“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That theme held true in many aspects for the Seventh round of the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series, when North America’s premier professional street stock endurance racing championship visited Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s iconic 2.5-mile road course on July 10-13, 2014.
Same Track, Different Name: The track, formerly known as Mosport, has been significantly revamped as Canadian Tire Motorsports Park over the past couple years. The result of the remodeling and rebranding is a vastly improved facility that still maintains the track’s original layout…one of the few tracks in the world that has remained unchanged since its opening in 1961.
Same Cars and Drivers, Different Series: The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge last visited the track in 2008, when the series was known as the KONI Challenge. Even with different cars under a different title, fans will recognize some of the names on the podium six years ago: Joe Foster, Scott Maxwell, Hugh Plumb, Mike Canney, Billy Johnson, and Tommy Milner. The first- and second-place finishers drove Mustangs. Johnson and Milner shared a BMW Z4.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is located a few dozen miles from Toronto, Ontario. The cool and dry temperatures and beautiful scenery surrounding the racecourse welcomed back many of the competitors from years past. The weekend started off with at test day on Wednesday, followed by practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday, and the two-and-a-half hour race on Saturday.
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park’s 2.5-mile layout features ten turns, with only one of them (Moss Corner) being tight. The remaining nine turns are extremely large and fast. The layout favors cars with horsepower and good cornering balance. With only one major braking zone, passing is difficult.
Even though the Camaros were expected to be strong in the race, the hometown favorites for the weekend were the Multimatic Mustangs. The team, headquartered in nearby Markham, Ontario has had great success at the track (with its longtime driver Scott Maxwell winning the last event of the series at the track in 2008).
In practice, John Edwards and Trent Hindman led the way in their No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 with a lightning-fast 1:27.050 time, followed by Jade Buford and Toronto resident Scott Maxwell behind the wheel of their No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R. As expected, the Camaro Z/28.Rs were not far behind (sandbagging, perhaps?) with Eric Curran and Lawson Aschenbach (No. 01 CKS Camaro) and Robin Liddel and Andrew Davis (No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro) third and fourth quickest, respectively. Series points leader (tied for first with Trend Hindman) Matt Plumb and co-driver Nick Longhi were fifth fastest in their No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche.
In qualifying, Andrew Davis qualified on pole by putting a 0.113-second gap on the field during his 1:27.591 lap—a new qualifying lap record for the track—driving the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R. Young gun Trent Hindman was second-fastest in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. Stevenson Motorsports teammate Matt Bell (No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R) was to start directly behind pole-sitter Davis, with Eric Curran in the No. 01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R completing the second row. Kurt Rezzetano put the No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R fifth on the grid—the best-qualifying Mustang. Jade Buford (No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R) would start alongside Rezzetano in the sixth spot.
On Saturday, the race festivities commenced with the customary grid walk where fans could get up close and personal with the cars and drivers of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. After pit lane was clear, the cars took to the track for their formation and pace laps. When the green flag waved, the racers jockeyed for position into turn one, though Andrew Davis held the lead in his No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R while teammate Matt Bell (No. 09 Camaro Z/28.R) tucked in behind.
During the opening laps, the two Stevenson Motorsports Camaros flew in formation and started putting a gap on the rest of the field. Trend Hindman (No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports M3) led the second pack of cars, and defended his postion from Eric Curran in the No. 01 CKS Camaro Z/28.R. Their battle allowed the front two Camaros of Davis and Bell to lap faster and grow their lead.
At the 37-minute mark, the Rum Bum Racing team called the No. 13 Porsche into the pits. Driver Nick Longhi handed the reigns over to co-driver Matt Plumb. Eric Curran followed suit ten minutes later and pitted his Camaro from 4th position. Co-driver Lawson Aschenback reentered the fray with fresh rubber and a full tank of fuel.
Ray Mason (#76 Subaru WRX) spun in turn three, and needed to be retrieved. Shrewdly, Matt Bell (running second in the No. 9 Camaro) and Trent Hindman (3rd in the No. 46 BMW) ducked into the pits before a full-course caution was called. This meant that Bell and Hindman could complete their pit stops and catch up to the back of the field while the rest of the cars circulated slowly behind the pace car…essentially giving them a half-lap on the field. Then when their competitors pit, Bell and Hindman can easily overtake the cars in the pits.
The Stevenson Motorsports team predictably called the sister car to the pits from the lead. Andrew Davis brought the No. 6 Camaro into the pits for fuel, tires, and to hand over diving duties to Robin Liddell. The shuffle saw the No. 46 BMW (with John Edwards now behind the wheel) take the lead followed by the No. 9 Camaro (now driven by Andy Lally) and Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 01 Camaro running third.
With an hour remaining, teams started calling their drivers into the pits to top off their fuel tanks. As the cars cycled through the pits and took on varying loads of fuel, Andy Lally in the No. 9 Camaro shuffled to the front, and that’s where he stayed for the remaining laps. The Multimatic Mustangs ,No. 158 and No. 15, came across the stripe second and third, respectively.
It was the first win of the season for Andy Lally, Matt Bell, and the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R (however their teammates Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis have two wins to their credit). Ian James and Billy Johnson rebounded from their disastrous start at Watkins Glen by finishing second at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in the No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R. Their teammates Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell finished third.
With the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 finishing fourth, Trent Hindman was able to squeak out a six-point advantage in the championship standings over Matt Plumb and the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche, which was collected when an ST-class BMW and the No. 00 Camaro tangled at the last corner on the last lap. Plumb was forced into the pit lane wall, but he limped across the line 9th.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge heads to Indianapolis for the next race on July 25th.