As lap records fell during both qualifying and racing on this season finale weekend, the championship points battle came to its heated conclusion. Jean-Frédéric Laberge and SpeedMerchants ultimately took home the Driver and Team Championships after a very tight finish in Platinum Cup. Laberge started the weekend third overall in Platinum points.
SpeedMerchants would also taste the team victory in Gold Cup, as Bruce Gregory stretched his Drivers Championship lead this weekend at his home track to clinch his win. Robert "Doctor Bob" Seitz ultimately broke his race-win streak in this weekend’s competition, but it wouldn’t impact his championship win in Silver Cup, giving the Team Championship to 6th Gear Racing.
Race One in today’s double-header at the 5.05-kilometer circuit started off with a full-course-caution on the very first lap as contact in Turn 3 resulted in a wild ride over the guard rail for Platinum Cup’s Jim Hoddinott of SpeedMerchants. His 911 sustained heavy damage during the incident, but the driver walked away without harm.
“That was a very exciting start to race one here at Calabogie Motorsports Park,” said the uninjured Hoddinott. “We had a really tight race start and it was very competitive. So much so that we had some bumping and as we went into Turn 3. It was an off camber turn and a car [driven by Ilker Starck] tapped me in the rear. It was a light bump, but it was just enough to roll the car over. A couple of rolls over a guardrail and we land on our roof and oops, my day is over. But everything is fine. That’s why we race Porsche’s—they are Sherman Tanks. Just unbelievable, and you walk away fine and you get to race another day. Besides, I landed on the hardest part of me—my head!”
SportsCarBoutique's Ilker Starck was also involved in the incident, only incurring minor damage, but he ended his day early in his rush to aid his fellow driver.
“We were in turn three and were pretty much three cars wide with Anthony Mantella on the outside, Jim [Hoddinott] in the middle and myself on the right side,” said Starck. “He [Hoddinott] took a regular line through that turn, which he could have kept a bit wider, and I was on the inside so he touched my front left wheel and got airborne and unfortunately flipped it right over the guardrail. I parked my car as quickly as I could and ran to help and make sure he was okay. He gave me the thumbs up. It looked pretty bad, but I am glad we are both okay."
The incident was testament to both the safety of the Porsche GT3 Cup cars and to the sportsmanship and camaraderie of its competitors.
Also on lap one, there was slight contact between the pole winner, Carlos de Quesada of Alegra Fiorano Racing and Laberge, as Laberge made an early move for position. His gamble paid off, and he made the pass stick and held onto the Platinum Cup lead for the remainder of the race to take home the win.
“There’s not that many places to pass here with tight corners and blind corners,” said Laberge about Canada’s longest racetrack. “So, I felt like I had to pass early in the race and the first corner seemed the best place since I had a good start and was following Kyle [Marcelli]. We [Carlos de Quesada] bumped a bit in the first turn but the tires were pretty cool, so it was slippery, so I backed off. But I got some distance after three to four laps, so I kept it cool and played it safe.”
Marco Cirone from 6th Gear Racing was forced to start last on the grid in 19th position after incurring a post-qualifying penalty. He would make a hard charge toward the front of the field to finish third in Platinum Cup, just behind de Quesada.
Gold Cup competition saw a flag-to-flag win by Chris Green of Pfaff Automotive Partners, who captured yesterday’s class pole while setting a qualifying lap record for Gold Cup at Calabogie Motorsports Park.
“I am extremely happy about my race,” said Green. “As I said yesterday, this is a car that really came out of the box. It was a showcar. Johnny and the guys from Pfaff and the gang from Fiorano were able to put together such fabulous car. I am just ecstatic.”
Green was followed by another hard charger, Bruce Gregory of SpeedMerchants who finished second after starting 18th due to being unable to post a qualifying time. Gregory was serving double-duty this weekend as both a participant and as the event promoter. His teammate Robert Maranda took home third in Gold.
“That was a serious hard charge,” said Gregory. “I had to get up there to keep the championship and I had to start at the back since I missed qualifying yesterday and I just put my head down it was ‘go, go, go.’ We had the restart and then it was head down again and ‘go, go, go, go.’ We had a really good clean race, the whole bit, but we got it done and kudos to Chris [Green]. I was catching him at the end but I just couldn’t get there from the back.”
