Wittmer Puts AWA On Pilot Challenge Pole

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Kuno Wittmer will lead the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge field to the green flag during Friday's race at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (IMSA Photo)
Kuno Wittmer will lead the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge field to the green flag during Friday's race at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (IMSA Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An impressive, strategic lap in mixed conditions rewarded Kuno Wittmer and the AWA team with the first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge pole position of the year.

In his first showing with AWA, the Quebecker posted a fastest lap of one minute, 52.951 seconds (113.465 mph) in the No. 13 McLaren GT4 for the team’s first Motul Pole Award since joining the series in 2017.

“It’s awesome, it’s hats off to the AWA team and McLaren and everyone involved,” said Wittmer. “This deal came together quite late and now it’s time to get the job done with (co-driver) Orey (Fidani) behind the wheel and myself tomorrow. We’ve got a pretty good strategy lined up.”

With a stacked 33-car Grand Sport class field, Wittmer described how the perfect lap came to be with perfect timing.

“The lap was not easy,” Wittmer said. “We saw the times clicking off and who was putting pace down. It was all about getting that gap and not getting hooked up with the slower traffic coming out of pit lane. The team did a great job. They guided me the right way. They told me when to go, it was the perfect amount of fuel in the car, the perfect tire pressure and you can’t do more than that. You just put the lap down.”

Carbahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing will kickoff their quest for back-to-back GS championships from outside the front row, with Jeff Westphal and Tyler McQuarrie returning to the lineup in the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4. Starting third will be Winward Racing’s No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Indy Dontje and Russell Ward.

In TCR, Florida’s own Tim Lewis made Pilot Challenge history on Thursday by earning the first Motul Pole Award for Alfa Romeo.

Piloting the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the TCR class, the Boca Raton native edged out the rest of the 18-car field with a qualifying time of 1:59.296 (107.430 mph). For the second consecutive year in this car, Lewis will be co-driving with Roy Block.

In the team’s initial season in TCR, the team’s only top-five finish came at the penultimate round in WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, coming home in fourth.

“It was a trying offseason, a lot of development was put into the car after a difficult 2019 season,” said Lewis. “We’re really proud to have the local Alfa Romeo of Daytona on the car and we’re looking forward to a good race tomorrow.

“To be honest, we were pretty off in the wet and it was mixed conditions. We went out in the 15-minute session before qualifying and it was drying up. I knew we needed to go to dry’s obviously and the track dried up just enough in one lane to get a good lap in.”

Hot on their tails with the second-best lap will be the No. 21 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N of Harry Gottsacker and 2019 TCR co-champion Mark Wilkins. Starting third in its IMSA debut will be Team Premat’s No. 18 Audi RS3 LMS, qualified by rookie Stephen Vajda and co-driven by Alexandre Premat.