Karl Wittmer feels as if he’s already won after scoring an eleventh-hour lifeline to drive in this weekend’s Pirelli GT4 America SprintX round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Wittmer’s regular ride with Precision Driving Tech suddenly became unavailable when owner and driver Marko Radisic was unable to make the trip to Canada at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.
That left Wittmer, who entered the weekend second by a single point in the SprintX East Pro-Am driver standings, in search of an opportunity with little time to spare and a narrow list of potential options.
“It was 2 p.m. on Thursday when I got the phone call from Marko saying he couldn’t make it,” Wittmer told Sportscar365.
“So I had to hustle. I had to find a ride quick because I knew I was sitting second in the points in Pro-Am, and I just needed a team to give me a chance to get the points.
“I narrowed it down and it was a small window. I needed a bronze driver and a car. I narrowed it down to Jason Bell, Mark Klenin, and Ian Lacy Racing with Frank Gannett.
“That was the last team I spoke to and it was my last option. [Former driver and series PA announcer] Gino Carini and [series television announcer] Greg Creamer went to bat for me.
“Without me knowing it, they went to bat for me and said: you need to take this kid. I don’t know how to thank them.
“In 10 minutes, Ian Lacy came up to me and said we could make it happen. 20 minutes later I was meeting with Frank Gannett, the deal was done, and I was racing the next morning.”
Gannett, a GT4 Sprint competitor, was not originally planning to compete in SprintX this weekend but took up the chance to gain some extra track time.
The last minute pairing produced a class podium finish in Race 1 on Friday and has proven to be mutually beneficial, with Gannett benefiting from Wittmer’s local track knowledge.
“He was OK with the opportunity because it gave him more seat time,” Wittmer said. “I told him it was a low-risk weekend. I’m not here to go crazy, I’m here to get points.
“This is my home track. The most amount of laps that I’ve driven anywhere is here. This is where I learned to race. I give as much feedback as I can without overstepping because I am a one-off rental.
“Drew [Staveley] does a great job coaching Frank, but if I can bring my flavor and give a couple of hints, especially in Corner 2, it can help, but I don’t want to overstep.”
Wittmer said specific results aren’t his goal this weekend, noting that receiving his championship lifeline was a victory of sorts in itself.
“The weekend was a success Thursday night when somebody went to bat for me,” he said. “They vouched for me, and someone said they’d take a chance on me. That means a lot. For me, I’ve already won it in my books.
“These guys have done an amazing job at Ian Lacy Racing. They’re so professional, they know what they’re doing, they’re the real deal. Let’s just get our points and that’s a win for me.”