The curtain came down on the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada - a series that brought a well-known and respected global series back to the original home of Porsche one-make racing. SpeedMerchants Motorsports of Kanata, ON swept the championships in all three classes, Platinum, Gold and Silver. Their drivers, Perry Bortolotti, Shaun McKaigue and Robert Seitz, won all of their respective classes. But despite this, the season provided some of the closest, cleanest racing in recent memory.
"This first season of racing has been an incredibly gratifying one for all of us at Porsche Cars Canada," said Joe Lawrence, President and CEO. "I would be fibbing if I told you that we went into this project without any sense of fear or trepidation. We really didn't know what to expect."
Indeed, neither did the competitors. The series came together a mere four weeks prior to the drop of the first green flag. In fact, tire provider and worldwide technical partner Michelin could not commit to being able to supply a sufficient number of racing tires until two weeks prior to the first race.
But thanks in no small part to the hard work of IMSA, the series sanctioning body, the series got underway at Calabogie in May. "We were not disheartened by having only six cars for the Calabogie event, as everything came together so quickly," observed Lawrence. "And nobody could complain about the action on the track. It was great."
"We swallowed hard when there were no additional cars at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel. We thought that the ICAR race would serve as a tune-up for the U.S. GT3 Cup Challenge's 'big show' in Montreal. But we soon found out that that most teams did not want to take a chance on damaging their cars when they had paid huge entry fees to the Formula One people - almost four times what our normal entry fee per race is."
But when the entries started to roll in for the Mosport weekend - 18 in all - it became clear the series had indeed taken root. "Now the challenge will be to grow the series and maintain the quality of the on-track activity," added Lawrence.
The excitement of the teams who participated in the inaugural season of the GT3 Cup Challenge Canada was obvious as well.
"I want to congratulate Perry Bortolotti, who won the Platinum class; Shaun McKaigue, who won the Gold class; and Robert Seitz, who won the Silver class," said Jim Hoddinott, owner of the triumphant SpeedMerchants Motorsports. "It has been one heck of a year and the quality of the racing and the level of ability of the drivers improved as the season progressed. We are already preparing for next year, with plans to enter six cars next season - and have already purchased the car Perry Bortolotti drove at the Carrera World Cup at the Nurburgring this year."
Bortolotti won three of the first four races of the year and was invited to be Canada's standard-bearer at the prestigious event, which drew over 100 drivers from every continent but Antarctica. He started 89th and worked his way up 30 places before an incident dropped him back to a highly-respectable 73rd.
"I think this year is the very essence of a win - win situation," said Lawrence. "Perry Bortolotti emerges as a driving talent; the fans are really jazzed about the series and the closeness of the racing and Canada, the country that gave birth to Porsche one-make racing, finally has its series back. I can't wait for next year!"
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada is divided into three classes; Platinum Cup, featuring the more powerful 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars; Gold Cup, which includes 2005½ - 2009 Porsche GT3 Cup cars, and the Silver Cup class for 2002 - 2005½ 996 Porsches. All three classes run on Michelin Cup N1 tires.
Three events comprised the inaugural season: Calabogie Motorsports Park (Calabogie, Ontario) in May, Circuit ICAR (Mirabel, Quebec) in June the Grand Prix of Mosport in July. The season's overall champion will be presented with a Tudor Heritage Chronograph, to be provided by Rolex Canada at an upcoming awards banquet.
Image with caption: "SpeedMerchants Motorsports of Kanata, ON swept the championships in all three classes of the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada. (CNW Group/Porsche Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20110802_C8743_PHOTO_EN_1826.jpg