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Canadian drivers suffer as new racing series puts a cap on entries

At the end of last year, the ALMS was folded into North America’s other top-tier sports car series, the Grand-Am, to form the United SportsCar Championship.

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MOTORSPORTS: SportsCar race a class short

Last July, the American Le Mans Series paid its last visit to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as the final season of the series wound down.

But many of the same cars, drivers and teams that ran in the ALMS event a year ago will be returning to Old Mosport next weekend, Friday-through-Sunday July 11 to 13, for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Hawk Performance.

Over the past 12 months, however, their circumstances have changed significantly.

At the end of last year, the ALMS was folded into North America’s other top-tier sports car series, the Grand-Am, to form the United SportsCar Championship.

The creation of the new series — sponsored by the Swiss watchmaking brand, Tudor — was largely celebrated but came with challenges, one of them being that doubling the number of entries caused the grid to balloon and forced IMSA, the sanctioning body, to make some unpopular decisions.

Because some circuits that were awarded races in the new series aren’t big enough to handle a full entry list of cars, IMSA set up a system whereby — with some exceptions — not all classes of cars would run at all events.

So for that reason, the Prototype Challenge class — a holdover spec prototype class from the ALMS — will sit out the Old Mosport round, leaving only three of the four classes to compete: Prototype (a combination of ALMS’s LMP2 class, Grand-Am’s Daytona Prototype class, and the DeltaWing), GTLM (featuring cars that match the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ GTE specification, as did the ALMS GT class), and GTD (which combines Grand-Am’s GT and GX classes with other cars built to FIA GT3 specification).

The result is that some of the Canadian racers that fans have been tracking this season will not be racing next weekend — at least for now. (Sports-car racing has a habit of adding and subtracting drivers from teams at the last minute, which sometimes makes it difficult to figure out who’s in what car.)

Among the missing next weekend with be David Ostella of Maple, Ont., and Alex Tagliani of Montreal. Barrie’s Kyle Marcelli will also be absent from the grid as his team in the GTD class, Scuderia Corsa, has opted not to enter the No. 64 Ferrari 458 that he’s been co-driving all season.

However, there will still be plenty of homegrown talents to keep an eye on throughout the weekend.

Michael Valiante of Burnaby, B.C., is approaching the halfway point of a full-season program in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette in the Prototype class. The team currently sits third in points, behind leaders Jordan and Ricky Taylor of Wayne Taylor Racing and second-place Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi of Action Express, and arrives at CTMP directly off an overall win captured at Watkins Glen last weekend that Valiante shared with co-driver Richard Westbrook.

In the GTLM class, Kuno Wittmer of Montreal will co-pilot the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R with Jonathan Bomarito of Monterey, Calif. That factory effort currently holds fifth place in the class point standings, which are led by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia of Corvette Racing.

On the team side, AIM Autosport of Woodbridge currently leads the GTD points with its No. 555 Ferrari 458 piloted by Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell. The team entered the series a race late: they missed the 24 Hours of Daytona but started their year at the 12 Hours of Sebring. They’ve been going like gangbusters since.

The Canadian content in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge support series is even higher.

Markham-based Multimatic Motorsports will field two Ford Mustang Boss 302Rs in GS class, with the No. 15 co-driven by 2014 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee Scott Maxwell of Toronto.

Mantella Autosport, based in Caledon, will run the No. 8 Aston Martin V8 Vantage in GS with drivers Anthony Mantella of Toronto and Mark Wilkins of Palgrave.

Toronto-based Tower Motorsports will enter the No. 41 Nissan 370Z in GS for Toronto racers John Farano and David Empringham.

Compass360 Racing of Toronto will enter the No. 76 Subaru WRX STI in GS class and three Honda Civic Si entries in ST class. Canadians on their ST driver roster next weekend include brothers Tom and Gary Kwok of Toronto in the No. 73 and James Vance of Stouffville in the No. 74.

The list of Canadian racers in the Continental Tire series continues, including Marcelli, who will co-race the No. 08 Porsche 997 in GS for Rebel Rock Racing; Valiante, doing double duty by co-driving the No. 93 Honda Civic in ST for Honda of America Racing; Remo Ruscitti of Burnaby, B.C., in the No. 04 Porsche Cayman in ST for Autometrics Motorsports; and Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster, in the No. 00 Camaro Z/28.R for CKS Autosport.

Four other series will be on the undercard next weekend. In Cooper Tires Prototype Lights, Mikhail Goikhberg of Vaughan holds a commanding 40-point championship lead going into the Old Mosport round. The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge seriesz, Lamborghini Super Trofeo, and Mazda MX-5 Cup series will also take to the track.

For a full weekend schedule, more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park website at ctmpark.com

wheels@thestar.ca

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