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Continental Tire IMSA Driver Spotlight: Kyle Marcelli

This week’s Continental Tire IMSA Driver Spotlight: Kyle Marcelli…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Driver Spotlight: Kyle Marcelli
Driver, No. 80 Mantella Autosport/MBRP Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R
Follow: @KyleMarcelli

How had the transition been from a PC car to a Porsche now to a Camaro?

“It’s easier to go backwards. It’s easier to go from a high-profile car to a slower car. I adapted to the touring cars quite easy. I really like the racing, the racing is very close. In GS cars you can race closer and rub a little paint whereas in Prototypes you can’t really do that. The Porsche is a unique car that takes a unique driving style since it has so much weight in the rear of the car.

“The Camaro is a beast. It’s fun to drive because it looks so cool and I enjoy driving it. It takes a different style from the Porsche because it’s more “point and shoot” and a heavier car than the Porsche. The Porsche is more momentum based. You have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the car and change your driving style to adapt.”

How do you find a rhythm with such large gaps in between races to start the season?

“We’ve done a good job staying busy, staying active. We’ve tested everywhere. We were at Daytona before the race, Sebring before the race testing and then for Watkins Glen we did a private test. That’s been good for us to keep active and busy. The race weekends are so condensed, I’ve turned no more than 10 laps (here at Watkins Glen), and I’m going into the race tomorrow so if we didn’t test, I’d be in a bad place. It’s nice that the team is willing, capable and has the budget to do some testing. It goes a long way.”

You grew up near Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Take us for a lap around the track.

“It’s a very fast track with a lot of elevation change and very little runoff room. You have to go fast and take risks to be fast and with having very little runoff, it can be scary. In Prototype racing it’s difficult to overtake because the track is so fast and the cars are so downforce dependent that as soon as you get close to the car in front of you, you lose your downforce and thus, lose your grip. And there’s not a lot of braking zones. It’s just one fast corner after another.

“Usually overtaking happens in the brake zones so for Prototypes is difficult to pass. Qualifying up front is important. In the GTD cars and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge there’s a lot more passing going on because we don’t rely on downforce as much for grip. We can get right on the bumper of the guy ahead of us and maintain that position so we can kind of pass anywhere. The speeds are slower in the Conti Series so you can play around with the car a little more and there’s more room for error which makes the racing good because guys take risks.

You’re considered the pro driver in your car. How do you help your co-driver heading into a race?

“We do a number of things. Before the race we’ll start off doing a little simulator work just to get familiar with the track, the basic line, reference points, what to do in what corner, just the basics. When we get to the track we do a track walk and get a little more in detail of reference points, curbs, things like that. As soon as we go on track we’re recording data. We overlay his lap to my lap and look at where I’m stronger and why and what I’m doing to be quicker. Sometimes it can be difficult being the coach because sometimes it can be difficult explaining what it is you’re doing.

“My co-driver, Martin Barkey, and I, have had a relationship for a few years and he’s a listener, there’s no ego there. He wants to learn and he’s come a long way. In the Porsche last year we were anywhere from three to four seconds apart at times and this year he’s cut the gap in half and is down to two seconds now which is impressive. He likes the car and it suits his driving style. One of the biggest challenges that he’s overcome is qualifying and qualifying closer to the front has made our race results better.”

You did ice racing in the off-season, tell us about that.

“It’s like driving in the rain with 10 times less grip. It’s all about car control. You’re not driving anything special. I was in a Honda Civic and a Volkswagen Rabbit, both probably 15 years old. It’s like half racing and half demolition derby. The car is never straight. You’re just sliding around getting comfortable with the weight.

“It was in Northern Ontario in a place called Mindon. They make a race track on a baseball diamond and the track goes left and right and has a big, long straightaway. We probably do over 100kmp on the straightaway on ice. The class I ran was called rubber to ice, no studs in the tire.”

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