Montreal's Kuno Wittmer grabbed a season-ending World Challenge GT victory during the Toyo Tires Utah Grand Prix Presented by Bondurant at Miller Motorsports Park. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., capped GTS and Touring Car Championship seasons with wins in their respective classes.
Wittmer's No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper started second and held that position through the first corner, chasing polesitter Randy Pobst. After falling behind by just over a second early in the race, Wittmer took the lead from Pobst, the newly crowned Drivers' Champion, on lap nine as the pair encountered traffic in Turn 5. That pass earned Wittmer the MTM Special Ops Watch Best Move of the Race.
Once in the lead, Wittmer had a mirror full of Pobst's No. 6 K-Pax Racing/Safe + Secure Volvo S60 and his teammate, Andy Pigrim, just behind. Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., moved his No. 8 K-Pax Racing/Safe + Secure Volvo S60 past Pobst on lap 12, and from there set sail to challenge Wittmer for the lead.
Wittmer and Pilgrim pulled away slightly from Pobst, and the remainder of the race was a two-car, nose-to-tail battle between the Viper and the Volvo. Wittmer ran a mistake-free race, however, and finished the 22-lap, 67.056-mile race ahead by just 0.346sec.
It was the second win of the year for Wittmer, who finished the season second in the Drivers' Championship. Wittmer averaged 90.941mph in the race, which ran caution-free.
“We've been fighting all season long to win this championship,” Wittmer said. “We couldn't win it, but we were able to get second place, so what could be better than champion, than being vice-champion? We're really, really proud. This Viper has been really fast and consistent all season long. We've had highs and lows, but it's been mostly highs. To win at Long Beach and then to finish off with a win, it just shows how outstanding this team has been.”
The Viper's win came on a weekend that was shared with the Viper Owners' Group and their annual gathering.
“We've got a thousand-plus people here supporting us,” Wittmer said of the seemingly endless parade of Vipers at the facility. “It's just incredible. I've met so many people over the course of the weekend and they're incredible, family people and that is just great for the [Viper] product.”
Despite a valiant effort, Pilgrim fell just short of his second consecutive World Challenge win. Pilgrim's seventh podium of the season left him fourth in the Drivers' Championship.
“Randy did a brilliant job getting pole, but with all that REWARDS weight, he was going to come back and it was going to obviously hurt his tires,” Pilgrim said. “It was up to me to try to stay with Kuno. He got caught in traffic and I'd catch him up. I'd get caught in traffic and he'd pull away a little bit. It was definitely a concertina deal. He had good straightaway speed, so I couldn't make anything up there. But I seemed to have better brake and turn-in. I could stay with him, but to try to pass him would have taken a real low-percentage move and it probably would have taken us both out.”
Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., finished third to end a season that included his fourth World Challenge GT Championship and a boost, with Pilgrim, to Volvo's first Manufacturers' Championship. Pobst also turned the fastest lap of the race around the 3.048-mile, 15-turn “Outer Course” at Miller Motorsports Park with a time of 1:58.936 (92.258mph).
Jeff Courtney tied a career-best finish of fourth in his No. 99 Kenda Tires Dodge Viper, joining his teammate Wittmer as the second Viper in the top four positions.
James Sofronas finished fifth in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 to become the top-finishing Porsche and finish third in the Drivers' Championship.
Jason Daskalos (No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper) and Rob Morgan (No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3) crossed the finish line in sixth and seventh.
Fred Roberts (No. 89 Direct Energy Home Services Dodge Viper) tied his career-best finish with an eighth-place and clinched the GameStreamer GT Rookie of the Year title.
Cunningham ended his record-setting season with eight wins after his 3.810sec victory in the GTS class at Miller Motorsports Park.
Starting on the GTS pole in his No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, Cunningham fell back to sixth in class on the standing start going into Turn 1. Cunningham had made three of those positions back by the end of the first lap, but when the No. 79 UPR.com/Jamison Eng Chevrolet Corvette of Kyle Kelley went by on lap two, Cunningham was back in fourth. Both Kelley and Cunningham passed the No. 27 Winkler Automotive Service Ford Mustang FR500S of George Winkler, from Frederick, Md., on lap four.
When Kelley's tire went down on lap six, Cunningham was in second and set sail for Ben Crosland in the No. 25 RPMotorsports Ford Mustang FR500S.
The 17-year-old Crosland, running his third World Challenge race less than 30 miles from his home in Salt Lake City, held off the six-time World Challenge Champion until lap 13. Once Cunningham went by Crosland, he opened up a slight gap to the checkered flag for his 40th career World Challenge win, extending his record.
“It was tough, for sure,” Cunningham said. “I got shelled at the start. I don't know how far I fell back at the start – maybe eighth place, but I got a few back right away. I started to pick them off one at a time. Some were more difficult than others.
“Ben Crosland raced me very clean and was doing an excellent job keeping the tires underneath his car – congratulations to him and that team. Congratulations to Acura to finish out the year on a strong note and to RealTime Racing for giving me a car that didn't fail me.”
Crosland held on for a second-place finish, topping his previous best of fourth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August.