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Pit+Paddock Puts Emphatic Stamp on Mid-Ohio 240 With P1 Qualifying and Top 5 Race Result
BY Mike Maravilla //
June 10, 2024
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Photography: George Bucur
@theghostofmozart
  • The Mid-Ohio 240 was the fourth round in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) championship at the iconic 2.258-mile Midwest track.
  • Wittmer drove the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR to a dominating pole position in qualifying and set an impressive, new track record.
  • Our driver pair finished the race in P5 and took home another valuable points haul for the IMPC championship.

There’s nothing like starting a race from pole position. Behind the wheel of the Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR, Karl Wittmer put together a magical lap (1:27.103), which shattered the previous lap record by 1.7 seconds. It marked the second race in a row where a Montreal Motorsport Group (MMG) car took top honors in qualifying. Ortiz in the #6 sister MMG car was close behind and would start the race in P2. It’s an incredible boost for the team as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship midpoint approaches. The accomplishment meant even more at a freshly-resurfaced Mid-Ohio; it’s well-known as one of the most competitive circuits in the United States and served as another testament to the squad’s meticulous race weekend preparation.

“Most of the paddock looks at us as IMSA rookies but these guys have been around since 1972,” Wittmer said. “They’ve been a long time running in Canada and worldwide. It’s nice to finally be here and prove that our experience has meaning.”

AS IT HAPPENED

The four-hour contest meant that consistency and patience would be just as important as maintaining the overall pace. Both Montreal Motorsports Group cars got away cleanly at the start, with Wittmer in the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR leading the field. Within the first five minutes, the pair opened up a two-second gap over Wilkins in the #98 Hyundai and the #17 Audi (the current TCR championship leader). The gap was a good thing to keep the MMG cars away from some small drama behind.

The first caution came out just shy of the 15-minute mark—the #70 Audi found itself stricken off the road with an unusual failure.  The GS and TCR fields quickly overlapped once the race action got going again. Traffic considerations were something that Yoshihara had alluded to before the weekend even started, but both Wittmer and Ortiz navigated the crowded field well.

A flurry of pit stops began once we crested the hour mark. Wittmer came in at 2:53 from P1 for fresh rubber and fuel. He assumed race action in P8 behind Ortiz in the sister MMG car. The pair would make their way up the TCR field together as the tires got up to temperature, climbing up to P5 at 2:46 and even further to P3 ten minutes later. Another full course caution came at 2:31 and triggered the next round of pit stops as the stricken #15 Audi was towed back to the garages. Yoshihara took over driving duty during the next stop at 2:23, rejoining the field in P6 before the green flag dropped again.

It was all business as usual until 1:30 when the #39 BMW was shunted hard into the wall in GS. The shove flung a variety of carbon fiber across the track and very quickly brought out the full safety car. Teams once again used the slowdown as a reason to pit, including Montreal Motorsport Group, who brought the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR in for a top-off, fresh tires, and a driver swap back to Wittmer for the last hour-long sprint. Everyone turned the wick up during the last twenty minutes and Wittmer showed us some of that special qualifying pace as he climbed up the order, eventually snatching P5 on the last lap.

FROM THE DRIVERS

It was another great weekend for the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR driver pair who collected valuable points in the IMPC chase. “A strong effort and great execution by the whole crew helped us stay in the championship hunt,” said Wittmer. “[We had] some ups and downs during the 4-hour race, but still a positive weekend to say the least in terms of progressing towards our goals. Hats off to my co-driver, Dai Yoshihara, for his mega stint today.”

It was Yoshihara’s first time racing at Mid-Ohio and it was another opportunity for him to showcase his incredible ability to adapt to new environments fast. It’s something we saw during his single year in TC America (and more recently at Drift Appalachia 3), but still never fails to impress. “The team gave us a really quick car all weekend,” said Yoshihara. “It was my first time racing at Mid-Ohio, and I was happy to put in a good, clean stint to give the car back to Karl for the last hour. Big thank you to the team, all of our sponsors, and Karl for another positive weekend.”

FROM THE TEAM

The team was thrilled to collect its second pole position in consecutive contests. “Karl obliterated the TCR track record, and it was fantastic to see both cars start on the front row,” said Sabrina D’Amico, MMG’s co-owner and Logistics Manager.

D’Amico was quick to comment on Wittmer’s endurance and pace. “Karl led the race for 41 laps and drove for a total of three hours, longer than any other driver in the TCR race. Leading the race with 41 laps allowed the team to show the cars’ true potential.”A drive-through penalty due to unavoidable contact on track hampered the team’s overall position, but MMG made the best of it; Wittmer was able to gain four positions at the end, despite a fuel-saving strategy.

As aforementioned, Yoshihara’s adaptation rate was a key team takeaway. He and Karl did some simulator work weeks leading up to the race and that proved to be extremely helpful. Yoshihara took that virtual seat time into the weekend; he was able to translate that pace into the real world during the first practice and kept improving throughout the weekend. “Dai drove a great stint. He kept the car clean, had great pace, and managed traffic all while gaining positions. We are very happy with his progression and are excited about Watkins Glen,” D’Amico confessed.

Indeed, The Essex 120 at Watkins Glen—the last race before the IMPC midpoint—is just around the corner. We’ll see you in just a couple of weeks for more race action.

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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