Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, led flag to flag to claim victory at the Toyo Tires World Challenge at Long Beach Presented by Bondurant, the final race of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Tyler McQuarrie, of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., captured the GTS and Touring Car classes, respectively.
Wittmer's race weekend was nearly perfect in the No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, earning the pole with a new track record, and cruising to an 8.475-second margin of victory.
With a clear vision of the first turn from his front row starting position, Wittmer rocketed away from the standing start and had opened up over a full second lead on the first lap. That gap continued to grow, and at lap 16 was at 7.271sec.
"The most important thing was to get off the line," Wittmer said. "I had Brandon [Davis] behind me and I know he has two years of experience with the standing start in his car. I only have three races now in the Viper. On top of that, we had the two all-wheel-drive Volvos sitting second and fourth. But, they didn't really get off the line."
Leading by 10.579sec by lap 20, Wittmer was able to cruise to the finish. "I got away and looked in the mirror and saw Brandon behind me and I was just trying to pace myself and not look back," Wittmer continued. "Brandon put the pressure on early. He was catching us for sure at different points. But the Viper product proved to be the car to have today. The team really did a great job. I can tell you, for the next month, before the next race, I know that car is going to be in pieces, going through it trying to make it quicker."
Wittmer averaged a record 80.787mph over the 29-lap, 57.072-mile race that ran without a full-course caution period. It was the 26-year-old's fifth career World Challenge victory, but his first in the GT class. He also turned the fastest lap of the race at 1:25.797 (82.576mph), a new Long Beach race record.
Dino Crescentini sliced his way through the GT field in his No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 from his sixth starting position to finish as the runner-up to Wittmer. Crescentini made up two positions by the first turn, and held that position until lap 8 when he was passed by Ron Fellows in the No. 2 Carlisle Companies/Cragar Chevrolet Corvette and dropped to fifth.
On lap 17, Crescentini began his charge. He passed Fellows for fourth, and then picked off Boris Said in the No. 3 Applied Comp Solutions/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang GT for third on lap 20. He slipped past Brandon Davis in the No. 1 Applied Comp Solutions Ford Mustang GT for second on lap 23, but wasn't able to significantly close the gap on Wittmer. The charge through the top-five earned Crescentini the MTM Special Ops Best Move of the Race award.
"I was a bit apprehensive at the start," Crescentini said. "I couldn't see the start lights and needed to have my crew call the start. The car was the same at the end as it was at the very beginning. It was all about out-braking everyone today. In every corner on every lap, I was able to out-brake people. I can't out-power them so I had to out-brake them. I had the most fun today I've ever had in a racecar. It was just so busy the entire time and such good racing."
The runner-up finish did boost Crescentini into the GT Championship lead with 292 points, one point ahead of Wittmer and just two ahead of Global Motorsports Group teammate James Sofronas.
Davis held onto third position in his first GT race of the season. Davis finished on the podium in Rounds 1 and 2 in St. Petersburg in the GTS class.
Said held on for fourth position after a multi-lap battle with Fellows ended when the Corvette blew an engine on lap 27. Fellows finished 18th in class, but earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race when he passed Said on lap 25 to momentarily gain the fourth position. Defending race winner Sofronas completed the top five in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3.
Randy Pobst (Volvo S60) finished sixth after starting second on the grid, followed by Jeff Courtney (Dodge Viper) in seventh. Rob Morgan (Porsche 911 GT3), Andy Pilgrim (Volvo S60) and Tony Gaples (Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top 10.
Bill Ziegler earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for improving seven positions to finish 11th in GT and overall in the No. 05 Swisher Racing Porsche 911 GT3. Jason Daskalos improved five positions on the opening lap in the No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper to earn the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start.