The Pirelli World Challenge debut of the Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R was hailed a success on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday afternoon. Driver Daniel Keilwitz earned a top five finish and a second place finish during the double header, moving him to second position in the championship standings.
“We are very pleased we had a chance to demonstrate the championship performance of the Corvette here in North America,” said Team Owner Reeves Callaway. “I’m happy to see the front running performance from Europe continued for the North American debut. We had two really good tough races, and Daniel was able to show his skills against a very talented field of drivers. I am thrilled to be able to please the Corvette fan base with some great racing.”
In his first time on track at the temporary street course, Keilwitz and the Corvette C7 GT3-R took to the circuit quickly, setting competitive lap times in each practice session. Keilwitz qualified third for race one, and as the field took the green flag for the opening race of the season, the No. 26 Corvette C7 GT3-R led the field heading into turn one. Forced wide by the 61 Ferrari on the straight, Keilwitz found himself on paint wet from the morning’s rain, making braking ineffective. The Corvette missed the turn, but recovered in time to avoid contact as the field roared by. Keilwitz recovered and rejoined the field in eighth. A caution period assisted the German, allowing him to quickly catch the rear of the field and immediately work on climbing his way back up the chart.
The Corvette C7 GT3-R showed strong power and maneuverability on the tight street course, and climbed up to fifth position in a matter of minutes. Keilwitz quickly closed in on the No. 24 Porsche of Michael Christensen, and passed for fourth position on the inside of turn one with fifteen minutes remaining. Keilwitz held position for the remainder of the race, finishing in fourth place in his first American race event.
Keilwitz’s fast lap in race one set a second place starting position for race two, starting on the outside of turn one. He slipped into third position on the start, behind Daniel Morad and the No. 2 Mercedes and race leader Scott Hargrove in the No. 96 Porsche. The No. 61 Ferrari of Toni Vilander made the pass to take the third place position, but in lap eight, the Corvette C7 GT3-R reassumed the position. Three laps later, he passed Morad in turn one to take second place and set the fastest lap of the race. Two more cautions came out during the final 30 minutes of the race, as Keilwitz reeled in the leader to fight for the lead position. A win was within his grasp until an incident brought out a red flag, ending the race ten minutes early. While the win was certainly only a few laps away, the Callaway Competition USA team celebrated a job well done, and the first podium in U.S. competition for the car.
The Pirelli World Challenge next competes at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for Rounds 1 & 2 of the SprintX championship: a 60 minute race in which two drivers share the driving duties for the same car. The driver joining Keilwitz will be announced shortly, as the team has confirmed the Callaway Competition C7 GT3-R will run in the event March 23-25. For event information, visit world-challenge.com.
Driver Quote | Daniel Keilwitz
Race One: Started P3 | Finished P4
Race Two: Started P2 | Finished P3
“The start was bad for me because we started with low tire pressures. I had wheel spin at the green flag and lost two positions to the others guys. We knew if we played it cool, I’d be faster once we came up to temperature. I was able to overtake the Ferrari and the Mercedes, and try to catch the Porsche. It was hard to handle the tire pressure at the restart, so I lost a lot of time, but made it up. I caught the Porsche, and started to fight for the win, but we didn’t get that chance with the red flag. It’s important that the driver involved is okay and didn’t get hurt.”