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#13: AWA McLaren 570S GT4, GS: Orey Fidani, Kuno Wittmer

Wittmer, AWA ‘Driven’ to Follow Winning Pilot Challenge Plan

As with Daytona, the Canadian Team Will Make Long Road Journey Together for Sebring

By Jeff Olson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The team that drives to races together wins races together.

That’s the case with AWA, anyway. Since the team’s drivers and crew drove together from the team’s shop outside Toronto to Daytona Beach last month, they’ve decided to do it again next month for Sebring.

The long drive is preferable to flying in part because of the difficulties and restrictions in travel between Canada and the U.S. during the pandemic, but also because it seems to work.

After the Toronto-to-Daytona drive, Kuno Wittmer and Orey Fidani teamed to win the BMW Endurance Challenge, the season opener for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. And if a 19-hour drive to Daytona International Speedway leads to success, then a 21-hour drive to Sebring International Raceway seems almost essential.

“Whatever we did for Daytona brought us a win, so we’re going to do the exact same thing for Sebring,” Wittmer said. “If that means driving down, then that’s what we’ll be doing.”

During the haul to Sebring, Fla., for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring on March 19, the five AWA teammates will split highway driving duties while planning for the race.

The drive isn’t just about international travel issues. It’s part of a larger strategy to keep team members safe during the pandemic. The team avoids hotels and restaurants, opting instead for Airbnb rentals and home-cooked meals.

That, in turn, leads to a unique camaraderie.

“We cook together and stay in one home,” Wittmer said. “We’re all like in a bit of a module together, which is pretty cool. We get away together, and everybody is together. We have dinner together and good times together. That’s what’s really interesting.”

It certainly worked the first time. A thoroughly prepared AWA team, led by team owner and lead engineer Andrew Wojteczko, strategist Trevor McClure and crew chief Martin Cote, had the team’s No. 13 McLaren 570s GT4 ready to go at Daytona. Wittmer and Fidani held off challenges from four BMWs to grab the early points lead in the 10-race 2021 Pilot Challenge season.

“You have to come prepared,” said Wittmer. “You cannot show up at the track and let things go by. Everything needs to be thought of before the event and tested at the shop as much as we can. … Preparation is key with this team. I really love the way they operate. There’s a lot of fun with this team, too. They’re a lot of fun to be with away from the track, but once we’re at the track, it is game on.”

Game on is AWA’s plan for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 race at Sebring, which begins at 2:35 p.m. ET Friday, March 19 and will stream live in the U.S. on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass. The Pilot Challenge race serves as a support event for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 20.

The key to Sebring for AWA is the same key that helped the team win at Daytona – the meticulous prep of the McLaren in the shop before the long journey to the track begins.

“We run everything through and make sure everything is A-to-Z checked, 110 percent,” Wittmer said. “If that means dropping an engine and putting it back in just to do it and make sure every bolt is nice and tight, then we do it. There’s a lot of work.”

Not to mention a ridiculously long drive.

“It is long,” Wittmer said, laughing. “I live in Montreal, and the team is based in Toronto. For me to go to Toronto is a five-hour drive to meet up with them, then 19 hours on the way down to Daytona. I was wiped out when I got there.”

Obviously not too wiped out to win the race, which was Wittmer’s second triumph at Daytona in three years. He and Fidani will try to carry that momentum to Sebring, with practice starting March 17 and qualifying the following day. Tickets for Sebring SportsCar Week are available at sebringraceway.com.