GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Paul Holton
- Matt Plumb
Only once in the history of IMSA’s Continental Tire Sportscar Championship has a team swept the podium. The series, which traces its NASCAR-owned roots back through the KONI Challenge and Grand-Am Cup to the Motorola Cup, is part of the rich fabric of sportscar racing history in North America.
Compass Racing is the longest consecutively-running competitor in the series, having not missed a race since January of 2004 where the team entered its first professional event on U.S. soil. Now fielding McLaren GT4 and Audi TCR cars in CTSC, the team started with BMWs and moved quickly into Hondas, becoming the most successful team in Street Tuner history.For 2018 the team’s three-car Audi program has been the class of the field in IMSA’s new TCR class, with two cars finishing on the podium in the season-opener at Daytona and again at Sebring. With strong driver line-ups in all cars — including Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing in the #75 APR LLC / AlphaClone / Brooklyn Tailors / Race Day Foundation car, Rodrigo Sales and Kuno Wittmer in the #74 Pfaff Audi / Audi Genuine Parts / Race Day Foundation machine, and Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long in the #77 TRUMPF / Cushman Wakefield / Oscar Mike car — the squad had seemingly stacked the deck.Similarly the team’s GS-class entry of Paul Holton and Matt Plumb in the #76 Misahara Jewelry / Pfaff Automotive / Race Day Foundation McLaren 570S GT4 looked to deliver on their performance which saw Holton take more pole positions (four) than any other driver in 2017.Casey’s Audi took pole position in TCR, whilst Holton qualified his McLaren in third, a solid result at a track that doesn’t suit the British car. Unfortunately, Holton’s race was ended prematurely by a late-braking error in the opening stages by one of the Ford Mustang drivers, which damaged the rear suspension.The battle in TCR, however, raged throughout the full two hours of the event, with each of the team’s Audi squads working different strategies to try and gain advantage. Casey and Block pitted under yellow in the early going, whilst Sales stayed out, leading the race when the green flag flew again.Surprisingly, that was the only yellow flag period to transpire during the race, which saw Sales hand over to Wittmer just after the midway point, with Long replacing Casey and Kleinubing taking over from Block.Going into the last fifteen minutes it was Wittmer ahead of Long, with the No. 54 of Stephen Simpson between him and Kleinubing. A dramatic last few laps saw the No. 54 pit for fuel, dropping to fourth, moving Kleinubing into third with Long steadily closing on Wittmer, who’s front tires were losing grip. On the final lap, heading into Thunder Valley, Long passed Wittmer, crossing the finish line first. Unfortunately, there was a yellow flag being waved at that corner for a disabled car off track and IMSA deemed it a pass under yellow, moving Long back one place and giving the win to Wittmer and Sales.The results were Sales/Wittmer in first, Casey Jr./Long second with Block/Kleinubing rounding out the podium, making series history by sweeping the podium. The only other time a team has swept the podium in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and that was at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2009. The team that swept the podium? Compass Racing. The Conti teams have a brief break before heading into the busy summer period, which starts up at Watkins Glen International June 28-30th.
(Photos courtesy of Sideline Sports Photography.)