Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series GS, ST Victories at Circuit Trois-Rivières
Dumoulins team with BGB Motorsports in GS; Wittmers look to defend ST triumph
Jean-Francois and Louis-Philippe Dumoulin call the city home. Kuno and Nick Wittmer dominated the street circuit last season. This weekend, both pairs of brothers from Quebec will look for home victories in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series action, with the annual Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières next on the 11-round calendar.
The Wittmer brothers, victorious in last year's race around city streets, hail from Hudson, Quebec, and will compete together in Saturday's Street Tuner (ST) race, commencing at 1:30 p.m. ET. Sunday's Grand Sport (GS) race, featuring the Dumoulin brothers from Trois-Rivières, is scheduled to start at 9:10 a.m. ET. Both races are slated for an hour and 45 minutes around the 1.521-mile temporary street circuit.
The Dumoulins have never won the KONI Challenge race at Trois-Rivières - Jean-Francois has a Rolex Series SRP II victory and two wins in Echo Cup, and Louis-Philippe has won in Formula Fords - but this may be their best chance for a KONI triumph as they will compete in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997, which visited victory lane last month at Watkins Glen International with drivers Tim Traver and David Murry. Jean-Francois and Louis-Philippe Dumoulin put together a deal to run the car earlier this week. Jean-Francois Dumoulin is tied for fifth with fellow Canadian David Empringham and fellow BGB driver Craig Stanton on the overall KONI Challenge victory list with seven wins. Meanwhile, Stanton and co-driver Jon Miller in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997 are coming off a second-place finish in last Sunday's Casey General Stores KONI Challenge at Iowa Speedway.
"I'm very excited to be able to drive with my brother again," Jean-Francois Dumoulin said. "We came together with a last-minute sponsor here in Trois-Rivières, and we are very excited to run in our hometown race. Everybody loves the Grand Prix and that works in our favor. Everything around it is a lot of fun. It's great!"
Everyone will be trying to topple point co-leaders Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal, who hold a 22-point (171-149) advantage over Toronto's Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. Thornton and Segal drive the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 and have one win, while Maxwell and Foster have two, including at the only other Canadian KONI track, Mosport International Raceway. Automatic Racing is bringing three BMW M3s.
Slowly catching the pair are Bret Seafuse and James Gue, who recorded their fifth straight top-10 finish of the season at Iowa and third top five of the season. Seafuse and Gue drive the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shursave Ford Mustang GT. Another Mustang duo, Hugh Plumb and Mike Canney, in the No. 60 Rehagen Racing Sunset Hills Vineyard machine, also seek their first victory after four top-10 finishes. That car is one of four Rehagen Racing Ford Mustangs traveling north of the border.
Marc-Antoine Camirand, looking to become the winningest driver in the history of Le Circuit Trois-Rivières, will team with Iowa victor Andy Lally in the No. 79 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3. Camirand is from Saint Leonard d'Aston, Quebec. Other Canadian GS drivers include Empringham, driving with Tom Nastasi in the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports USG/DeWalt BMW M3; Vancouver's David Riddle, driving with Kris Wilson in the No. 25 C-Max/Unitech Racing Porsche 997; and Toronto's Sasha Anis in the No. 140 SG-Motorsport Nissan 350Z.
Two-time race winner Bill Auberlen will look to defend his Trois-Rivières victory with Matthew Alhadeff in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3. The pair is coming off a third-place finish at Iowa. Don Salama and Bryan Ortiz will drive the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3. TRG will also bring two cars, including the No. 41 Carlsen Porsche/Cohen Financial Porsche 997 that Scott Schroeder took the pole and co-won with Lally at Iowa. Playboy Racing/Fall-Line Motorsports will bring two BMW M3s while the Motorsport Technology Group is bringing a Porsche 997.
Hudson, Quebec's Kuno Wittmer only eight points out of ST point lead
Kuno Wittmer's best chance at scoring his first KONI Challenge victory of the season might come this weekend in his home race at Trois-Rivières. The Hudson, Quebec native is only eight points behind leaders Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes (160-152) after the lead pair finished 10th in last Sunday's race at Iowa Speedway. Wittmer finished ninth at Iowa. He and Nick Wittmer will pilot the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation/Alpinestar Acura TSX. Nick Wittmer already has one victory this season - the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway with team owner Glenn Bocchino. Bocchino and co-driver Peter Cunningham, 13 points behind the point co-leaders, will drive the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation/Alpinestar Acura TSX.
