Paul Holton of Orlando, Fla., Dean Copeland of of Grasonville, Md., and local favorite P.J. Groenke of Richmond Hill, Ont., captured the three Touring Car divisions Saturday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the Pirelli World Challenge Victoria Day Speedfest.
The 40-minute Round 3 TC race was shortened to nine laps after the red flag was thrown due to a four-car incident in turn 3 of the 2.458-mile, 10-turn CTMP road circuit. Cameron Maugeri, Chris Ohmacht, Samantha Tan and Tom O’Gorman were involved in the mishap that blocked a portion of the track and forced the stoppage of the event. Due to track repairs, the PWC stewards made the decision to end the race Saturday.
Holton, the 20-year-old racer from Orlando, Fla., grabbed the lead from his pole position in the No. 71 C360R Audi R3 LMS Clubsport and never looked back as he expanded his lead to five seconds over Nick Wittmer of Montreal, Que., in the No. 91 ST Racing BMW M235iR at the seven-lap mark. A yellow flag period closed up the TC field but Holton jumped out to an advantage at the green flag.
When the red flag was thrown, it was Holton winning followed by Nick Wittmer, Karl Wittmer also of Montreal, Que., in the No. 99 Honda Ste-Rose Racing Honda Accord, Cody Ellsworth of Jupiter, Fla., in the RacerInk Motorsports Porsche Cayman and defending TC champion Toby Grahovec of Celina, Tex., in the No. 1 Classic BMW BMW M235iR.
“The BMW (Wittmer) has a bit more horsepower than we do so I knew at the start that Nick (Wittmer) was going to get me into turn one,” said Holton. “I would have to stick on the inside and then I could go on the outside of him on turn two, I had gone through it a thousand different ways in my head and it ended up working out. A few laps later we went to that full course caution and I managed to time the restart really well and got a big gap going into turn one. It’s unfortunate the race ended so early, it’s not the way I want to race or win a race but I’ll take the points, put them in a bag and move on to tomorrow.”
Copeland’s win came after a spirited battle with reigning TCA class champion Elivan Goulart of Shelton, Conn., and VIR double race winner Matthew Fassnacht of Madison, N.J. Some great wheel-to-wheel action saw the three Mazda drivers in a tremendous race before Copeland’s No. 07 Copeland Motorsports Mazda Global MX-5 Cup held the leading margin when the red flag appeared. Goulart took second in his No. 70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 with Fassnacht rounding out the TCA podium with his No. 74 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5.
“It was definitely a tight battle,” said Copeland. “I knew that Elivan (Goulart) was not going to give me any room to breathe so I had to settle in and not look at my mirrors since he was giving me all I could handle. The car was handling really well, doing everything I wanted; the new Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car is a great transfer-over car right into PWC and it does everything a driver can ask for. I have to thank everyone at Mazda Motorsports and Longwood Racing for giving us a turnkey car that is a blast to drive and with the Pirelli tires in this series, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season and definitely getting out there tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little less flag-filled, but we’ll take what we can get and at the end of the day a win is a win.”
For Groenke, the victory was extremely sweet as the local Toronto-area racer secured his first Pirelli World Challenge victory at his home track with a late pass for the win. Driving the No. 25 Tech Sport Racing/Verax.com/Tundra Technical Solutions Chevrolet Sonic, Groenke stayed close with pole-winner Jake Pipal of Oakdale, Calif., in the No. 6 Pipal Racing Honda Fit throughout the TCB event before making the pass for the lead on the restart on lap seven.
At the red flag for the end of the race, Groenke held off Pipal and TCB pole winner Canaan O’Connell of Chandler, Ariz., in the No. 24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic for his initial PWC class win.
“Being my home track I was right behind Jake, got a wicked start, got him through turn 8, took him in 9, and then held off,” said Groenke. “When we came back around to turn 3 it was full course yellow and then reds and now I’m so happy to bring home my first win here at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. I can’t thank all my sponsors enough from Sid at Verax.ca, Jonathon at Tundra, Pada and Sean at Cabano’s Comfort Food, as well as Stratus at Prestone – I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys and to pull of a win at my home track, with them here, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the race.”
Round 4 for the Touring Car categories will begin at 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday (May 21) at CTMP and will be live-streamed on World-Challenge.com and MotorTrendOnDemand.com. The PWC series then moves to popular Lime Rock Park for TC Rounds 5 and 6 next week (May 26-27).