MONTREAL, QC. June 10, 2012 -- When asked what it was like to drive on the very same track as the top drivers in the world, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin regular Marco Cirone's repose was simple. A broad smile came to his face as he summed up his feelings in four words: "It is an honour."
The Grand Prix du Canada has been a fixture on the Formula One calendar for more than three decades. Run on Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, this year's main event was supported by, among other races, a round of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama.
The US series' entry list was boosted to 34 cars by the inclusion of 14 GT3 Cup Porsches from the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin series, which ran a "race within a race" as part of its 2012 championship schedule.
"It's hard to describe the feeling," said the Toronto-based Cirone. "To run here is very prestigious. The track is fast and very complex. Also, you are racing in front of the largest crowd you will probably ever see - well over 200,000, I think."
Ottawa-based Robert Miranda agreed. "It was a blast. In front of this size crowd with friends and family watching - well, it was amazing!"
The on-track activities were very exciting as well. While not eligible for the championship due to his professional race experience in the American Le Mans Series, the Pfaff/Fiorano Racing car of Barrie, Ontario's Kyle Marcelli finished third overall, a mere 2.172 seconds behind the overall winner, Californian Sean Johnston.
The real story however, was the emergence of a new GT3 Cup Challenge Canada race-winner, Etienne Borgeat. After finishing second and fifth respectively in the first two races of the season at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Victoria Day weekend series opener, Borgeat scored a convincing victory.
Borgeat eked out a three-second lead over previous series winner Cirone. Third place in the Platinum Class went to 2011 Series Champion Perry Bortolotti, who finished 17 seconds behind new teammate Cirone.
"I am super happy to have my first win here," said Borgeat, a Montreal native. "This sets us up nicely for the rest of the year. We want to win the championship." Borgeat did say that his win was not as easy as it looked. "It was the first time I have driven on the (US-series spec) Yokohamas. They are a fine tire, but have different characteristics from our normal (Canadian-series spec) Michelins." With Friday's practice session pretty much a wash-out due to rain, "we just went with the factory set-up and crossed our fingers. And it worked pretty good, I'd say!"
The winner of the first two races of the year, Jean-Frederic Laberge finished fourth after a difficult race, while still collecting valuable championship points.
In the Gold class, Bruce Gregory won again in his SpeedMerchants 2008 911 GT3 Cup car. "We were taking the long view here," said Gregory, a multiple Gold class winner. "We wanted to run a clean race and come out of this weekend in one piece," he added.
Second in Gold went to Robert Maranda with third place being taken by series regular Shaun McKaigue. "I wanted to be neat and tidy and be there at the end of the race," said McKaigue. "It worked pretty well. I felt I could have moved up a place, but I just ran out of race."
In attendance, as he is at all of the Carrera and GT3 Cup races that are run in conjunction with Formula 1, Michael Dreiser, Manager of International One-Make Series for Porsche Motorsports, was impressed with the success of the Canadian series.
"It was an absolute pleasure to be here," said Dreiser. "You can see the enthusiasm for the new (Canadian) series. They all ran a very tight, disciplined race and the crowd really enjoyed it. We are happy to be supporting F1 for the last 20 years."
Perhaps the only sad man in the paddock after the race was 2011 Silver class champion Bob Seitz. Because of the large entry, Silver class cars did not run in Montreal. "Today was hard," said Bob. "It's harder to watch all these guys out there running and not be out there with them than to race against them! That is for sure."
Additional information, including a downloadable schedule and competitor regulations, are available at http://www.imsaracing.net.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin features semi-professional drivers racing head to head in the largest single-make series in the world. Powered by one of the world’s most successful race cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, the multi-class structure of the series teaches drivers essential skills for an eventual career in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.