A trio of Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car racers in M235iRs swept the podium in both sprints in the series finale at Watkins Glen on Labor Day weekend, securing the manufacturers’ title for BMW, the team title for Classic BMW, and second in drivers’ points for Classic’s Karl Wittmer.
Both of the 40-minute touring car races were hard-fought, with the top two racers battling nose-to-tail throughout and the third-place finisher running just behind them. Karl Wittmer, driving the #91 Classic BMW M235i Racing, started from the pole on Saturday, with Johan Schwartz in the #80 Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University M235iR just behind him. Wittmer got out of shape coming out of the Bus Stop on lap one; Schwartz pounced, took the lead, and held it until Turn Eight of the last lap of the race. At that point he made a slight bobble, allowing Wittmer, who had recovered quickly and spent the entire race looking for a way to pass the #80 car, to get by and hold on for the win.
Meanwhile, Matt Travis, Wittmer’s Classic BMW teammate in Car #26, had moved into a close third position. He finished there ahead of series drivers’-points-leader Vesko Kozarov in the #3 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z.
The battle on Sunday was as close as that on Saturday, but this time Schwartz took the lead from Wittmer early and held it for the balance of the race, finishing with a scant 0.13-second margin of victory. Travis once again finished close behind in third. Kozarov finished sixth, but it was enough for the Nissan driver, who had scored six wins over the course of the twelve-race season, to hold onto the drivers’ title. Wittmer, Schwartz, and Travis finished second through fourth in drivers’ points.
BMW once again won the manufacturers’ title in the class, and Classic BMW won the team championship. They had won it in 2016 when team principal Toby Grahovec won the drivers’ championship.
Schwartz said, “I drove the track many times in my mind last night, thinking about what to do in certain places. Having Karl behind me and in front of me yesterday taught me a lot about what I could do. I changed my racing strategy a little bit for today, figuring out where I was supposed to push my front tires and where I shouldn’t push my front tires because he wasn’t able to pass. You could see people bunching up behind us because I was driving fairly conservatively, using the left front tire when I needed to.”
He continued, “Also, we broke a sway bar link yesterday, and that didn’t happen today. Luckily, with BMW, as far as reliability, you are not concerned about those kinds of things at all. I drove the line yesterday, so I knew that it would stick if I tried it, and it was obviously successful and worked out for me today.”
Wittmer said, “It’s been a terrific season. I owe everything to the guys at FastTrack Racing, Classic BMW, and BMW Motorsport. The car was impeccable all year, and it’s always fun when you can come to the track and do what you have to do and not worry about reliability or anything like that. It’s been a positive season; I’ve been on the podium every weekend. Sure, I didn’t get the drivers’ championship, but I don’t care, because we got the team championship and the manufacturer championship, and those are what counts.”
There was one M4 GT4 competing in the GTS races at Watkins Glen: Henry Schmitt in the #88 Stephen Cameron M4 GT4 finished thirteenth overall and sixth in the Amateur class on Saturday and finished fifteenth overall and seventh in the class on Sunday. The overall GTS winners were Jade Buford in a Mustang on Saturday and Ian James in a Panoz on Sunday.—Brian Morgan
[Photo of the Sunday TC race start by Brian Morgan]