The Canadian Team’s Progress in LMP3 Factored in the Decision
By Tony DiZinno
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It takes years of development and establishing yourself within the IMSA paddock to catch the eye of a manufacturer. The work put in by Toronto-based AWA (Andrew Wojteczko Autosport) over the last five-plus years has netted an alignment with Corvette, and the ability to run the first two customer Z06 GT3.R cars within the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
AWA confirmed plans earlier this month to run two new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R cars in the GT Daytona (GTD) class next season. It marks a shift after running the Duqueine D08 chassis in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class for two years.
The confirmation occurred following roughly a year’s worth of discussion between Andrew Wojteczko, team owner and technical director, and Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports leadership.
“We had our first conversations last year in Canada (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) with Corvette and General Motors to plot the path forward,” Wojteczko explained. “For that to come together to the announcement is very rewarding, and for us, very exciting to be a part of.”
Corvette leadership hailed the work done by AWA in its previous IMSA seasons when the announcement was confirmed.
“We are happy to welcome AWA to the Corvette Racing family,” said Christie Bagne, Corvette Z06 GT3.R program manager. “It was important for us to select a highly competitive and collaborative team to be our first representative in the WeatherTech Championship’s GTD class.
“AWA is a fantastic choice. The team has a proven capability of winning races in multiple sports car categories and series. Our goal is to help AWA compete for championships and race wins with the Z06 GT3.R in 2024 and beyond.”
“It’s great to welcome AWA into our fold,” added Ben Johnson, Pratt Miller Motorsports’ technical director. “We have a deep amount of respect for the team’s level of technical understanding and capabilities.
“In our meetings and discussions, it’s clear there is a high level of engineering cooperation and insight that will be valuable to rapidly develop the Z06 GT3.R and our customer support program going forward.”
The Z06 GT3.R is the new car designed for competition in the GTD and GTD PRO classes starting next year with customer teams. It replaces the Corvette C8.R GTD that has raced in 2022 and ’23 with the factory-backed GTD PRO program.
Wojteczko isn’t underestimating the challenge, both shifting from LMP3 to GTD and taking on the new Z06 GT3.R chassis. He said the team expects to take delivery of its new cars in November and will announce its driver lineup soon.
“It’s such a strong product already,” he said. “GTD has really big fields and really strong teams and drivers. Now they will gain our two cars, I guess! We’re excited about the challenge, and being in that field will be a very cool experience.
“Working with Corvette will be huge,” he added. “To be a part of a brand, what it represents, it’s so special. To have the opportunity to campaign those two cars is an honor. I can’t express how grateful to have their trust in us, and we’ll do everything we can.”
AWA Still Has Work, Goals for LMP3 in ‘23
Before AWA switches, there are two more LMP3 races to cap off the class’ run in the WeatherTech Championship and a potential IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title to achieve.
The quartet of Nico Varrone – who races a Corvette in the FIA World Endurance Championship – along with Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd and Thomas Merrill captured the Rolex 24 At Daytona win in their No. 17 Duqueine in January. Mantella, Boyd and Varrone sit just two points behind the Michelin Endurance Cup leaders with the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans to go.
The sister No. 13 Duqueine of Orey Fidani and Matthew Bell sits second in the full-season LMP3 title, but out of realistic championship hopes at 251 points back. Their goal is to achieve their first win before the year is out.
Fidani’s growth, in particular, has stood out having driven for AWA in IMSA since 2019. He raced Porsche and McLaren models in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and scored a Grand Sport (GS) class win at Daytona. He graduated to the WeatherTech Championship last year and has secured three LMP3 podium finishes.
“I’d say from the (Michelin Raceway) Road Atlanta test last year, the downforce car really clicked for him, and we’ve seen him building and improving,” Wojteczko said. “His last few races have been very strong in the opening stints. He has grown tremendously and you see confidence in and out of the car.
“For our team, we’ve seen big gains from last year to this year, with the knowledge and improvement of the car. It was awesome to get the first win in the WeatherTech series at Daytona. We have a good podium streak but we want to get back on the top step before the end of the year, and ideally, get both cars on the box in the same race.”
The AWA LMP3 cars are scheduled to compete next at the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Sept. 15-17. All five WeatherTech Championship classes will be in action for the two-hour, 40-minute races on the 2.439-mile road course.