You won’t find them on any entry list. Their name only is featured on small decals on numerous Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
But when the staff of Bestline Auto Tech was announced as the winner of the Spirit of Speed Award last September during the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama awards banquet at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario, the entire room sprang to its feet and erupted in a rapturous standing ovation lasting more than a minute.
The award is annually presented in the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada series to an individual or entity that best represents the true racing spirit of Porsche.
Bestline’s crew, led by owner Vito Scavone, technical engineer Georges Bourque, mechanic and technician Matt Hardiman and team manager Chris Goessl, quietly yet proudly walked to the podium to accept the award amid the applause. Their remarks at the podium were sincere and brief.
The presentation was the perfect mirror of the style of Toronto-area Bestline, which in recent seasons has painstakingly prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars for many top Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama teams, including Mark Motors Racing and OpenRoad Racing.
Bestline has a good time at the track as one of the friendliest groups in the series, with laughter and good-natured ribbing always swirling in the air. But its staff doesn’t do much self-promotion, instead letting its work as one of the top Porsche prep shops in Canada do most of the talking.
“At the end of the day, we never needed all that much credit,” Hardiman said. “We must be doing something right. If you look around Canada, we probably take care of more Cup cars than any other shop in Canada.
“You come to our shop, and there aren’t big signs everywhere. But we have a good reputation, and we’re fair.”
A quick glance at the results proves Bestline also is very skilled at its craft.
Marco Cirone has won four consecutive Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Platinum Masters championships in a Mark Motors Racing Porsche prepared by Bestline.
Scott Hargrove captured the 2014 Platinum Cup championship and has won a series-record 19 races since 2014 in an OpenRoad Porsche prepared by Bestline.
Rookie Zach Robichon won two races and finished third in the Platinum Cup standings last season in a Bestline-tuned Porsche fielded by Mark Motors Racing.
“We’ve been very fortunate the last few years to have some very good drivers, which has made it a lot more fun, too,” Hardiman said. “We’ve had Scott Hargrove. We’ve had Marco Cirone. We’ve had Zach Robichon.”
Scavone is the founder and talisman of Bestline, which opened in the late 2000s while Scavone also was operating other auto-related businesses. But his roots in Porsche racing were planted in 1970 in Switzerland, where he had moved with his parents from their native Italy.
That year Scavone started his driving career in a Porsche 911, in hill climb competition. He also did some circuit racing in France before moving to Canada in the mid-1970s.
Scavone continued in regional sports car competition in Canada in a Porsche 944 Turbo before driving in IMSA competition in the early 1990s in a Tiga TG287 powered by a Ferrari engine.
By that time, Scavone also was running Antica Auto Body, a successful body and chassis shop. He met New Brunswick native Bourque, who went to work for him at Antica in the late 1980s.
Bourque also had a racing background, driving karts, stock cars and sports cars in the Canadian Maritimes before he turned his attention to the mechanical and engineering side of the sport.
Scavone and Bourque worked together at the body shop and also went racing, preparing cars for drivers in many series in Canada and the United States throughout the 1990s and 2000s. They raced in IMSA and GRAND-AM competition in America, including the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Twelve Hours of Sebring. They also competed in the 944 Turbo Cup, Can-Am GT Challenge and Canadian Challenge Cup in Canada.
Among the drivers who raced their cars were Johnny Unser and 2011 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee Rudy Bartling.
Hard work and meticulous preparation helped Scavone and Bourque form a winning partnership at the body shop and the racetrack. Their major victories included two overall wins in the Moosehead Grand Prix on the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“We’ve always succeeded,” Bourque said. “We’ve always done well."
Hardiman became an apprentice mechanic at age 18 for Bartling and has stayed in the sport for 22 years. He got to know Scavone and Bourque through the tight-knit Canadian racing fraternity and ended up going to work for them.
A turning point came for Bestline in 2010. Canadian regional sports car and touring car racer Cirone wanted to make the big jump to Porsche GT3 Cup racing.
Friends, family and fellow competitors scoffed at Toronto resident Cirone’s ambition. But Bestline didn’t, and they prepared a 911 GT3 Cup car for him.
“They’re the only guys that believed in me in 2010 when I said I want to buy a Cup car,” Cirone said. “Other people thought I was just losing my mind. They said I would finish last. These are the only guys that said: ‘Marco, we think you can do it. We’ll back you 100 percent.’”
That confidence was justified after a humorous first test.
“He had never driven a Cup car before, so it was funny,” Bourque said of Cirone. “He couldn’t find reverse. We put him on the track, and he said, ‘This car is too beautiful to race.’
“Once he was in the car for an hour or so, he was into the car, pushing the car and getting comfortable in the car. We were going better and better. We did the Sebring test, and he was getting better, mid-pack. And then we did the race. That’s how we started.”
Cirone finished an impressive fifth and third in his first two races ever in the car, against the deep field of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA competitors in March 2010 at Sebring International Raceway during Twelve Hours of Sebring race week.
He went on to compete in the Canadian GT3 Cup series since its inception and has become a stalwart in that championship while poaching podium results during the team’s occasional forays in the American series.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have these guys behind me,” Cirone said. “I wouldn’t go racing with anyone else. It just wouldn’t be the same.
“They’re not just my friends. These guys are like family. They’re in my heart. I’ve had the time of my life with them. They’ve always looked out for me. I love them all.”
The success with Cirone and other drivers helped attract more customers for Bestline. Scavone sold his other businesses about five years ago to focus on continuing to grow Bestline with Bourque and Hardiman, now his business partners at Bestline.
Scavone and Bourque have worked together for nearly 30 years, building a bond that goes far beyond the shop and racetrack. They both attribute their friendship to a shared passion for racing and Porsche and knowing their respective strengths.
“We all have our forte,” Scavone said. “That what makes it a very, very super relationship and partnership in business, when everyone has their forte.
“Mine now is not much, but I was an expert in chassis, springs and all that stuff. And Georges is setup, and Matt is a super mechanic. That’s what makes it very interesting.”
And that successful formula continues to attract customers who recognize Bestline speaks softly but has a big trophy case.
“I think that’s No. 1, experience,” Scavone said when asked for the secret of Bestline’s success. “The knowledge we all have. We created Bestline. Everybody knows what Bestline is today. We have a great reputation and great guys.”