Seitz and 6th Gear Racing had a streak of 12 wins in Silver Cup competition dating back to last season and representing a clean sweep of every race in his category in the brief two-year history of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin. That streak would end today as Leho Poldmae would take home the top prize in Silver for his TPC Racing team.
“It took me the entire season to beat Bob [Seitz]," said the excited Poldmae. “Here at this track it’s really a tire issue. We took off and Bob is notorious for being really hard in Turn 1, so at the beginning I gave it to him and let him take it and sat behind him and waited a little bit—sort of similar to my strategy at [Mont-] Tremblant in the second race. And then his tire started to give out, so I made my move and that was the end. The rest of the race was really about tire conservation for me to play it smart. My tires felt a little rough too, so the last thing I wanted to do was take first and then go off the track and have an issue. So I am really happy with our finish.”
Today’s second race, and final round of competition for the season was a championship-changer as Platinum Cup points leader Borgeat spun his GT Racing machine early on lap two, leaving the title up for grabs as he desperately tried to regain lost ground. Meanwhile, Laberge would take his second win of the weekend, securing the Platinum Class Driver Championship.
“The guys told me I won the championship when I got out of the car so I was really happy,” stated the enthusiastic Laberge. “Carlos [de Quesada] lost his splitter but he was not easy to pass, he was all over the track trying to hold me off and doing his job, so I thought at one point there was no way I was going to get past and Marco [Cirone] was pushing me pretty hard. And then suddenly I got by and then the yellow came out. So nothing better could have happened. No errors at the end and everything was perfect! I won the championship and I am super happy!”
Gold Cup class competition saw a repeat of today’s first race in order of finish, as Green and his Pfaff/Fiorano Racing took the top step of the podium once again.
“Once again the guys did a really great job,” said Green. “I have to thank Pfaff and Castrol and Johnny from Fiorano. It was just an incredible car and I was having so much fun hunting down the Platinum guys and I had a car to beat them at the end. I was just maintaining it and I didn’t want to have the same tire issues I had in the first race. It was just a great day and I really hope to be back next year.”
The event ended under the second full-course-caution of the day after heavy contact between the two Silver Cup entries of Seitz and Poldmae. The two made hard contact near the entry of Turn 11, which would bring out the yellow for the remainder of the race as officials tended to the scene of the incident. Seitz secured the Silver victory, but was taken to a nearby medical center for further observation. He was later released with with only minor injuries.
“He spun right in front of me and I had nowhere to go,” said Poldmae after the incident. “It’s not the best way to end the season, but we are both OK and that’s what matters.”
Unclassified driver Kyle Marcelli in his Pfaff Automotive entry had smooth sailing this weekend as he led both races flag-to-flag. His unclassified status prevents him from accumulating points and awards, but still affords him all the best action that GT3 Cup Racing can offer.
“It was a fun day," said Marcelli. "All of us were on a new set of tires for the final race. This morning our car went off pretty fast. After about six laps it went away and developed a big understeer. I know most cars were in the same scenario. But we made a lot of changes for race 2 actually and it proved to be worth it. We started on a new set and the car was great for about three quarters of the race. It began to fall off a bit, but I just drove through it. I had a big lead but I am out there to do the best I can do and I guess you could say I am racing myself since I am unclassified. I am really pushing myself to the limit and its very challenging. I love this series and I am hopeful that I can come back next year. I love driving these cars, they are tons of fun and the whole year has been awesome."
With strong fields of cars expected for the 2013 season, and Platinum Cup competitors already ordering cars for next season, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin is positioned for another great year of racing. Teams, drivers, and fans can be assured that the series will continue to provide the best GT3 Cup Challenge racing that Porsche, Michelin, and IMSA have to offer.
The Championship Awards Celebration will take place Sunday evening in Ottawa at the Brookstreet Hotel at 8:30 p.m. For live tweets, photos and updates throughout the evening visit www.imsachallenge.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.