O Canada. O Canada!
So we were back up north for Rounds 7 and 8 of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. After what would be called a disappointing weekend at Watkins Glen, I was ready for some redemption at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Having raced at this track previously, I had an idea of what to expect. But the reality would be something much sweeter.
From the get-go, the Wright Motorsports guys had installed a very balanced setup. Around a track like CTMP, a car’s balance is the biggest contributor to a driver’s confidence level. It’s one of the largest cliches in motorsport, but I think you can call CTMP a roller coaster.
To attack these blind entries with full confidence, you need to know that the car will not do anything unpredictable under you. Having this setup on the car helped me get up to speed during the first day without many issues.
During the second practice day, I focused on consistency with old tires. I was happy with my times through the day with the tires that I was on, but I don’t think I have had that much fun in a race car before.
When the car is balanced but with less than ideal grip on a track with rolling corners and hills, doing 15 laps in a row is just plain fun. I remember telling myself early in the second session to not even look at the lap times and to just enjoy the next 10 laps.
When that session came to an end and I was still P3 with old tires, I was feeling good and excited for qualifying and the first race the next day.
Saturday morning was a dive into the unknown. I had not been on new tires during the weekend, and my first hot lap would be a question to me. I knew corner speeds would be higher on fresh Yokohamas, but I did not know by how much.
After three or four hot laps, I was told I was P3 and about half a second off the pole. With a reference point, I put my head down and set off on two quick laps.
When I pulled into my pit, I was told it was another double pole. The sense of relief was strong, as it is so hard to pass at CTMP: I knew I was in the best place for two solid races.
The first race was a very interesting 45 minutes. I had Marco Cirone next to me on the front row with Angel Benitez Jr. and Jesse Lazare starting behind.
I knew a good start might lead to a possible breakaway early on. I put my head down and was able to get the lead in Turn 1 and tried to set sail into the sunset.
Angel had other ideas, though. He pressured me through the entire race, only staying no more than a second behind me. I just focused on putting clean, consistent laps together for 45 minutes and not sliding the tires.
Traffic was a factor in the first race as Angel and I caught a pack of lapped cars with about 15 minutes to go. Angel tried to make a move in the chaos of traffic, but no such move was completed.
I was ecstatic to win the first race of the weekend and to do it in a flag-to-flag fashion. I also was so happy to bring the team morale back up after some heavy incidents during the practice days. But there was still one more race to go.
Sunday’s second race started a bit different than Saturday’s, as Angel started next to me on the front row. Turn 1 was a battle, but I came out ahead and tried to sail into the sunset again.
Just like Saturday, Angel would be right on my bumper for the entire race. Just like the previous race, the traffic was a close call. Angel tried moves but nothing stuck, and I came home to my first-ever weekend sweep.
Rounds 7 and 8 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park were the closest I have ever had to perfection. Double pole and two flag-to-flag victories is a new high for me, and something I want to have in the future!
Now it’s time to get to work for the next two rounds of the championship at the fast and frantic Road America. Let’s keep this momentum going, eh?