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Motorsports: Canadian Touring Car Championship had a year of firsts

Bondar boasted about a number of racers who achieved significant milestones this year in a championship that’s been featured on the same programs as the F1 Grand Prix of Canada and the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres as well as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

  • Canadian Touring Car Championship

This was a year of firsts for the Canadian Touring Car Championship and it will be a year of growth and advancement in 2014, says series founder and owner John Bondar.

During an interview as the series prepared to celebrate its successes at an awards banquet Saturday night in Kingston, Bondar boasted  about a number of racers who achieved significant milestones this year in a championship that’s been featured on the same programs as the F1 Grand Prix of Canada and the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres as well as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

”The stature of this series, going into year eight, is higher,” Bondar said. “We’ve paid our dues and we’re steady, year after year. Teams know they can count on us, promoters can count on us, and drivers can count on us. We’re here, and we’re home-grown. We’re something to be proud of.

“Not to over-sell it, but my phone has been ringing off the hook with people who want to race, who want to build cars and rent them out — literally days after the season ended.”

The year of firsts begins with a driver that fans of the CTCC will know well.

After seven years of trying, Scott Nicol, 41, of Velocity Motorsports (Honda Civic Si), was crowned champion of the Super Class for the first time. He began the season with his first Super Class race win and put together a strong season to capture the title with 1,455 points. Jonathan Rashleigh of G1 Racing was second with 1,137 points.

“We started with the series in 2004/2005 and won the Ontario championship in Touring Class,” Nicol said, “but we’ve been progressing with the team and trying to get that elusive Super Class victory for many years now.

“Starting the year off with two wins was spectacular. We wanted to keep the momentum throughout the year. I know from experience: winning championships is based on finishing.”

Damon Sharpe of Blanchet Motorsports (Honda Civic Si), is the Touring Class champion for the second year in a row — but it was close. A force on the circuit, Sharpe showed his mettle with a come-from-behind run up the standings at the end of a season filled with car troubles and penalties.

In the end, with more than 1,500 points accumulated, he took the title by one point. Sharpe earned 1.564 points while Michel Sallenbach of Team Octane finished with 1,563.

“In year one, there were no expectations. It was a great effort, but it wasn’t expected. It almost felt like we backed into it,” Sharpe said of his first championship.

“This (second) particular championship does feel sweeter. It came down to the last two weekends, and four races. We mapped it out that we had to basically garner all wins and sweep all the poles. So, we just took it one session at a time, and mentally we were just so on it. We did such a good job, thinking our way to the championship.”

And Karl Wittmer, driving for Ste-Rose Honda Racing (Honda Fit), may well be the champion with the brightest smile. The winner of the B-spec class, the 22-year-old is the youngest Canadian Touring Car Champion in history and, in an interview, he talked about a balls-out philosophy on the track.

“I’ve driven a few different types of touring cars and won races but nothing is as hard as B-spec racing,” he said. “One mistake can cost you not only a race but also a championship. It’s all about momentum.”

It’s a victory that’s going to feel really good when he gets the trophy home because he comes from a racing family. His brother, Nick, is a seven-time touring car champion while his brother Kuno is an SRT factory driver.

“It’s hard to explain what racing means to me,” Wittmer said. “Like I said, it’s more a way of life; everything from the family business to the supper table — it’s all revolved around racing,

“Winning a national title is huge but nothing came close to the feeling I got when my older brothers, Kuno and Nick, told my dad.”

Honda swept the manufacturer’s standings with trophies in both Super and Touring Class.

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