Toronto native battles competitors and searing heat for impressive wins
BOWMANVILLE, July 23, 2011 – It is every athlete’s dream to win in front of his family and friends. So was it for Toronto native Marco Cirone, who missed the second round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada; had he been there, the championship race in the Platinum class might have been much tighter. As it was, Cirone became the third competitor to win a series race, after Perry Bortolotti’s three wins and Martin Harvey’s win at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Quebec.
The first race of the weekend took place late on Saturday, in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave that gripped the Toronto area for the early part of the weekend. “I was seeing temperatures of 53 degrees Celsius inside the car,” said eventual winner Marco Cirone, who was doing double duty by racing in both the American GT3 Cup Challenge and the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada. “It was a very long, hot day for me; first the US GT3 Cup race, then running in our race late in the afternoon. It was too much, I think.” When the cars lined up on the grid just prior to the start, it was easy to see that this was the largest field to date for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada – 18 cars, of which 16 took the green flag.
“I think this race puts a cap on a fabulous season of racing,” observed Joe Lawrence, President and CEO of Porsche Cars Canada. “We always tried to keep our expectations in check. Initially, we had small fields, but fantastic racing. This race is the reward for all of the hard work we, Porsche Motorsport North America and IMSA have done this year. We have just put together plans for an expanded schedule that includes more venues for next year and couldn’t be happier.”
When the green flag fell at 4:50 PM, the track temperature was still hovering in the high 30’s. Almost immediately, Cirone passed Melanie Snow and eventual third-place finisher Carlos Gomez. “My team told me I was faster than Randy (Oswald), so I pulled in behind him for a few laps. He was very difficult to pass.” Cirone made his move in turn five. “We were side by side, but he was a gentleman; he didn’t turn in on me. Randy’s a great driver and we’ve raced against each other many times.”
The first lap was not without excitement. Martin Harvey, the ICAR winner, looped his Porsche GT3 Cup car coming onto the front straight. In a stunning display of car control, he was able to keep it off the wall. The remainder of the field managed to avoid Harvey and he rejoined the race in last place, eventually passing several cars to finish 12th.
Cirone pulled out a small lead over Randy Oswald which held to a second or two for most of the race. Unlike the previous four races in the series, the cars then began to settle into separate groups. Drivers chalked this up to the ever-more acute problems they were experiencing with the heat. Eventual second-place finisher Randy Oswald was feeling it. “It was really hot out there. My cool suit failed a couple of laps into the race. All of the water wound up accumulating in my lap, and with the water no longer circulating, my cool suit immediately became a hot suit,” he said. “I would have loved a full-course yellow towards the end.”
In the end, the exhausted and overheated Cirone worked through the fatigue to take his first win in the inaugural season of the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada. The race ended just in time for him. “I don’t think I could have done another lap. I was starting to feel dizzy and I was about to radio my crew and tell them I was coming in before I hurt somebody! Good thing the race ended when it did.”
The race also produced the first GT3 Cup Challenge Canada champions. By virtue of three wins, a second and a fifth in this race, Perry Bortolotti won the series championship in the Platinum class. Also claiming their crowns were Shaun McKaigue in the Gold class and Robert Seitz in Silver.
Saturday top 10 finishers
2. Randy Oswald Pickering, ON Platinum – 3.826
3. Carlos Gomez Bogota, Colombia Platinum – 16.201
4. Melanie Snow Pleasant Grove, UT Platinum – 24.500
5. Perry Bortolotti Kanata, ON Platinum – 26.598
6. Jim Norman Tampa, FL Platinum – 43.834
7. Jim Baker New York, NY Platinum – 1:02.160
8. Michael Levitas Baltimore, MD Gold – 1 lap
9. Shaun McKaigue Guildford, ON Gold – 1 Lap
10. Jim Hoddinott Ottawa, ON Platinum – 1 Lap
On Sunday, the 8:55 AM start time made the event more about racing and not just survival. After the start, the race shaped up as a repeat of Saturday’s battles as Cirone pulled out in front, with Oswald and Gomez in hot pursuit. “My mirrors were full of Randy Oswald,” said Cirone. “In some places he was faster than me and was almost touching my bumper. So finally, I grabbed the rear-view mirror thinking, I can’t take this anymore! All I could see were his eyes in my mirror! So I moved it around and hoped for the best.” “We were really chasing Marco hard,” said Oswald. “I thought if I pushed him hard enough he might make a mistake.”
Oswald seemed to be setting Cirone up for a pass for the lead going in to turn five, but found a slippery substance as he turned in. “I did a half spin and locked up the brakes. The tires were flat-spotted after that I just tried to just hang on.” In the excitement, Carlos Gomez went by into second and ook off after Cirone. “I was catching Marco, but I just ran out of time. But I’m very happy. I was getting faster throughout the weekend and this was my first time here. Mosport is the best track in North America, no question!”
The highlight of the day for Cirone may have taken place in victory lane. “I was especially happy to win this race – my father was here watching me with all of his friends and I wanted to make him proud.” Judging by the smile on the elder Cirone’s face, it was mission accomplished.
Sunday top 10 finishers
2. Carlos Gomez Bogota, Colombia Platinum – 4.799
3. Randy Oswald Pickering, ON Platinum – 13.465
4. Perry Bortolotti Kanata, ONT Platinum – 15.909
5. Jim Norman Tampa, FL Platinum – 40.729
6. Jim Baker New York, NY Platinum – 43.553
7. Martin Harvey Berthierville Platinum – 1:14.955
8. Shaun McKaigue Guildford, ON Gold – 1:21.073
9. Bruce Gregory Kanata, ON Gold – 1:21.431
10. Chris Thompson Englewood, CO Platinum – 1 lap
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada is divided into three classes; Platinum Cup, featuring the more powerful 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars; Gold Cup, which includes 2005½ – 2009 Porsche GT3 Cup cars, and the Silver Cup class for 2002 – 2005½ 996 Porsches. All three classes run on Michelin Cup N1 tires. Three events have comprised the inaugural season: Calabogie Motorsports Park in May, Circuit ICAR in June the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. The season’s overall champion will be presented with a Tudor Heritage Chronograph, provided by Rolex Canada. Additional information, including regulations, is available at http://www.imsaracing.net.