More drivers and more cash for Canadian race series

The Canadian motorsport calendar gets under way in earnest, CTCC will run three classes in eight events at seven tracks

  • CTCC-three-cars

The Toronto Star for

The Canadian motorsport calendar gets under way in earnest next weekend.

Most of Ontario’s short-oval tracks will be open, the province’s drag-racing facilities are all warming up and the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend will get Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s 2014 road-racing season going.

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock cars will headline SpeedFest, which gets under way next Friday morning and runs through next Sun., May 18.

The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series, the Pirelli World Challenge Championship (Touring and B-Spec), the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship and the Canadian Touring Car Championship will all race in support of the national stock-car series.

Now entering its eighth year, the touring-car series will have more than 40 drivers racing in three classes over eight weekends at seven tracks in Ontario and Quebec, including bookend events at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

As well as kicking things off next weekend, the series will finish on Labour Day weekend alongside the Canadian visit of NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.

CTCC race cars range from Honda Fits and Mazda2s, which are essentially the same as those sitting in your neighbours’ driveways, right up to heavily modified Honda Civics, BMW 330is and Subaru WRX STIs.

Series president John Bondar says some exciting changes are on tap this year, the most important being that more than $350,000 in prizes will be available over the course of the season.

“We’ve come a long way from the first $100 cheques that we handed out,” he says.

Four manufacturers — Honda, Mini, Mazda and Scion — will offer contingency awards at each race, and Mazda has offered a $10,000 award to any Mazda driver who can finish the year first in class.

The series is also trying its hand at promoting its own race weekend, with a return to Shannonville Motorsport Park on July 26 and 27 after an extended absence.

In the top-tier Super Class, reigning champion Scott Nicol and the Velocity Motorsports Club team will return to defend their title.

This team is unusual, in that Nicol and his team are all employees at the Honda manufacturing plant in Alliston. They race a Civic built on the same line where they work their day jobs, and Honda covers their racing costs.

“They all donate their time,” Bondar points out. “They work on the car in the evenings and weekends and, when they come to the track, they have to take time off. It’s not a freebie.”

Another Super Class team to follow is the husband-and-wife duo of Roger Ledoux in car No. 4 and Nathalie Hénault in car No. 20.

But they’re not the only married couple on the track — Eric Lacouture and Marie-France Gagné will race a pair of Mini Coopers in the Touring Class.

The title in that class came down to a single point in 2013 — the equivalent of one lap over the entire season — with Damon Sharpe of Tottenham winning for the second year in a row.

Bondar says runner-up Michel Sallenbach of Roxton Pond, Que., is on the hunt for redemption.

“He’s regrouping and he’s built a Mini Coupe. It’s ultra-cute,” he says. “He has renewed focus, renewed everything, and he’s going for it.”

Three young drivers will make their CTCC debuts this year.

Samantha Tan of Gormley, 16, will race the No. 44 Mini Cooper in Touring Class. In addition to being a trained musician and concert pianist, she also has serious racing aspirations.

Tan began wheeling karts at age 8 and, at 14, was the youngest person ever to take part in the Ferrari Driving Experience at Circuit Mont Tremblant, where she trained in a 458. Now that she has her racing licence, she hopes the Canadian series will give her career a boost.

“It has always been a dream for me to someday reach Formula 1,” Tan says. “Since CTCC is a national and more competitive championship, I believe this will be the next step in achieving that goal.”

Joining her in this year’s rookie class is 19-year-old Rui Texeira of Mississauga, who comes out of karting and will race a Honda Fit in B-Spec Class, and 20-year-old Manuel Boyer of Ste-Agathe, Que., who will race a Mazda2 in B-Spec Class.

Valérie Chiasson of Mont St-Hilaire, Que., will race a Honda Civic in Super Class, bringing the number of female entrants to four for this season.

Keep track with new app

The Canadian Touring Car Championship has developed an app that lets you keep track of what’s going on during any practice, qualifying run or race.

The app can be used to not only track timing and scoring, and view a live map of the entire field, but also to read trap speeds in real time.

“You can (follow) the races from wherever you are in the world,” says CTCC president John Bondar. “Even at the track, it’s amazing to watch it live and then see it on your phone, and there’s an absolute minimal delay.”

The app also offers complete statistics from the entire seven-year history of the series, video race replays, schedules and series news.

Created in partnership with QuickSeries Mobile of Montreal, the app is free. To find it, search for CTCC 2014 at the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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