BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Canada – If you’ve been anywhere near the podium at the end of IMSA Continental Tire Challenge races lately, you’ve seen an awful lot of the familiar black and orange star logo from C360R.
Specifically, the team’s No. 77 McLaren GT4 co-driven by Mathew Keegan and Nico Rondet has finished on the podium in the last three consecutive races. The team’s No. 76 McLaren shared by Paul Holton and Matt Plumb was on the podium for the last two, including two races ago at Circuit of The Americas, when Holton and Plumb delivered the first series victory for McLaren.
If that’s not momentum enough, this Saturday’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 120 – which will be streamed live on IMSA.com at 2:40 p.m. ET and televised on FS1 at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 15 – is the home race for the Toronto-based C360R team. And at least one of the team’s drivers really likes this racetrack.
“Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is my favorite track in North America,” Holton said. “I really enjoy the place. Matt and I are both very quick here. The car should also be very quick here. We’ve got good downforce on the McLaren and good straight-line speed right now with the BoP. So, we’re really looking forward to this race, hoping for a podium, or, realistically, a win.”
While the competition throughout the Continental Tire Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class is tough, Holton and Plumb may not need to look any further than under the same awning in the paddock to find their biggest challengers. Rondet and Keegan have finished third, second and second in the last three races and are just three points out of the GS championship lead.
They trail No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche co-drivers Trent Hindman and Canadian Cameron Cassels by a count of 114-111. Not a bad way to start a Continental Tire Challenge career for Keegan, who jumped into the series from Ferrari Challenge last year.
“It’s been great,” Keegan said. “It’s a new car, so we’re figuring out how to make it go fast and the idiosyncrasies of every car, especially being new to the series and figuring out what we can do with it to make it go faster. So, that’s been pretty good. We’re still working through some stuff with the car, but overall the car’s been performing well.”
And to what does Holton attribute that performance?
“Consistency and great driver pairings,” he says. “All four of us – Mat (Keegan)’s the newest one out of everyone, and he’s right there on the pace with us most weekends. I definitely think consistency and really a good gel in the team and the crew. It really helps a lot.”
One thing that has caught the eye of both Holton and Keegan is the influx of new cars into the GS class this season. The technical regulations were opened up to GT4-spec cars at the start of the 2017 season and will move to exclusive GT4 specs next year.
“Looking from last year to this year and the amount of cars, there’s for sure the momentum for more cars with the other manufacturers getting involved,” Keegan said. “So that makes it exciting. Some of these pairings, there’s some true pro-pro pairings that we’re driving against and we’re competitive against those guys.
“For me, that’s my attraction. It’s a good gauge for me to see how I’m progressing too. Racing against guys that have been racing for a lot longer than I have and being able to be competitive with them has been fun.”
Keegan, Holton and the rest of their C360R get a chance at more fun this weekend.
Practice and qualifying for the Continental Tire Challenge, which is part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix weekend, is on the docket for Friday.
Saturday’s schedule includes WeatherTech Championship qualifying from 12:05 to 1:35 p.m. ET, followed by the two-hour Continental Tire Challenge race starting at 2:50 p.m. ET.
The IMSA Prototype Challenge also has a pair of 45-minute races on the schedule this weekend, at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Both of those races, as well as the Continental Tire Challenge race and WeatherTech Championship qualifying will be streamed live on IMSA.com.
CRG-I Do Borrow Hopeful for Another Thrilling Win at CTMP
With less than five minutes left in the 2016 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), Owen Trinkler capitalized on a rare mistake by Spencer Pumpelly to make a pass for the lead in the Street Tuner (ST) class. The No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Nissan Altima held on for the win despite heavy pressure from Pumpelly after he regrouped in the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman.
But the battle was not just centered on the top two in the class. In the closing minutes of the race, the top five cars in ST were separated by only a few seconds when the checkered flag waved.
“Last year there was a four-way battle between us, two Porsche Caymans and a Honda, so the last 30 minutes was nose-to-tail, great racing and all of us in the pits were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen?’” said Trinkler’s co-driver Sarah Cattaneo. “It was super cool and great racing. This year the top four or five cars are the same and I think we can expect a great battle between us, the Caymans and the MINIs.”
Heading into the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 120 on Saturday, the CRG-I Do Borrow team is looking to go for back-to-back victories at the Canadian circuit. However, the quest will not be without its challenges. The first four races of the season have seen either a Porsche Cayman or MINI JCW in the winner’s circle and No. 44 hasn’t found its way back there since its CTMP win last year.
“It would be so cool to win back-to-back,” Cattaneo said. “We tried at Sebring this year but we ended up second instead of winning, so it would be totally awesome. Owen loves this place and I’m getting to love this place. I actually haven’t raced here that much.”
Track time at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has been limited in the past for Cattaneo and the No. 44, as mechanical issues prevented the team from getting much practice time in 2015 and in 2016, weather plagued on-track activity for the series.
“Last year, I think there was some weather so we didn’t get in much practice and it was like ‘Oh, just go race,’ so I’m super thankful this year for the blue skies,” Cattaneo said. “I actually get some practice time to learn the track as opposed to just ‘Qualify go, race go.’ Its awesome up here. Like I said, we couldn’t have better weather right now and a day like that helps on the race weekend just to get everyone’s spirits up. I couldn’t be more excited.”