Veteran Johan Schwartz held off Steve Streimer and Karl Wittmer on the final lap to win the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car 40-minute sprint race Saturday at Virginia International Raceway in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Virginia presented by Audi Sport.
Starting from the pole, Schwartz, the local favorite from Huntersville, N.C., in the No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University BMW M235iR, jumped to an impressive advantage and looked to be on his way to an easy victory at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit. However, Paul Terry slid off the track with his Nissan 370Z TC Spec late in the contest, forcing a full course caution.
On the restart, Streimer and his No. 23 TechSport Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec applied serious pressure into Turn 1 on the final circuit of the 18-lap race. In the esses section, Streimer rode on Schwartz’ car’s rear bumper before losing by just .0112 seconds at the checkered flag. And Wittmer, the Montreal, Que., Canada racer, finished just one second back in his No. 91 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.
Fourth at the finish line was two-time COTA TC race winner Vesko Kozarov of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 3 Rearden Racing Nissan 370Z TC Spec with Matt Travis of The Woodlands, Tex., rounding out the top-five in the No. 26 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.
“VIR is one of my favorite tracks in the US and I live close by, so I get to drive it quite a bit,” said Schwartz. “Here you have to be spot-on and you still have to be fast or run fast laps to win. You make a little mistake or do something just outside of what you can handle and all of a sudden you can get into a lot of consequences.
“Later in the race, it wasn’t so much about me checking out but more of me watching the battle unfolding behind me in my rear-view mirror. If we were to race, obviously there are certain places that are a high probability for passing and some that are not. I didn’t want to jeopardize any other cars that I was racing against so I had my places and fortunately, my BMW is very good at the places that you can pass at so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow.”
“Johan checked out for a little bit but was noticing that his car was going off a couple of times,” said Streimer. “In the last few laps before we went yellow I was gaining on him each lap, and I had someone from TechSport Racing encouraging me along. I really thought second was going to be it and then we had the yellow flag and somehow had a last-lap battle. I made a little mistake on the back straight so I wasn’t able to get as close as I would have wanted. But at the finish line I was right up on his rear wheels there.”
“It was a great race,” said Wittmer. “I owe this race to Classic BMW, FastTrack Racing and everyone in that camp – they’ve been working on rebuilding my car for weeks. I was fortunate enough to have two teammates that lent me their cars so big shoutout to them.
“It’s been an adjustment for a while. You can’t really throw (a rear-wheel drive) into it, like a front-wheel drive. But after nine seasons of front-wheel drive Touring Car racing, to make the switch to rear-drive could be hard. But the BMW M235iR is the perfect car – it’s easy to drive and really easy to learn in. BMW Motorsports brings in a great package. And FastTrack Racing/Classic BMW has given me a great car, so all I have to do is execute.”