The scenic Circuit Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec played host this past weekend to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin for the Summer Classic. The mountainside facility proved to be uphill for some and downhill for others in during the two races this weekend, where the intense racing saw several heated battles for dominance and track position.
In Race 1 on Saturday, the 2.65-mile, 15-turn road course saw the season’s first full-course-caution as a result of contact by Jean-Frederic Laberge and his SpeedMerchants entry.
On the following restart, most of the field of Porsche GT3 Cup cars would find themselves entangled in a snarl that would end the day early for SpeedMerchants Platinum Cup driver Jim Hoddinott.
Platinum Cup driver Etienne Borgeat of GT Racing claimed top honors for the day, followed by SpeedMerchants driver Bruce Gregory in Gold, with the Silver Class ultimately won by the always-colorful Bob “Doc” Seitz.
Sunday’s Race 2 was an echo of Saturday’s feature, with drivers increasing the drama and creating some ‘pushing and shoving’ as the GT3 Cup Canada competitors challenged the blind apexes, elevation changes, and high-speed corners of the circuit that once hosted Formula 1.
Not even the first corner was navigated before multi-car contact ended the day of both Carlos de Quesada of Alegra Fiorano and Jeff Pabst of Pfaff/Fiorano Racing, setting the on-track tone for the day and bringing out the second full-course-caution of the season.
6th Gear Racing’s Perry Bortolotti survived the contact and managed to finish fourth in Platinum Cup and overall for the day.
In true GT3 Cup Challenge fashion, the SpeedMerchants team of Jean-Frederic Laberge was able to perform significant repairs overnight to his heavily damaged car from Race 1. It would prove to be a worthy rebuild as Laberge would put his Porsche on point by the end of the first lap, where he remained until late in the race.
An all-out Platinum war began shortly after the restart, and included not only Laberge, but 6th Gear Racing pilot Marco Cirone and yesterday’s winner Etienne Borgeat of GT Racing.
The trio of Laberge, Cirone, and Borgeat were engaged for most of the race in a downhill run that would leave most Canadian slalom skiers blushing with envy.
Cirone chased Laberge looking for any opportunity or chance to tuck a wheel beneath his SpeedMerchants opponent, while Laberge watched his engine temperature continue to rise from what must have been unseen damage from Saturday.
And while the two were locked in their own private battle, Borgeat was stealthily in pursuit, waiting to make his move.
With a handful of ticks left on the clock, Borgeat made a late pass on Cirone and put eyes on the rear fascia of Laberge.
“Etienne is a fantastic driver and I just couldn’t hold him off any longer,” said 6th Gear Racing’s Cirone. “Etienne (Borgeat) knows the track like the back of his hand and he was so good. He tried several times to get by and ultimately made the pass.”
Laberge was watching his engine temperature more than his mirrors as Borgeat continued his late-race charge.
“It was not an easy race and the guys tried hard to repair the car overnight as it was pretty damaged from yesterday,” said Laberge. “At the end the car was getting pretty bad. The car temperatures were getting really high so we tried to manage it as best we could. But I certainly don’t want to imply that I let Etienne by. He earned it fairly. It was a great race.”
Borgeat would overtake Laberge and find himself in position to take the checkered flag to win Platinum and overall in both races for the weekend.
“I am really, really happy to have won both races here,” said the GT Racing driver. “I was third and then I had to track my way up. Marco (Cirone) was hard to catch and then I had to find a way past him and once I did I just had to focus on the track and work on getting faster. I was lucky to have a chance to pass JF (Laberge) before the end of the race.”
In Gold, SpeedMerchants drivers Bruce Gregory and Robert Maranda were engaged in a similar battle with Shaun McKaigue of Fiorano Racing. Gregory would ultimately take the top step of podium in class when the checkered flag fell.
“It was the race of the year for us,” said Gregory. “We went at it hard the whole way. It was really a lot of fun out there.”
“It was a hard fought race,” commented Maranda. “We are all friends, but after yesterday’s race, everyone was treading lightly and very aware of who was around them. But we were all out there pushing so hard that we were burning off our tires so quickly that we all just felt like we were going to spin it off the track.”
In what seemed a repeat of yesterday’s race, Robert Seitz of 6th Gear Racing, Gabor Foti of Fiorano Racing, and Leho Poldmae of TPC Racing resumed their contest in nearly the same manner and with equal spirit.
At the end, the winner was once again Robert “Dr. Bob” Seitz.
“We had some oil issues,” said Seitz. “But it was a great race. First, Gabor (Foti) dogged me until he used up his tires, then Leho (Poldmae) tried like heck to catch me. He overcooked it going in to turn 12 and hit the wall. That brought out the last full course yellow and the Safety Car. It was a bit of a shame we had to finish under yellow.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin will make it’s next stop at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport in Bowmanville, Ontario, July 19-22. They will be joined by Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda and the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama to round out the IMSA Development Series platform. The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón will headline the busy weekend which also includes the Canadian Touring Car Championship and the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.
For all the latest news, results and championship statistics, visit www.imsachallenge.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.