Rookie Zach Robichon showed an uncanny ability of when to show caution and when to stand on the gas pedal, and the end result was his first career Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama victory Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Robichon, from Ottawa, steered clear of a first-lap incident between front-row starters Scott Hargrove and Daniel Morad and drove away to victory in the No. 78 Mark Motors/Bestline Auto Tech Porsche in Round 2 of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Single-Make Series.
“I was still pushing the whole race to make sure there was nobody that could catch me from behind,” Robichon said. “The race is never won until it’s over, so the whole race I was checking everything and making sure. It’s not necessarily the way I want to win the first one, but a win is a win, and I’ll take it.”
Michael de Quesada, from Tampa, Florida, earned his first career Platinum Cup podium finish by placing second in the No. 16 Porsche Centre Oakville/Alegra Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, 20.825 seconds behind Robichon.
Three-time reigning Platinum Masters champion Marco Cirone, from Toronto, raced to his first overall podium spot of the young season in the No. 88 Mark Motors/Bestline Auto Tech Porsche.
Etienne Borgeat, from Montreal, placed fourth in the No. 2 Porsche Lauzon/GT Racing entry. Tim Sanderson, from Pickering, Ontario, rounded out the top five in the No. 07 Porsche Centre Oakville/Alegra Porsche.
Bruno Chapinotti, from Bowmanville, Ontario, earned his first Gold Cup victory of the season in the No. 03 Downtown Porsche/DFC Motorsport Porsche. Andrew Danyliw, from Toronto, completed a weekend sweep in the Silver Cup class with a victory in his SCB Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport car.
The opening seconds of the 45-minute race were decisive. 2014 Platinum Cup champion Scott Hargrove started from pole, with Round 1 winner Daniel Morad at his side. Hargrove and Morad made light side-by-side contact entering Turn 1 after the green flag, with Morad passing Hargrove for the lead.
Hargrove, from Surrey, British Columbia, took a wide line into Turn 2 in his No. 28 OpenRoad/Bestline Auto Tech Porsche, trying to make an outside pass of Morad. The two cars made contact again, and then the front of Hargrove’s car made harder contact with the rear of Morad’s No. 17 Porsche Centre Oakville/Alegra entry.
Morad, from Toronto, spun into the barrier in Turn 3. The front end of Hargrove’s car was heavily damaged. Both drivers returned to the pits, their respective races over.
Robichon was running third and had a front-row seat for the action in front of him. He showed superb racecraft to avoid the melee and then powered away from the field.
“They were pushing and shoving through Turn 1, and I was right on Scott’s bumper,” Robichon said. “But as soon as I saw them go through (Turn) 2, two-wide, I lifted. I said, ‘They’re either going to crash, slow up or they’re going to have to slow down,’ and I didn’t want to drive in the back of one of them and be the cause of the big accident.”
Former Canadian junior open-wheel standout Robichon took the Platinum Cup points lead with his victory today and third-place finish behind Morad and Hargrove on Saturday in Round 1.
De Quesada, 16, started fifth Sunday but climbed to third after the first-lap incident between Hargrove and Morad. Then de Quesada dove under Cirone in Turn 10 on the second lap and kept second place for the rest of the race.
This was the first event in a Platinum Cup car for de Quesada, who finished second in the Gold Cup standings as a rookie in 2015. He also leads the Gold Cup standings this season through four rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
“I just had to make a move on Marco, and when I made it I just had to put my head down,” de Quesada said. “It was about making no mistakes, and we got second.
“I came into this weekend with a clean slate, not really knowing what to expect with the Platinum car. But we’ve been working really hard, practicing a lot, racing in America and getting back in shape. Did I expect it? Maybe not. But is it deserved? I think so.”
Cirone swept the Platinum Masters class this weekend and also earned a coveted spot on the overall podium despite driving with a broken front splitter for nearly the entire race Sunday. Cirone was unable to avoid debris from the incident between Hargrove and Morad yet drove around the problem and held off Borgeat for a solid result.
“I’m always looking for the overall podium, so I am so happy to finish today in third, especially when you consider what happened to my car,” Cirone said. “I had to totally change my driving style, but I was able to hold off Etienne. He’s a great driver, and I knew he was coming.
“The team always gives me a great car, no matter what happens, but I’m glad I was able to adjust and get the podium today.”
Sanderson finished runner-up in the class for the second consecutive round.
Chapinotti drove to his second career Gold Cup victory, winning by 3.943 seconds over Shaun McKaigue. Chapinotti’s first win came in Round 2 in May 2015 at CTMP, at the start of a partial season.
Former Brazilian karting star Chapinotti passed pole sitter McKaigue about 10 minutes into the race and never trailed thereafter. The victory came after Chapinotti finished second Saturday in Round 1.
“If you look back, it seemed like on Thursday that we struggled with the car,” Chapinotti said. “We got a new suspension, and we were getting used to the car. I struggled yesterday in the first race, but we were able to look at the data and make the right decision on the setup. The team improved a lot, and it was amazing.”
McKaigue, from Gilford, Ontario, followed his victory Saturday in Round 1 with a runner-up finish in the No. 34 Fiorano Racing entry.
Martin Harvey, from Berthierville, Quebec, finished third in the No. 08 Wingho Racing Porsche.
Danyliw continued his successful learning curve with the new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, which is making its worldwide Porsche one-make series debut in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama.
He drove to victory after starting from the pole.
“The car is working better than it was yesterday, and I think that’s just a matter of confidence,” Danyliw said. “It is a really great product, and I think it has great potential. I’m very happy to be on the podium.”
