Pit+Paddock Seals Front Row Lockout at Watkins Glen and Claims P5 in the IMPC Championship

Photography: George Bucur

  • The Esses 120 at Watkins Glen marked the midpoint in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) championship.
  • Watkins Glen International is a 3.377-mile, 11-turn clockwise circuit that formerly hosted the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.
  • Montreal Motorsport Group (MMG) and Pit+Paddock qualified P1 and P2, making it the third consecutive race where one of the team’s cars started from pole.
  • Another strong points finish earned the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR sole rights to P5 in the championship into the second half of the ten-race season.

Montreal Motorsport Group (MMG) and Pit+Paddock started the Watkins Glen weekend off in the best way possible: a front-row lockout in qualifying that showcased the team’s impressive pace and preparation. Watkins Glen—a legendary circuit nestled in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of upstate New York—is notably described as a fast, rhythmic track with plenty of banked, off-camber corners. It was the only F1 grand prix in the United States for decades; the history of the venue adds that extra ounce of pressure to come away with a good result.


As fate would have it, the Esses 120 at Watkins Glen began under full course caution because two Michelin Pilot Challenge combatants collided on the formation lap. Once the green flag was waved, Yoshihara made the most of his stint early; he assumed the lead in TCR within the first five minutes before the #19 Aston Martin brought out the second safety car due to a race-ending puncture. Since it wasn’t the first, many quickly speculated that there were still small fragments of carbon strewn around the track from the massive Porsche Cup incident. The Aston Martin attrition would continue throughout the day and MMG seized the opportunity to bring Yoshihara in for a quick stop at 1:33. He’d come back out in P9, but was crucially ahead of the TCR championship leader, the #17 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi, who pitted at the same time. Unpredictability struck Yoshihara soon after, however; we received a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He quickly served it and came out P10 before the #80 VGRT Hyundai dramatically crashed with 1:13 left on the clock. As we crested an hour, Yoshihara resiliently clawed back up to P3.

Wittmer took over race duties near the 54-minute mark, maintaining position until a technical issue sent him down the order. But his “never give up” attitude kept his hopes high. With just over 30 minutes left, Wittmer had found enough pace to climb four positions and enjoy some clean-air running. By the time the checkered flag waved, the #93 Pit+Paddock FL5 Civic Type R TCR had finished P8 and importantly, ahead of its nearest rival who shared P5 in the championship previously.


MMG continues to give the team all the opportunities it needs and, especially over the last three races, that support and experience has paid off handsomely. It’s, quite literally, just a matter of time before we’re on the podium where we belong.

“This was my first time driving at Watkins Glen, and it was so scary in the beginning,” confessed Yoshihara. “But I was having so much fun once I got used to the track. It’s very high-speed, most corners are banked, and there’s a lot of grip. You can carry in much more speed than you would think. I had a great stint and learned a ton over the weekend. Plus, I think I found my new favorite track! I can’t wait to get back in the car in just three short weeks in Canada.”

Wittmer’s sentiments were similar. He was visibly overjoyed to see the sister car take P1 in qualifying and his co-driver Yoshihara put together a superb lap for P2; it was the statement the team intended to make after such incredible progress with the car. “Motorsport can be cruel sometimes,” Wittmer added. “I’m still extremely proud of the team’s progression and hard work! We’ll keep our heads high and focus on the upcoming race at our home track in 3 weeks, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.”


The rest of the paddock and race fans alike know what the Montreal Motorsport Group squad has in store. The team and drivers were so popular during the pre-race Fan Walk that they ran out of hero cards. Since Watkins Glen was the fifth in the ten-race IMPC championship calendar, we thought it appropriate to sit down with Sabrina D’Amico, MMG’s co-owner and Logistics Manager, to discuss the season so far.

Talk to us about some of the season’s highs thus far as a team.
We are incredibly happy to have bagged three consecutive poles by three different drivers. We know we have a very quick car on our hands, and at this point, it’s just a matter of time before we convert our true potential to race results.

How does this season compare to your collective history in motorsport? Are there any parallels you can draw? Or lessons learned that you have/already have applied to this season in IMSA?
In motorsport, it is common to lose more often than win; creating an atmosphere that most pro teams have can be challenging. Success comes when the collective all bond together and have a united goal to “win together”. We see this with MMG and our drivers this year. We all want to win together and that commitment is steadfast from start to finish every weekend. Even when things don’t go right, we are right back to work to understand how we can do better.

Talk to us about what you’ve learned about the JAS-built FL5? Are there any specific takeaways that the Mid-Ohio weekend helped reveal with more face-to-face time with the Honda Racing crew?
JAS has produced an incredible race car for Honda. Outright pace and speed of the car are beyond our expectations. It has been a challenge sorting out the car for endurance racing in IMSA but we’re getting very close to ironing it out. HRC being onsite with us is always helpful. Together we have come very far in the R&D of the FL5 for IMSA in just five races.

Talk to us about the Pit+Paddock driver pairing. How has that relationship developed throughout the season and how have the two complemented each other?
Karl’s racing experience combined with Dai’s talent make them a great driver pairing. The two get along very well. Both are very level-headed, humble individuals, and both ARE very quick. It’s the perfect pairing in our opinion.

MMG couldn’t be happier with Dai and Karl’s performance so far this season. Dai has shown extraordinary improvement. He does exactly what the team asks him to do and has consistently improved his pace from race to race, even at tracks he’s never been to.

Looking ahead, are there any particular circuits that you feel will suit MMG particularly well? If so, which and why?
The upcoming event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park! Karl knows how to win there and we feel that Dai’s no-fear driving style is required at a high-speed track like that. We haven’t given our fans a win yet, but we believe it’s coming soon.

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