Based on history, Kuno and Nick Wittmer stand a good chance of repeating last year's triumph. A Quebec-born driver has won the ST race in each season dating to 2005. Kuno Wittmer has several podium finishes in touring car competition, and Nick Wittmer has also earned four poles and won all four races in which he has competed at the track.
"This is probably the biggest weekend for us because of the crowd," Kuno Wittmer said. "We know our way around there. I couldn't ask for anybody better as a co-driver than my brother; he has won there more times than I have. Coming off the victory from there last year, we have good track knowledge, and we know exactly where to turn the wheel. We've already got our baseline setup ready. We're pretty confident, actually. I think we could do some damage there. And I'm sitting high in the point standings because of consistency."
Meanwhile, Hemmingson and Skavnes are trying to avenge their first finish outside the top five since Daytona. They will drive one of two ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacys at Trois-Rivières. Hot on their heels is former point leader Jamie Holtom, who has three victories this season, including Sunday's race at Iowa with Lawson Aschenbach. Holtom is only five points behind Hemmingson and Skavnes, and will team with Andy Lally in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS this weekend.
Bob Beede will lead two Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Si's to Trois-Rivières. He is sixth in the standings despite scoring no points at Daytona. He is co-driving with Bob Endicott in the No. 29 machine. Defending series champions and No. 76 Honda Civic Si co-drivers Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood are only 28 points out of the lead, and will drive one of four Compass360 Racing machines this weekend. Rounding out the top 10 in points is another ICY/Phoenix Racing driver Andrew Aquilante, who will drive with David Rosenblum in the No. 141 Subaru Legacy.
Like GS, there is no shortage of Canadian drivers in the ST field. Compass360's No. 73 Acura RSX will be occupied by team owner and Toronto native Karl Thomson and American Kevin York, the No. 74 Acura TSX by Boischitel, Quebec's Benoit Theetge and American Christian Miller, and Oakville, Ontario pilots Ken Wilden and Jeremy Willard in the No. 75. London, Ontario driver Matt Pritiko and Ste. Anne Des Lacs, Quebec native Robert Boyer will drive the No. 53 Predator Auto Sport Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer, driving the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS, reside in Ancaster, Ontario, while No. 138 GS Motorsport C&P Cross Border Law/Sun Sport Chevrolet Cobalt SS drivers Andrew Danyliw and Gunter Schmidt reside in Toronto and Midland, Ontario, respectively. 89 Racing Team Honda Civic Si driver Cyril Hamelin resides in Trois-Rivières while co-driver Jocelyn Hebert calls Becancour, Quebec, home.
Also bringing cars to this weekend's races are RSR Motorsports, Freedom Autosport, APR Motorsport, Classic BMW-Plano, Fountain Motorsports, Brass Mitchell Racing, V-Pack Motorsport, Kinetic Motorsports, Team MER, HART and Turner Motorsport.
Practice for the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Qualifying for the ST class is 8:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by GS qualifying at 9 a.m. The 75-lap or one-hour and 45-minute ST race will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the 80-lap or one-hour and 45-minute GS race at 9:10 a.m. Sunday.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)
- Friday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (10:30-11:10 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (11:20 a.m.-Noon); KONI Challenge ST Practice (3:30-4 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (4:10-4:40 p.m.).
- Saturday: KONI Challenge ST Qualifying (8:30-8:50 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Qualifying (9-9:20 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Race (1:30 p.m.; 114.1 miles/75 laps/one-hour and 45-minute time limit).
- Sunday: KONI Challenge GS Race (9:10 a.m.; 121.7 miles/80 laps/one-hour and 45-minute time limit).
2008 IN REVIEW
Through the first seven rounds of the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season, different driving pairs and manufacturers have won races in one of the most diversified forms of racing in North America. And with that comes a tight point battle that is sure to stay that way until the final checkered flag falls in October.
Craig Stanton, the 2004 Grand Sport champion, and Tim Traver started the season off right with an overall and GS victory in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway in January, as Stanton moved from fourth to first in the waning laps after the top three cars ahead of him suffered from mechanical problems. The pair drove to victory in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997. In the Street Tuner class, Quebec native Nick Wittmer and Glenn Bocchino notched the first victory for the i-MOTO Racing team, guiding the No. 31 Acura RSX to victory for a one-two team finish. However, the top two cars were docked five points for non-compliant fuel tanks.