Gerald Panneton, from Terra Cotta, Ontario, finished second in the No. 57 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
ROUND 2 POST-RACE QUOTES:
ZACH ROBICHON (No. 78 Mark Motors/Bestline Auto Tech, winner): “They (Daniel Morad and Scott Hargrove) were pushing and shoving through Turn 1, and I was right on Scott’s bumper. But as soon as I saw them go through (Turn) 2, two-wide, I lifted. I said, ‘They’re either going to crash, slow up or they’re going to have to slow down,’ and I didn’t want to drive in the back of one of them and be the cause of the big accident. I learned yesterday that in these cars it’s very hard to pass at this track, so I think they were both trying to get out of front, but it fell into place for me. But with these cars, they’re still very competitive cars, and I was still pushing the whole race to make sure there was nobody that could catch me from behind. I know Michael (de Quesada) in the beginning had good pace, and I didn’t want to burn the tires, either. The race is never won until it’s over, so the whole race I was checking everything and making sure. There was debris out there, and that was making me stressed out. I didn’t want to drive over a piece of debris. It’s not necessarily the way I want to win the first one, but a win is a win, and I’ll take it.”
MICHAEL DE QUESADA (No. 16 Porsche Center Oakville/Alegra/Insync, second): “I was right there in the beginning. Both Scott (Hargrove) and Daniel (Morad) wanted to win really bad and they got into it a little bit, but it was just racing. Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for them, and they both got taken out. At that point it was Zach (Robichon) in front, Marco (Cirone) and then me. I just had to make a move on Marco, and when I made it I just had to put my head down. It was about making no mistakes, and we got second. I came into this weekend with a clean slate, not really knowing what to expect with the Platinum car. But we’ve been working really hard, practicing a lot, racing in America and getting back in shape. Did I expect it? Maybe not. But is it deserved? I think so.”
MARCO CIRONE (No. 88 Mark Motors/Bestline Auto Tech, third, first Platinum Masters): “I’m always looking for the overall podium, so I am so happy to finish today in third, especially when you consider what happened to my car. I ran over some debris, and it took out the front splitter. I had to totally change my driving style, but I was able to hold off Etienne (Borgeat). He’s a great driver, and I knew he was coming. The team always gives me a great car, no matter what happens, but I’m glad I was able to adjust and get the podium today. Thank you to Mark Motors for always giving me a great car and giving me the opportunity to be here.”
TIM SANDERSON (No. 07 Porsche Center Oakville/Alegra, second Platinum Masters): “It was a little more eventful today than yesterday. I had a good battle going in the beginning with Etienne (Borgeat) and Orey (Fidani). I was kind of asleep on the start and Orey got the jump on me, but I was able to catch up in Turn 10, five or six laps later. After that I thought I had a shot at Etienne, but he seemed to put it into another gear after I got by Orey. It was just a matter of chasing him down. I was encouraged that we were getting closer to Marco (Cirone) there at the end, but I understand he had some damage to the front of his car that affected performance. But it was a good result, and we’re happy with it.”
BRUNO CHAPINOTTI (No. 03 Downtown Porsche/DFC Motorsport, winner, Gold Cup, Yokohama Hard Charger Award winner): “If you look back, it seemed like on Thursday that we struggled with the car. We got a new suspension, and we were getting used to the car. I struggled yesterday in the first race, but we were able to look at the data and make the right decision on the setup. The team improved a lot, and it was amazing. Thanks to Downtown Porsche. The crew was amazing. It was a great weekend for us and a big learning curve.”
SHAUN McKAIGUE (No. 34 Fiorano Racing/Fer-Pal Infrastructure/Aqua Pipe, second, Gold Cup): “I had a good start and got a good jump. Came through (Turn) 2 and got a little of the mayhem through (Turn) 3, but I was able to pick my way through it. I had a good run and was doing well. I went through 5A and 5B, and on the downshift it bogged. Sometimes if you don’t have the revs up, it bogs and dies, and Bruno (Chapinotti) was able to get by. But hat’s off to him. He drove well, and I wasn’t able to catch him, so he deserves the win. Everybody at Fiorano gave me a great car. I had a little bit of understeer there at the end, but the Yokohama’s held on for me. Thanks to my sponsors Fer-Pal, Aqua Pipe and Pfaff.”
MARTIN HARVEY (No. 08 Wingho Racing/McDonald’s Restaurant Canada, third, Gold Cup): “It was a very good race. My car is perfect. We stayed right on the back of Shaun (McKaigue). But I have had a good car all weekend, and the course is perfect. We had the accident at the front in Turn 3, but we got through that, and the rest of the race was great.”
ANDREW DANYLIW (No. 38 SCB Racing, winner, Silver Cup): “The car is working better than it was yesterday, and I think that’s just a matter of confidence. It (Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport) is a really great product, and I think it has great potential. I’m very happy to be on the podium. We had consistently quicker lap times from yesterday and we broke into the (1:) 28’s, which was a gift to the lads because they worked so hard this weekend. It was a fun race. Thanks to everyone at SCB Racing and Mark Motors for their hard work.”
GERALD PANNETON (No. 57 Pfaff Motorsports/GP Consulting Inc./Best Line Tech, second, Silver Cup): “It was entertaining. It was fun. It’s good to see the learning curve progressing. I think the car will race well. You can dial it back and its time with progress. It’s the first weekend in the car, and improvement will come. I want to thank the entire team at Pfaff Motorsports for their fantastic work all weekend.”
Rounds 3-4, June 10-12, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. This will be the first-ever combined event with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and the two series will run simultaneously on track.
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