Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is arguably one of my personal favorite tracks when speaking about the 2017 IMSA schedule.
Back in 2011, I had the tremendous opportunity to drive for local legend Brian Graham and his Formula Ford 1600 team, where we spent many weekends up at CTMP, logging laps and learning how to drive a racing car. Since then I have always looked forward to this event.
Unfortunately CTMP has not been very kind to us these last few years and that trend continued this weekend.
After figuring out exactly what bit us at The Glen, I certainly was looking forward to some form of redemption this past weekend. With the Glen and CTMP being relatively similar tracks (lots of high speed, long duration, high lateral loading corners), lessons learned from the previous weekend were sure to apply.
I was feeling very confident in what we had after the initial testing on Thursday afternoon since we seemed to have such a strong car right from the start.
This was fantastic because it allowed us to focus on performance over the long runs as well as making some very minor adjustments for tuning to the track conditions. Even when looking at how Friday’s official practice sessions went for us, I think we were clearly just as strong, if not the strongest car, from turn 8 to turn 6… very encouraging.
From that point forward I would not climb back into the car until race day, which was fine by me since Cameron seemed to be on a roll in terms of becoming consistently quicker.
I knew what we had in terms of performance with the car and I was very comfortable with that, even after watching how Practice 2, 3 and even qualifying unfolded with a few cars going much quicker than we did, but that was no surprise to me. We focused on our consistency and pace at the end of a stint.
Our race on Saturday afternoon was difficult and disappointing to say the least. On lap 2, Cam and another GS car made side to side contact in turn 1, which in turn, broke our steering rack (no pun intended).
That particular incident was nothing more than just some hard racing, simple as that. I was not too concerned with the news that there was a problem with the front end of the car since Cam was at least able to hold his position and still had some pretty decent speed despite the broken rack (not yet known to us at the time).
Just as it looked like we would be able to work through it, we eventually went a lap down when we made our pit stop/driver change.
The weekend was looking so positive up to that point that it was difficult to accept that winning the race was going to become a whole lot more challenging than it already was. From prior experience and knowing how races in the CTSC can unfold, I knew there was still a shot as long as I got in the car and pushed.
At least to me, as soon as my race began, it was over just as quickly. Pushing hard out of pit lane, I immediately approached ST traffic on the exit of Turn 2 and took the lane that was available on the inside upon entry of Turn 3.
Well before track out of the corner, the right front of the Mini met the left rear of our car and unfortunately spit the ST car into the wall at the exit, ruining their race while causing some pretty significant damage to our car.
At the time I was frustrated more than anything because our day just went from bad to worse and basically sealed our fate for the final hour of the race.
Afterwards, I was able to find James and Nate (the drivers of that Mini), and Luis (owner of the Mini JCW team) to make sure James was ok, and luckily he was. Not a happy camper, obviously, but physically fine.
Two races in a row now I have had to adapt and use a conservative, defensive mindset mid-race, rather than focusing on attacking for a victory.
This one hurt even more than the Glen because I believed that we had a very competitive car moving onto race day. I feel for the Bodymotion crew, our supporters Trim Tex and Delaware Investments, and Cam, for failing to capitalize on such a strong weekend up to that point.
We are still a full two weeks away from Lime Rock and I already want to get back at it. We had a great car there last year and I expect the very same this year, especially with all of the lessons learned over the past ten days.
If there is one positive to come out of this last weekend at CTMP, it is the fact that our championship position is the very same leaving as it was when we arrived. It certainly could have been a whole lot worse considering how eventful the race was for us.
For now though, it is time to reset, refocus, and plan on how to attack the final five races of the 2017 Continental Tire Challenge season.