The second round at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut was split into two class races, with Canadian Jamie Holtom and Yankee Eric Curran taking the victory in the ST race and in the process the point lead in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Defending GS driver champions Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton earned Automatic Racing's first-ever victory in the No. 09 BMW M3.
At Mosport International Raceway, Scott Maxwell raced through the field to give himself and Joe Foster a come-from-behind victory in GS in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. A fifth-place finish put Segal and Thornton - tied with 89 points - up by 12. Meanwhile, the Curran-Holtom pair backed up their Lime Rock victory with another at Mosport. Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes won at Mid-Ohio in their No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy, an ST-only race, as rain fell for most of the event. The No. 196 Mini Cooper S won its first pole with Owen Trinkler behind the wheel.
Traver and David Murry won in GS and overall at Watkins Glen International in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997, beating Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff to the line in a race that was full of scrapping and paint swapping. Meanwhile, Segal and Thornton's lead ballooned to 14 points. In ST, defending series champs Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood won their first career race in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX, holding off Bob Beede and Bob Endicott at the stripe. Hemmingson and Skavnes picked up the point lead with a fifth-place finish in their secondary car, as their primary car was involved in a practice incident. Curran and Holtom did not score any points as a broken rear axle forced them to retire early and without earning points.
Maxwell and Foster added their second victory of the season at the GS-only race at Barber Motorsports Park. Maxwell passed James Gue with three laps remaining to lead a 1-2-3 Ford Mustang GT sweep at what is considered more of a Porsche track. Andy Lally and Scott Schroeder recorded their first victories of the season from the pole at Iowa Speedway, while Holtom topped the podium yet again with co-driver Lawson Aschenbach. So far this season, 117 drivers have been credited with points in GS and 125 drivers with points in ST.
NEWS & NOTES
- Bienvenue (Welcome) to Quebec: Several drivers call Quebec home, including Jean-Francois and Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and Cyril Hamelin (Trois-Rivières), Kuno and Nick Wittmer (Hudson), Marc-Antoine Camirand (Saint Leonard d'Aston), Robert Boyer (Ste. Anne Des Lacs), Benoit Theetge (Boischitel), and Jocelyn Hebert (Becancour).
- Quebec Winner Almost Certain: The Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series has made four trips to Trois-Rivières since 2001, and each season a Quebec-born driver has ended up in victory lane. Sylvain Tremblay, now competing in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GT class, has GS (2001) and ST (2005) victories to his credit. Marc-Antoine Camirand won the ST race in 2006, and Nick and Kuno Wittmer won the ST race last season. In addition, Jean-Francois Dumoulin won a SRP II race in 2001.
- Three Races in Four Weeks: August is the busiest month on the KONI Challenge Series calendar. In addition to this weekend's races at Trois-Rivières, the series competed last week at Iowa Speedway. Teams will take a few days to regroup before racing Aug. 30 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- Tight Point Race in ST: With four races remaining, it's still a tight race in the ST driver point standings. The top eight drivers are separated by only 28 points. Drivers with the third-highest point total in each class - Bret Seafuse and James Gue in GS and Kuno Wittmer in ST - have been consistent all season, and are looking to add their first victories and sixth top 10s this weekend.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POINT STANDINGS
- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Jep Thornton, Jeff Segal (171); 3. (tie) Joe Foster, Scott Maxwell (149); 5. (tie) Bret Seafuse, James Gue (148); 7. Craig Stanton (128); 8. (tie) Hugh Plumb, Mike Canney (127); 10. Scott Schroeder (121).
- Street Tuner: 1. (tie) Chuck Hemmingson, Kristian Skavnes (160); 3. Jamie Holtom (155); 4. Kuno Wittmer (152); 5. Peter Cunningham (147); 6. Bob Beede (139); 7. (tie) Adam Burrows, Trevor Hopwood (132); 9. Eric Curran (120); 10. Andrew Aquilante (118).
SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES
Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "Trois-Rivières is a track that I've grown up around, being from Montreal and watching my Dad racing. It's an event that I love to race at and that I get goose-bumps just thinking about. Georgian Bay Motorsports has always been fast here, but for some reason we haven't been able to translate that into a great result. To win here, all of the stars need to be perfectly aligned and we haven't had luck on our side. This year we've done our homework and are looking to rack up another win for the Chevy Cobalt and TTL, and to put on a great show for the fans. Unfortunately, my regular co-driver Eric [Curran] can't make it to the event, so I'll be teamed with an old co-driver of mine; Andy Lally. To win here would be a dream come true".
Jep Thornton (No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3): "Trois-Rivières is one of my favorite races. The Saturday night party the town throws is the best we have all season and the crowds are fantastic. I have a lot of laps at Trois-Rivières and am very much looking forward to the race."
Nick Wittmer (No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX): "I want to make that five victories; I'm definitely looking forward to that a lot. Right now, the cars are beautiful. They're not wrecked or anything, so it should be good. I'm looking forward to it. It's great, and the fans are great too. It's a one-time thing up there for them, and it's huge. The people love it, and it's a great crowd."
Louis-Philippe Dumoulin (No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "This is something we've looked forward to for a long time. This is the third time J-F and I are driving together. A guy from Trois-Rivières has been sponsoring us for a long time, and we got together with John Tecce and BGB Motorsports to put this deal together. It's be great to finally win a KONI Challenge race, and to do so with my brother, in front of the hometown crowd, would be indescribable, overwhelming. I led a lot of laps last year, but we fell back when I handed the car off to J-F during the pit stop. It was just bad strategy for us. I should have gotten out sooner and given the car over to J-F because we were hoping for a yellow. This year, we won't do that again. We want this victory!"
Hugh Plumb (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "I've won (here) before and we were third there last year. It's really a survival game as far as conserving the car and conserving the brakes. I think we found a brake package that will last in the Mustang. I think it's going to be good for the Mustangs so we'll just have to see. I think we found something for the more twisty, lower-speed corner aspect and I'm very comfortable there. It'll be good."
Karl Thomson (No. 73 Compass360 Racing Acura RSX-S): "Trois-Rivières is one of the season's highlights. The fans are so passionate! This is the only race my wife and kids travel to all year, and they come because the atmosphere is so amazing. The cuisine is like nowhere else, the downtown area is closed off to cars and becomes a carnival, and the surrounding countryside is breathtaking. It's one amazing track and I love it!"
Benoit Theetge (No. 76 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si): "This is a home track for me. I've won many races here, and I know how hard it is to push every lap, with concrete barriers all around. But it's an awesome track, a place that really separates the men from the boys. You have to give 100 percent commitment every lap. As always, my co-driver Christian Miller and I are going for the win!"
Marc-Antoine Camirand (No. 79 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3): "I am really excited about the Trois-Rivières KONI race for many reasons. This is a tough road course, it's tight and there is no room for mistakes. This is my home track, I live a half an hour from the Trois-Rivières and my dad owns a BMW shop in the area so I am familiar with the M3's as well. Also, I know Andy (Lally) well and we have the same driving style and both know the track. I think we are a perfect match and along with Kinetic Motorsports, I think we'll have the winning combination."
Andy Lally (No. 79 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3): ""I am really looking forward to Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières this weekend. What makes this one of the best races of the season is that it's a street circuit, which I love and the entire city comes out to support the event on this Holiday weekend. This track is incredible and challenging, from the heat to the braking, you really need to have a successful race strategy. My co-driver for this KONI challenge is Marc-Antoine Camirand, who has spent plenty of time at this track as well as myself, this will mark my 10th year racing at Trois-Rivières and it's always a favorite of mine."
Charlie Putman (No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "I haven't been to Trois-Rivières yet, but everyone says it's their favorite stop on the KONI Challenge tour because of the enthusiastic fans and the great track, so I'm really looking forward to it. I have to be in Mosport a few days after the race, so my wife and I are going to stay in Canada and play tourist!"
Kristian Skavnes (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): "The layout at Trois-Rivières is unique. It's part fairgrounds access roads, part city streets, including the only turn on any major track in the world where you make a left turn traveling beneath a stone municipal archway at an intersection. Passing an equal competitor on this track can be a multi-lap effort, and if you haven't completed a pass in time, you're now rushing into the next 90-degree turn way too fast."