Friday, June 9, 2017

One of the pinnacles of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama series schedule, the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada at Montreal, Quebec’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve proved challenging to the 18-car field of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars Friday as competitors took the track for a 40-minute practice session followed by a 30-minute qualifying effort.

Located at the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics, the legendary 14-turn, 2.71-mile (4.361 km) street circuit winds through Parc Jean-Drapeau, located on the artificial island of Notre Dame on the Saint Lawrence river. And if the location isn’t enough to inspire greatness, the fact that the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada competitors are sharing the asphalt with the Formula One World Championship is enough to make even the most jaded thrill with excitement.

In the first practice session of the day, the field adjusted quickly and easily to the course, with many of the drivers enjoying a return trip to the venue, as this will be the series’ fourth time in competition at this venue.

Hargrove established his boundaries early in the first and only practice session – jumping over the No. 98 of Zacharie Robichon in his Mark Motors Platinum Cup entry – on the very last lap with a total time of one minute, 39.612 seconds in his No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol entry to take the top honors heading into the end-of-day qualifying run.

There was no shortage of drama for the 30-minute qualifying session at the end of the day with strategy and timing playing a key role.

As the green flag dropped, Hargrove and the Pfaff Motorsports crew waited patiently in the pits to see how the on-track action would play out. With only 19 minutes remaining in the session, Hargrove headed out on track to test his mettle against session leaders Robichon and the No. 69 OpenRoad Racing entry of Remo Ruscitti. 

On his seventh lap out, Hargrove slowed down to pull a significant gap, and blazed a fast lap to push himself to the front of the field. Not quite satisfied, the Tsawwassen, British Columbia native continued to improve his lap time for a final qualifying lap of 1:38.629 on his ninth lap to put him on the Pole for Saturday’s race.

But the drama continued. With only five minutes remaining in the session, Ruscitti laid down a flier and bumped himself up to second position on his 14th lap and continued to put on speed in hopes of catching Hargrove.

But wait, there was more. With only one minute and thirty seconds left in the session, Robichon pulled a gap and clipped Ruscitti’s time to finish the session on the outside of the front row in second position in class.

And while the Platinum cars were locked in battle throughout the session, the No. 78 of Roman De Angelis and Mark Motors continued to improve his lap times from the morning practice session, landing him in the top spot in the Gold Cup class (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars from model year 2014 through 2016), and eighth position overall on the starting grid.

And in “local news,” the top qualifying Masters classman in Platinum Cup qualifying was the No. 2 of Etienne Borgeat and Sesame/GT Racing of Montreal, Quebec.

The series has an autograph session Saturday, June 18 at 11:15 at the Yokohama Tire Center in the paddock, followed by the first of two 30-minute sprint races for the weekend, at 5:00 p.m. (ET).

For more information about the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, visit www.imsa.com, and follow hashtag #GT3CAN at @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.