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ASCHENBACH: Get Out the Broom

Lawson Aschenbach files his latest Sportscar365 column after a sweep of the weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park…

Photo: Brian Cleary/PWC

Let me tell you something many people say that isn’t honestly heard: Winning is hard! It never comes easy whether you win by 10 seconds or a 10th of one. It’s a battle each and every lap to get the most out of the car and yourself.

Some victories may come with less pressure than others, but it’s the ones where you give every ounce of mental stamina and focus to win that actually stand out the most. It’s when you dig deep, really deep, to make the winning pass or fend off the charging competitor that separate the accomplishments.

I’ve been very fortunate to win races in the Pirelli World Challenge, but those trophies aren’t just about a car and a driver. It’s about an entire group of people working week in and week out, pouring blood, sweat and, although no one likes to admit, some tears into the job.

There is no better reward for a team than a win…or two!

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park set the scene for the fourth weekend of PWC and the second weekend for the Sprint Championship. Let me tell you that this is a driver’s track, one that truly tests your willingness to put it all on the line.

It forces you to send a 3,300-pound-plus race car at extremely high speeds over blind crests with the hope that you nailed the entry and somehow find the compression that straightens the car out. It’s a real test of mental confidence, in yourself and your race car.

Fortunately for us, CTMP has the perfect balance of wide radius corners, high apex speeds and elevation changes that suit our Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.

This is a race we circle on our calendars, and that’s not just because of the success we’ve had; it’s also about the die-hard Canadian fans coming out to support Sports Car Racing!

The season has been a bit up and down for the entire Blackdog Speed Shop team. After a solid double third place at Virginia International Raceway, we had our sights set on getting back to the top of the podium.

Practice 1 was a good start as we ended up second, only a few hundredths off the fastest time. That was great, but in reality, you never know where anyone really stands until qualifying.

After Practice 2 we were a bit further down the order, but we knew some teams put stickers on due to oncoming rain for qualifying.

And sure enough, rain was the name of the game during qualifying on Saturday morning. It was cold and wet, so it was going to be anyone’s session. I love the rain, so we were looking forward to pushing hard for the pole.

We started fast continuing to stay near or at the top of the charts, but it looked like it was going to come down to the last lap. The track was getting faster and faster, so making sure you get a clean lap was going to be significant.

We had the speed working on the final lap, and the car was feeling fast, but hitting traffic in the last three corners killed our shot at pole. Either way, we ended up third and in a place where we could race for the win.

Fast forward to the start of Race 1. When the green flag dropped the field was tight heading into Turn One. I stayed nose-to-tail with the leader while trying to pass for second mid-corner. It worked!

Next, we were heading to the fast, downhill Turn 2 with cold tires and a green track. It’s these times that can make or break your race. While pushing hard on entry, the leader had a slight moment and I was able to turn low to make the pass for the lead.

Getting the lead is one thing, but now you have to put the pedal to the metal as they say. Our Camaro GT4.R was on rails, and I kept the wick turned up and pulled out a lead. Fortunately, the race stayed green and we were able to take the win!

Those first few laps were as tough as it gets with the low tire pressures and limited grip!

We started on the pole for Race 2 and we had confidence we could sweep the weekend. I was jumped on the green and lost the lead, but fought back down the back straight to reclaim P1. I continued the same thought process as Saturday on those first few laps and was able to build a decent gap.

With the tires starting to fade quickly, the second-place driver closed in. I knew it was going to be tough. I needed to be perfect, every lap, every corner to keep the lead. With tires fading and a tough challenger stalking us, we were able to cross the finish line a mere 0.14 seconds ahead to take the win!

Weekend sweep! It felt great to reward the team for all the hard work this season!

Like I said above, this is a team sport. I couldn’t do this without Blackdog Speed Shop and Chevrolet. I can’t thank them enough for believing in me and giving me a fast Camaro GT4.R… but I’d like to try!

On to Lime Rock!

Lawson Aschenbach (@lawsonaracing) is a former Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge champion, driving for Blackdog Speed Shop in Pirelli World Challenge and Michael Shank Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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