Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Season Finale Friday Notebook
Friday, September 1, 2017

The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama competitors entered the final race weekend of the season facing several challenges. While the points battle in Gold Cup has been decisively clinched by young Roman De Angelis in the No. 78 entry for Mark Motors Racing, Platinum Cup and the Platinum Masters Championship are still tight, and anyone’s game.

And if that weren’t enough, add in a third race to be run just after Friday’s two practice sessions, making the season finale an all-out battle to grab as many points as possible, with Platinum Cup leader Scott Hargrove sitting in the “hot seat” at the top of the charts.

Round 5 from Watkins Glen International was rescheduled due to an incident on the first lap that impeded competition, forcing IMSA officials to abandon the race and reschedule for a later date.

Utilizing the starting grid that was previously set for the race during Watkins Glen qualifying, with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA entries extracted, it was Zach Robichon of Ottawa, Ontario, that had the advantage in his No. 98 Platinum entry for Mark Motors Racing, leading the pack to the Green Flag for the first of three 45-minute races of the weekend.

But that advantage dwindled as the race progressed, as second-place starter Scott Hargrove of Tsawwassen, British Columbia, in the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry for Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol immediately put the pressure on Robichon and continued to turn it up as the laps ticked off, checking for opportunities and dancing in Robichon’s mirrors.

Despite Robichon’s clean lines and strong pace, Hargrove was able to outmaneuver him on Lap 12, taking the lead with a brilliant pass, and never looked back, logging his ninth victory thus far this season in only 12 rounds of competition and putting him ever closer to a set of keys for a lease on new 2017 911 GT3 courtesy of Porsche Cars Canada Ltd.

Robichon remained in step with Hargrove for several laps further, but a peaceful Friday evening drive was not to be, as the No. 31 of Michael de Quesada and Alegra Motorsports encroached on his turf.

De Quesada started in fourth, but moved up into third on the first lap when the No. 69 of Remo Ruscitti for OpenRoad Racing left a hole open and de Quesada, along with Patrick Dussault and Marco Cirone, took advantage and moved up.

As Robichon and de Quesada navigated the 10-turn road course in lock-step, it became clear that while de Quesada was quick around the 3.96-km (2.459-mile) track, he didn’t have enough to overtake Robichon and the two finished in second and third respectively on the Platinum Podium.

While the top three cars built over a 44-second gap on the field, the intensity began to progressively dial up for positions four through seven.

Cirone, who took advantage of the initial gap created by Ruscitti coasted the majority of the race in fourth position overall, seemingly out for a leisurely drive with a good gap on the rest of the field. But behind him, the battle was getting heated between the No. 77 of Dussault for Lauzon Autosport/GT Racing/Porsche Rive-Sud and Ruscitti.

Dussault, of Montreal, Quebec, defended his fifth-place position, but Vancouver native Ruscitti was all over his bumper as the clock counted down, popping out at every opportunity to overtake.

With only minutes remaining, Ruscitti finally found his opening on the inside of Turn 10, snaking around Dussault to gain the advantage. From there, his eyes were firmly on the back of Cirone’s No. 88, dialing up the speed to engage in a last-lap dogfight with the Platinum Masters contender. Despite Cirone’s best efforts, Ruscitti made his final pass on the very last lap of the race, taking fourth-place overall.

Undaunted, Cirone captured his seventh Platinum Masters victory and finished in the top five overall.

But the story continued. As the leaders approached lapped traffic, and it seemed the progression of the field would become convoluted, another strong battle emerged between Tim Sanderson in his No. 07 DFC Motorsport/Speedstar Motorsport entry for Downtown Porsche and Harry Rosen and his usual, but unusual rival De Angelis.

Despite the fact that the two are in two separate classes, Sanderson is currently second in points in the Platinum Masters championship for drivers 45 years and older, and De Angelis runs in Gold Cup – for cars from years 2014-2016, the two have run bumper-to-bumper nearly the entire season.

But while De Angelis, of Belle River, Ontario, could challenge Sanderson, he didn’t carry enough pace to overtake.

Sanderson finished in seventh overall and took the second step on the Platinum Masters Podium.

De Angelis had already secured the Gold Cup Championship at the last round in Trois-Rivieres, but like Hargrove, he accrued his ninth class victory and showed no signs of resting on his laurels.

Gaining two positions from his 12th starting position on the grid, Orey Fidani in the No. 13 entry for Pfaff Motorsports/Orlando Corporation rounded out the Gold Podium just behind De Angelis.

Starting from the back of the field due to a driver change, Max Tullman in the No. 83 entry for Tullman Walker Racing/Porsche Centre North Toronto finished in ninth place overall, earning him the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for advancing the most number of positions in Platinum. 

Practice:

The drivers began the day with two 40-minute practice sessions designed to not only prepare for Round 5 racing, but also for a 20-minute qualifying session that will take place Saturday morning at 8:55 a.m.

Cooler temperatures in the region added an interesting element to both practice sessions, but as anticipated, it was Hargrove who set the fastest combined practice time of one minute, 18.710 seconds on Lap 4 of the cooler morning session to lead his closest points rival Robichon Friday.

As the track surface developed throughout the day, it was de Quesada that found his footing and increased his pace in the second session, to fall in behind Robichon on the practice charts in third in Platinum.

In Platinum Masters, it was points leader Cirone who held the fastest lap times, set in the second session, to end up in fourth overall at the end of practice and leading into rescheduled Round 5.

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

The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama season will be highlighted with four televised races on The Sports Networks (TSN), Réseau des sports (RDS) and Motorsport.tv in Europe.

The combined Rounds 11 and 12 will be aired on TSN Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m. (ET). They will run on RDS2 Sunday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. and Motorsports.com Saturday, Oct. 14, at 9 p.m.

Schedule (all times ET):

Qualifying: 8:55 - 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2

Round 1: 2:50-3:55 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2

Round 2: 9:45-10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 3

Race Coverage:

Live Streaming: Race 2 on Sunday, Sept. 3, will be streamed live on IMSA.TV

Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA app for iOS

Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive

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