Will the two 45-minute sprint races on the 3.96-km (2.459-mile) track turn out the same as they did in the season opener? Maybe. But this has been such an intense year in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada that few would be surprised if several of the so-close drivers who are winless for 2017 just go for it in the closing round.
And as an added bonus, there will actually be three Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada races over the weekend: One of the two races scheduled at Watkins Glen International in New York was postponed due to an incident on Lap 2 that left nearly a dozen cars incapable of continuing, so the makeup race will take place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The Porsche GT3 Cup cars that race in the Platinum class are all-new for 2017, and made their Canadian debut at CTMP for the Victoria Day SpeedFest season opener. Some teams mastered the faster, sleeker models immediately, while it took a few races for other teams, and drivers, to dial them in.
One driver and team that got the hang of the new Porsche very quickly was Scott Hargrove, a prior GT3 Cup Challenge Canada champion who is quite close to becoming the current champion. The Tsawwassen, British Columbia racer drives for the accomplished Woodbridge, Ontario-based Pfaff Motorsports team, which has a rich 50-year history in Canadian motorsports.
Hargrove’s No. 9 Castrol entry has been almost unbeatable this season, taking eight of the nine races contested. And that doesn’t count his season-opening win in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, snatching the victory at Sebring International Raceway in Florida as a tune-up for the Canadian season. That Hargrove and Pfaff can win both north and south of the border speaks to the talent, preparation and single-minded execution behind the No. 9 car.
Of course, Hargrove hasn’t won every race, thanks to a stellar performance by Zacharie Robichon at Watkins Glen, GT3 Cup Challenge Canada’s lone race in the states this year.
Robichon, of Ottawa, Ontario, took his No. 98 Mark Motors Racing to victory lane in that race, but he hasn’t been off the podium all season, finishing an ever-closer second to Hargrove in every race except the one that Robichon won.
Robichon has fond memories of the CTMP season finale here in 2016: Hargrove won the first race, with Robichon second, but in the second race, Robichon was first, Hargrove second. Robichon would love to double up with two appearances on the top step of the podium at the 2017 finale, and a chance to pull closer to points leader Hargrove.
Third in points coming into CTMP is Michael de Quesada of Tampa, Florida. De Quesada’s successful season was cemented way back in January when he was part of the family-owned Alegra Motorsports team that won its class in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, driving a Porsche, and since then he has been running just behind the more experienced Hargrove and Robichon, gaining experience and six third-place finishes.
Will this be the weekend he takes the No. 31 Alegra Porsche to victory lane? Count on this – it’ll happen sooner or later.
Also having multiple strong runs this season are Marco Cirone, the Toronto driver of the No. 88 Mark Motors car, a teammate to Robichon. Cirone is fourth in Platinum Cup points, just one point ahead of Montreal’s Patrick Dussault, driver of the No. 77 Lauzon Autosport/GT Racing entry.
Looking for a dark horse? Remo Ruscitti of Vancouver, British Columbia, has only run six times in his No. 69 OpenRoad Racing car, but he finished on the podium in five of those races, including the last series outing at Trois-Rivieres. Shaun McKaigue of Gilford, Ontario, has also had some competitive runs in his No. 34 Pfaff Porsche as a teammate of Hargrove.
McKaigue is also third in Platinum Masters points, a class-within-a-class for drivers 45 and above. Leading the Platinum Masters Championship is Marco Cirone, and just between Cirone and McKaigue you’ll find Tim Sanderson of Pickering, Ontario, pilot of the No. 07 DFC Motorsport/Speedstar Motorsport Porsche for Downtown Porsche/Harry Rosen. Cirone currently maintains a 30-point lead over Sanderson heading into the weekend.
Meanwhile, in the Gold class – that’s for Porsche GT3 Cup cars from the 2014-2016 model year – it’s been all Roman De Angelis of Belle River, Ontario. De Angelis not only leads the Gold points in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama in the No. 78 Mark Motors car, he is also in a tight battle for the Gold points lead in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA series, having missed only the Texas race weekend in the USA schedule.
De Angelis has made every race in Canada and can already lay claim to the Gold championship, ahead of Orey Fidani of Woodbridge, Ontario, and Gianmarco Raimondo of St. Catharines, Ontario, the only driver to beat De Angelis in the Canadian series this season.
With three instead of two races to take place over the CTMP weekend, there are some serious points implications for many of the drivers, especially those who plan to take advantage of the added chance to move up in season standings.
For more information about Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, visit IMSA.com, and follow hashtag #GT3CAN at @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
Schedule (all times ET):
Practice: 10:45 – 11:25 a.m. and 1:35 – 2:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1
Watkins Glen Makeup Race: 4:15 – 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1
Qualifying: 8:55 – 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2
Round 1: 2:50-3:55 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2
Round 2: 9:45-10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 3
Source. LST Marketing