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Michelin Pilot Challenge

Wittmer Relishing McLaren Factory Driver Role

Kuno Wittmer set for first race as McLaren Automotive factory driver this week…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Newly named McLaren Automotive factory driver Kuno Wittmer credits Compass Racing and his prior factory experience with his new opportunity with the British manufacturer.

Wittmer raced with Compass in the TCR category in 2018 and nearly came away with the inaugural class championship in Michelin Pilot Challenge before settling for second with co-driver Rodrigo Sales.

For this year, he has stepped into the team’s GS class McLaren 570S GT4 alongside Paul Holton, who has held a works driver status with McLaren since last year.

Wittmer said the opportunity to join Holton as a factory driver started to materialize around the season finale at Road Atlanta last year and said it didn’t take long for it to fall into place.

“A lot of credit goes to Compass Racing and team principals Karl Thomson and Jill Beck,” Wittmer told Sportscar365. “They really helped push this type of deal through with my performances last year under their tent.

“It was after the last race at Atlanta where a McLaren official met up with me at the race and started talking to me about this year. It was a short trip out to England to visit the factory and we struck a deal.

“Last year I was running the Compass Audi TCR program and we finished second in points, almost clinched the championship at the end, but a crash at the last race put us out.

“But throughout the year the performances were good, and my previous history with factories: 2010-2015 with Chrysler under the Viper banner, and then ’16 and ’17 with BMW.

“It was only natural for me to fall back into that rhythm.”

Wittmer and Holton started the season off with a win at Daytona in January, and the Canadian driver said the relationship between the two is strong despite a sizable separation in age and music taste.

“There’s quite a big age gap,” he said. “We actually share a hotel room on the road and he definitely listens to different music than I do, that’s for sure!

“But he’s a quick kid. He’s a ball of talent, quick, and at the age that he is he brings a lot of maturity. He drives really well so I think it’s a good combination.

“I feel certain things that the car does and he feels something different, but he’s really open-minded and so am I.”

Endurance Role a Possibility

Wittmer said he has approached McLaren about the possibility of competing in some of the highlight events on the endurance racing calendar as the brand ramps up its efforts with the new McLaren 720S GT3 platform.

While nothing is planned currently, Wittmer believes there could be some opportunities down the road and added that his wealth of experience would be beneficial to some of McLaren’s younger factory drivers.

“Right now, I’m contracted for the Michelin Pilot Challenge races,” he said. “That’s priority number one. If anything comes up, for sure I’m on their roster of senior drivers.

“If you look at the roster, we have Rob Bell, my former teammate at Viper, and he’s 39. I’m 36. But pretty soon you go to drivers who are in their twenties and their teens.

“If you look at the experience that some of us carry, I think it’s always good to have a senior amongst a junior or a younger driver.

“I voiced to McLaren that I would love to go back with them to Bathurst, to Le Mans if they ever do that, and eventually Nurburgring.

“If races like that do come up, then potentially they could call upon me.”

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based broadcaster and reporter. In addition to his work covering primarily domestic sports car racing for Sportscar365, he is the lead announcer for SRO America's TV coverage as well as a pit reporter for IndyCar Radio. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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