TrackWorthy - No. 60 closes in on No. 80 on front straight (2)

Canadians Win at Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Race in Sebring

by Michael Taylor (@trackworthy),

TrackWorthy - No. 60 closes in on No. 80 on front straight (2)
Kyle Marcelli from Barrie, Ontario and Nate Stacy Owasso, Oklahoma won the two-hour Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring in their No. 60 Roush Performance KohR Motorsports Mustang GT4 GS (Grand Sport).  This marks the fourty-fifth win for Ford in the Grand Sport class. It was the first win for both drivers in this series. Marcelli has 24 starts and Stacy has 4 starts in the series.

Kuno Wittmer from Montreal, Quebec and Rodrigo Sales from Sonoma, California won in the TCR (Touring Car) class in their No. 70 Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR.

Mark Pombo from Atlanta, Georgia and Jared Salinsky from Hudson, Florida won in ST (Street Tuner) class in their No. 52 MINI JCW.

TrackWorthy - Continental Tire SportsCarChallenge podium
This is the second consecutive year that a Mustang has won the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race in Sebring, Florida. The 2017 race was won by Scott Maxwell from Toronto, Ontario and Jade Buford from Nashville, Tennessee. This year, Maxell and teammate Chase Briscoe from Mooresville, NC, finished twenty-second in GS in their No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4. All six Mustang GT4s competing in the race were built by Multimatic in Markham, Ontario.

TrackWorthy - No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 GS

“We rolled off the trailer and the car showed good pace and was competitive,” said Marcelli. “The Ford Mustang is a good car for the GT4 category. They’ve done a great job with it so we knew we had a good car. My teammate (Nate Stacy) had never raced at Sebring before so he needed to learn the track. We didn’t have a lot of track time and he had qualifying duties. We qualified the car thirteenth so we were a bit unsure of where we were going to be able to make it to in the race. We thought a top five would be a good result but I didn’t think we were going to be able to make it to the front after starting thirteenth.”

Stacy started the race and pitted under green flag conditions just before the halfway mark of the two-hour race. They refueled the car, put on new tires and Marcelli took over. Just after their pit stop there was a full course caution and all of the leaders pitted. Because they had just completed their one and only pit stop, the No. 60 car moved to the front of the field and they never gave up the lead. Marcelli lead for the final twenty laps of the fourty-seven lap race.

TrackWorthy - No. 74 Audi RS3 TCR (2)
“I lead the cars to the green flag (restart), and put my head down for a few laps to try to create a bit of a gap (to the cars behind me),” Marcelli went on to say. “We had a four or five second lead for the next thirty minutes and for the last twenty minutes it was just about managing it and not making any mistakes. And that was it. One of the most challenging parts is the mental focus. When you’re leading a race, especially in the closing stages, it’s very easy to have those thoughts come across your mind about winning. And all it takes is a split second loss of focus to make a mistake, so you quickly need to tell yourself to stay focused and just go corner by corner and hit your marks. I think we have the full package and we should be in good position to challenge for more wins and hopefully be there at the end of the season and challenge for the championship.”

TrackWorthy - Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy

Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy

“It feels great,” Stacy said. “The team worked flawlessly. We had a really good strategy, I’m really glad it worked out. It was kind of a gutsy move, but it worked out in the end. With these Continental Tires, it was just crazy good at the beginning. I had a bit of a push toward the end there, but it got hot and sticky. It was great all around.”

“We had a lot of gremlins going on during practice 1, practice 2, and even practice 3 so we barely got any laps in, maybe 2 or 3 laps in per session,” said Wittmer. “Before qualifying I looked at my teammate and said we are really behind schedule and behind everybody else. The team worked super hard on the car and in qualifying, the car was great. My teammate Rodrigo (Sales) went out and put the car in P2 (second place) which was perfect. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

TrackWorthy - Kuno Wittmer

Kuno Wittmer
About fifteen minutes into the race, while running in second place, Sales had a puncture and had to pit. To compound their problems, as the tire deflated and started to come apart on the way to the pits, it ripped off the ABS sensor so they had to run the rest of the race without ABS which is quite a disadvantage.

“I took over with about 55 (minutes) to go and for me it was just about running the pace,” Wittmer went on to say. “We did not have the most competitive car during the race, not enough to chase down P1 (first place) because of the ABS failure. We wanted to play it smart, sit back, get it home, get the points and move on to round three. But unfortunately for my teammates in the 77 car (Tom Long and Britt Casey in the other Canadian prepared Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR) they ran out of fuel on the last lap. Luck was on our side. Fortunately for us we ended up winning the race (in the TCR class) which was fantastic.”

TrackWorthy - Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacey (2)

Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacey

Wittmer and Sales finished second in round 1 at the Daytona International Speedway in January and now lead the championship.

A sign of how deep the manufacturer’s battle is, is exemplified by the top five cars which were a Ford Mustang GT4, BMW M4 GT4, Porsche Cayman GT4 MR, Mercedes-AMG GT and an Audi R8. All race results can be found at the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge  site. The next race in the series takes pace at the Mid-Oho Sports Car Challenge May 4-6 in Lexington, Ohio.

TrackWorthy - Rodrigo Sales and Kuno Wittmer

Rodrigo Sales and Kuno Wittmer

  • TrackWorthy - Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race start
  • TrackWorthy - No. 74 on the front straight

Photographs © Copyright Gary Maavara

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