MONTREAL, Quebec – It was a remarkable weekend for Porsche GT3 Cup drivers and teams at the Canadian Grand Prix.
It was the first-ever combined event for the IMSA Ultra94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama and its American equivalent, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. A staggering 35 cars lined up for the pair of races on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
Temperatures were unseasonably cold for both outings, hovering around the low Celsius teens with light rain threatening to play a factor.
For Mark Motors Racing, this combination delivered a mix of fortune with drivers Zacharie Robichon and Marco Cirone trading places in each having a day of success and a day of disappointment.
On Saturday, while other competitors diced heatedly in front of him, Robichon kept calm and drove the No. 78 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to an uneventful 3rd place finish on the Canadian podium.
Meanwhile, further back in the field, Cirone had an altercation with another competitor. While the other driver was able to continue, Cirone logged a DNF in the No. 88.
“(Saturday) was a tough day for me,” Cirone explains. “I lost some positions, and as I was trying to get them back I accidentally locked up my brakes. I spun the car and took out one of my competitors. I blame myself for that, and I apologize to Ricardo Perez. Sometimes things like that happen.”
On Sunday, the fortunes of the Mark Motors Racing drivers were reversed. A light rain led to the race beginning under yellow and the field spending several laps behind the pace car. When the green finally fell there were only 17 minutes remaining, which left some drivers eager to make big statements early.
Going into the hairpin on the first green-flag lap, Robichon was making a pass on a competitor to the inside in the hairpin. They made contact, and the other car spun and lost multiple positions. Robichon was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, which he dropped out of second position overall to serve.
The beneficiary this time was Cirone, who came away with an overall Platinum Masters win, a Canadian Platinum Masters win, and second place on the Canadian platinum podium.
“(Sunday) was a completely different day,” Cirone says. “I tried to stay completely clean. I was so careful out there. Sometimes in this type of racing if you don’t make any mistakes you’re going to finish well, and I think today I was rewarded for being very safe and clean. I’m very happy about that.”
“The race started out really well,” Robichon adds. “I had the speed to win. I got the drive-through penalty and I don’t necessarily think it was right, but I have to accept their decision. It was really disappointing because the Mark Motors crew did a fantastic job. The No. 78 car was incredibly fast. I’m really happy with how I’ve come into this series, and I’m looking forward to going to Watkins Glen and putting this behind me. We’ll be back to fight another day.”
The next event on the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama calendar is the second and final combined weekend for the Canadian and American grids and another step as teams work toward the North American Cup, taking place at Watkins Glen International from June 30 to July 3, 2016.