@IMSA • @MarkMotors_Race • @calabogiemotors • #GT3CAN • DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Speed has surrounded Harry Steenbakkers almost since he was born in 1998.
His grandfather was a road racer. His father also competes as a driver in races and is one of the founders and owners of Calabogie Motorsports Park in Calabogie, Ontario.
Steenbakkers, who turns 17 on May 5, started riding a motorcycle when he was 4. Three years later, his father gave him a snowmobile to fulfill his budding need for speed. That passion then transferred into auto racing in a variety of Canadian regional and United States national series.
He may be young, but Ottawa resident Steenbakkers has spent a life around racing, and riding and driving different vehicles. So he’s prepared for the next step in his racing career, climbing to the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin this season in a Platinum Cup Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car fielded by Ottawa-based powerhouse Mark Motors Racing.
“I am looking forward to being in a competitive series,” Steenbakkers said. “It’ll be interesting to be part of a bigger race team and being a part of something much larger than just myself. Sports car racing is appealing to me since it gets your blood pumping. It’s such an adrenaline rush every time you get in the car.”
That thrill started for Steenbakkers on snowmobiles. While there doesn’t appear to be much of a connection between those vehicles and race cars, Steenbakkers said snowmobile racers must adjust to constantly changing grip levels, which can come in handy in a car on hot, slick tracks.
“In order to drive a car fast, you have to do a four-wheel drift, but with snowmobiles you’ll always be going sideways,” Steenbakkers said. “I feel that a lot of people can adjust from snowmobiles to cars.”
Steenbakkers moved from snowmobiles to cars at age 11. His father, Marc, helped build Calabogie Motorsports Park – site of Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2015 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin on July 4-5 – and is part-owner of the track.
That access to Calabogie gave Harry Steenbakkers one advantage – track time. His father placed Harry in a car when his feet could reach the pedals – around age 11 – and let him drive around the challenging 20-turn, 3.137-mile (5.05 km) circuit until the gas tank was dry.
But it wasn’t all joyriding and fun for Steenbakkers at the track. He began working at the track when he was 13, including changing fluids in track cars, rotating and balancing tires and janitorial duties.
“I worked for three summers up at the track,” Steenbakkers said. “I was the helper for the main mechanic and did most of the jobs he didn’t want to do, so it really gave me an appreciation for what it takes to get the cars prepared for a race weekend.”
His earnings from working at the track helped Steenbakkers pay for a spot in the Gentleman’s Lapping Series at Calabogie. He loved every second of the competition and knew he wanted to get serious about racing.
Steenbakkers wasted little time showing his talent in a race car. In 2013, he became the youngest participant in the Skip Barber IndyCar Academy Shootout, in which he finished second and earned a $15,000 scholarship.
Last year, Steenbakkers gained experience in a variety of series, including Trans-Am, the Canadian SuperCar Series, ChumpCar Enduros, Formula Libre and GT3 in the Regional Race circuit. He won the Canadian SuperCar Series event at Calabogie and also earned earned a National event win in the Skip Barber Summer Race Series at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
Steenbakkers’ skill caught the eye of Mark Motors Racing during events in which Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin and series in which Steenbakkers was racing shared the same event weekend. The team also considers Calabogie its home track.
Mark Motors Racing decided to put Steenbakkers into one of its Platinum Cup Porsches for the entire 2015 season as a teammate to two-time defending Platinum Masters champion Marco Cirone.
Steenbakkers is eager to begin a season of firsts in his young career, especially as a teammate to the experienced, fast Cirone – who competed in the very first Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin event in May 2011 at Calabogie, when Steenbakkers had just turned 13.
“I’ve never done any data, so it’ll be interesting to get feedback from drivers who know what they are doing,” Steenbakkers said. “I’ve never had teammates before, so it will be great to see what they do and how we will work together.
“I’m looking forward most to Toronto this year as it would be the first street race I get experience with. My goals are to be competitive and hopefully be good enough to run with the top guys.”
The 2015 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin series starts on Victoria Day Weekend, May 15-17, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.
For updates on the series, follow @IMSA on Twitter with the hashtag #GT3CAN and on Facebook. The latest news can be found by visiting IMSA.com.
Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin: The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin enters its fifth season in 2015 ready to produce more intense, exciting competition for semi-professional and aspiring professional drivers in the world’s most produced and iconic race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned series is one of Porsche’s 20 global single-make Cup Challenge series and is the perfect platform for aspiring drivers to ascend to the highest levels of GT competition, such as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Racing is divided into two classes – Platinum Cup, featuring the 2014 and 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, which is based on the seventh, and current, generation of the street car; and Gold Cup, which is comprised of the previous iteration (model years 2010-2013) of the race car. A Masters Championship also is conducted in the Platinum class. Each class is awarded with its own podium at the end of every race and individual champion at the end of every season. Points are awarded by finish in class.
ABOUT IMSA: The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) was originally founded in 1969 with a long and rich history in sports car racing. Today, IMSA is the sanctioning body of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the premier sports car racing series in North America. IMSA also sanctions the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, as well as four single-make series: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama; Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin; Ferrari Challenge North America; and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. IMSA – a company within the NASCAR Holdings group – is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected TUDOR Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
From Paul Kelly // Grand-Solutions