Canadian Kuno Wittmer got the jump on the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car field at the standing start on a damp track and never looked back to dominate Saturday’s portion of a doubleheader weekend at Mosport International Raceway, part of the Victoria Day Speedfest. Teammates Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Nick Wittmer, of Montreal, completed the podium.
When the lights went out for the standing start, second starting Wittmer had the path to Turn One cleared for his No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Acura TSX as polesitter Eric Foss’ No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 sat motionless on the grid, watching the rest of the field speed by. Having just run a race on the wet track in a similar car, Wittmer used his knowledge of the course conditions to pull out two to three seconds per lap on the opening several laps. By lap five, he was 10 seconds ahead of Kleinubing, who was struggling to find the grip.
In his World Challenge Touring Car debut, Kuno Wittmer’s younger brother Nick started from 11th, and last, on the grid in his No. 45 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Acura TSX. He also benefitted from running the earlier race and sliced through the pack to fourth on the opening lap. On lap 13 of the 28-lap, 68.852-mile contest, Nick moved up to second making it a Wittmer brothers one-two. By then, Kuno Wittmer held a 20-second lead.
As the track slowly dried in the second half of the race, the battle for second heated up between Nick Wittmer, point leader Jason Saini’s No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 and Kleinubing. The trio ran in that order, setting fastest race laps throughout the closing stages of the race, until Kleinubing moved to third on lap 26. This set up a battle between teammates Kleinubing and Wittmer in the final two laps.
On the last lap, Kleinubing got inside of Nick Wittmer in Turn Four, the two bumped and slid sideways down the hill to Turn Five. When the dust settled, Kleinubing had the position.
Kuno Wittmer sped away to a comfortable fourth-career victory by 19.035 seconds, averaging 81.598 mph.
“The race before definitely helped us find the rain line right away,” Kuno Wittmer said. “Given that in the other championship we’re running, they run the same tire, it helped. The start was great – even though we were on the race line where it is usually of greasy. Eric [Foss] bobbled a bit and I got myself over on the grippy stuff. Once we got going, I went through the gears and found my pace.
“If I wasn’t for me running an Acura TSX, I’m not sure I’d be up here [podium]. I couldn’t ask for more than a home country win.”
Kleinubing credited his resurgence to mid-race contact with Saini that changed the handling of his car.
My car got better after Jason [Saini] hit me,” Kleinubing said. “He got sideways. He came back inside [Turn] 5b and hit me there. It gave me a little bit more toe out and, believe it or not, it help. I don’t know how the wheel held up because it’s pretty broken. But, the car got better every lap after that. I was able to find more and more speed.
Kleinubing’s pass for second on the final lap netted him the AutoWeek Move of the Race.
“Nick [Wittmer] took me to school, really,” he said. “He had a better line through a bunch of corners. It took me a while [to figure it out]. When they got by me, I figured out what they were doing and I started to use the line in some of the corners. If it wasn’t for his [Nick Wittmer] mistake in Turn Three, I wouldn’t have been able to get alongside of him. I went to the inside thinking I had more grip than I did. As soon as I got out of the gas, I got sideways – so did he. We both went down the hill sideways. Actually, I think I helped save us both because we touched when we were sideways. If it wasn’t for the good Acuras, with front-wheel drive, we couldn’t have saved it. We were both flat out on the gas. I did what Mark Weber told me to do when you’re sideways – never lift.”
Nick Wittmer finished a popular third, sharing the podium with his older brother in his first World Challenge start. He earned the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing eight positions in the race.
“I was sweating for sure,” Nick Wittmer said of his late-race battle. “[Kleinubing] caught up to me over the final three laps after he passed the Mazda. After I saw that, I was like ‘I’ve got to get this together.’ I wanted to finish second, obviously – finish one-two with my brother. But, then coming out of three, I slipped a little bit to the outside. I did not want to touch the grass because I was going to lose a lot of time. So, I let off the gas and then got right back on. That’s what gave Pierre the extra out on three. Then, coming into four, he [Kleinubing] was going to take the inside. I gave him all the room, but I knew I had a faster line on the outside because the outside, in the rain, is the best. He washed out, hit me in the back, but we both did a perfect synchronized slide down the hill and saved it.
“The earlier race actually helped me out because I found the race line right off the bat.”
After running third the majority of the race, Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, recovered from a late-race off to hold on to fourth and maintain the Championship point lead. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., completed the top five in his No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX.
After falling to the back of the pack on the start and a mid-race spin in Turn Eight, Foss recovered to finish sixth and set the Débaufré Fastest Race Lap with a 1:44.366 (84.820 mph) on lap 27. Teammate Charles Espenlaub (MAZDA6), Toby Grahovec (Acura TSX), James Clay (BMW 328i) and Seth Thomas (BMW 328i) completed the top 10.
Heading into Sunday’s Round Four race, Saini holds an 11-point advantage over Kleinubing (312 to 301), followed by Kuno Wittmer (292) and a three-way tie for fourth between Thomas, Cunningham and Foss, with 252. Acura’s sweep of the podium extended its World Challenge Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine lead to seven over Mazda, 25 to 18. BMW is third, with nine.
Today’s race will be broadcast on SPEED Tuesday, June 16 at 2 p.m. (EDT).