Yoshihara with as much seat time as possible during the two practice sessions and to have him qualify.

“First and second practices were dedicated to car set-up. Sebring is a notoriously bumpy track making it difficult to set up the car, but the MMG crew battled through all of that and showed magnificent effort to tweak the car and work with suspension geometry in the rear to make the car as quick as possible,” states Benjamin Distaulo, MMG Team Manager.

The P8 result was received well, especially given it was Yoshihara’s first-ever qualifying session in Michelin Pilot Challenge. That sentiment continued through Dai’s stint. “Dai did exactly what he was asked to do during the race,” continued Distaulo. “He was consistent with a stellar performance behind the wheel…and moving up to P3. He gave Karl a perfect car for his stint to finish the race.” The unlucky driver change had both drivers struggling with some twisted belts, which cost them 19 seconds in the pits. Still, as aforementioned, Karl was able to make the most of the situation and claw back valuable positions (and points) for the team.

“After Sebring, the #93 driver pair moved up to 6th in the championship and we look forward to showing our true potential in our next round in California from May 8-12,” Distaulo concluded. Plenty of good takeaways from both Florida races, then. We’ve got a bit of time before the next round at Laguna Seca, but stay tuned for more updates as the clock ticks down again.

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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