J-F LABERGE TAKES A WEEKEND DOUBLEHEADER AS PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE CANADA BY MICHELIN BEGINS
The fastest growing single-make series in North America sees series rookie win both Saturday and Sunday races in the Victoria Day weekend race event at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
As the first race weekend of the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin came to a close, two facts were made perfectly clear: there are new names and faces to be reckoned with and there are old ones as well. While Jean-Frédéric Laberge, who is new to the series this year, won both on Saturday and Sunday, he was surrounded by familiar names from last year’s series like defending champion Perry Bortolotti and the ultra quick Marco Cirone.
“This was a spectacular weekend for Canadian Motorsports,” observed Joe Lawrence, President and CEO of Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd (PCC). “It was another exciting day of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge racing – close, hard-fought, but clean. It was amazing to watch 21 cars take the green flag today, which represents a four-fold growth in just one season. ”
“We had a great crowd come out, especially on Sunday, said Laurance Yap, Porsche’s Manager of Marketing for PCC. “And most of all, we can’t say enough about what the new track management has done to improve Mosport International. After all they did, it had to be renamed and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park deserves part of the credit. This track can now re-take its place among the legendary tracks of the motorsports world.”
Race One – Saturday, May 19th
As part of the festivities, David Deacon, former President and CEO of Porsche Cars Canada, and the founding father of Porsche single make racing in the 1980’s enthusiastically sent the field on its way as the honorary starter.
When that first green flag of the season dropped, the race for the points began between five drivers; Jean-Frédéric Laberge, Etienne Borgeat, Perry Bortolotti, Marco Cirone and Carlos de Quesada.
It was a heated battle to the top for the five in contention. Warmer temperatures made for a slicker racing surface, so tire wear and management was key to most team strategy, allowing some to push for the lead earlier, while others conserved to make the most of their final efforts. But competition was fierce nonetheless throughout the race as the spread among the top five in Platinum was covered by merely two seconds.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck for Marco Cirone, as a broken throttle linkage ended his day with merely a few laps to go. Carlos de Quesada shared a similar fate as fading rubber and less grip ultimately moved him down the scoring charts and out of contention for the Platinum class crown.
Returning series' veterans Dr. Robert Seitz and Shaun McKaigue both ran a hotly contested battle for their class wins, and in the few remaining laps were able to seize the Silver and Gold wins respectively.
Professional Canadian sports car driver, Kyle Marcelli, was the on-track leader for the entire race. Sponsored by Pfaff Automotive Partners of Toronto, Marcelli is running as an "unclassified" or ineligible entrant in the series to promote awareness for IMSA's Developmental Series as a conduit to the American Le Mans Series presented by Patrón competition, as well as advancing his racing resume.
"These guys are out there racing for points," the young Canadian star said. "And its not really my position to be out there messing up there race. So I just tried to get out front and really learn my craft and what this car can do. We made lots of changes overnight and I just LOVED the car. It was a blast to drive from the green to the checkered."
Race Two – Sunday, May 20th
Sunday produced another huge crowd at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park who once again were treated to excellent racing throughout the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin pack.
Throughout the entire race, the Platinum class battle for the lead was covered by six seconds. In the end, Jean-Frédéric Laberge took a second win by 4.1 second over second place finisher Carlos de Quesada who in turn beat out third place finisher and former GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin race winner, Marco Cirone who was elated at the new turn of events.
"Yesterday was a really big disappointment for me," he said. "I had first in our category locked up and with eight or nine minutes left I was going down the straightaway and the throttle linkage just broke and I was just devastated. The aggravation was terrible. But today was a tough race and the track started to get slippery because of the heat and the man in front of me in the No. 21 (Laberge) was just AWESOME and I could not make up any ground. He kept that distance and didn't make any mistakes and my hat's off to him. He was incredible."
Once again, Kyle Marcelli used his ALMS prototype experience to pull out to a 16.895 second lead by the end of the race. It wasn’t easy for Marcelli however, as he and Jean-Frédérick Laberge passed the overall lead back and forth for the first three laps, before settling in for the remainder of the race.
"Today was not easy," said Laberge of his battle with Marcelli. "The track was really slippery. But I was really calm in the car and waiting for the end of the race because people were really pushing like crazy out there. They were pushing me, and at the end, managing the tires was the best strategy because I was able to leave them in the dust. I am really happy with the SpeedMerchants crew and my car just stuck like glue."
Designed to develop new drivers and prepare them for competition in the American Le Mans Series, Porsche Cars Canada Ltd, in partnership with Porsche Motorsport North America and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), entered into a two-year agreement for the 20th GT3 Cup Challenge Series in the world.
The inaugural 2011 season consisted of six races and produced some of the best sports car competition Canada had seen in many a year. When the dust settled after the season’s final race, Perry Bortolotti, Shaun McKaigue and Bob Seitz won their respective Platinum, Gold and Silver class Championships.
Now, in it's second season, with Michelin, one of Porsche’s global technology partners, coming on-board as a sponsor, the series has gathered a considerable momentum heading in to the new season.
The next race for the Canadian competitors takes place at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in conjunction with the Canadian Grand Prix on June 10th.