ARL GT Championship | Round 4 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
Amid the arrival of the long-awaited Corvette C8.R and Dallara P217 to iRacing.com, Apex Racing League GT contenders refocused for round four of the championship. Defending champion, Tom McMahon, arrived at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park with the outright championship lead, for the first time this season.
Originally named ‘Mosport’, this 2.5-mile layout embraces the rolling Ontarian farmland. Mosport’s designer, Alan Bunting, consulted the great Sir Stirling Moss to finalise the circuits contours. Fittingly, Moss won the circuit’s inaugural event in 1961 – The International Player’s 200.
This fickle circuit requires a delicate balanced car set up. In the opening sectors, enormous demand is placed on a cars aerodynamic grip and the driver’s bravery. Later in the lap, the long drag up the Mario Andretti straightaway requires a slippery, trimmed out car. Therefore, a sensitive compromise must be found.
In qualifying, Tom McMahon stamped his authority and claimed pole position with a suitably rapid 1 minute and 12.614 second lap. McMahon’s teammate, Aarron Powell, completed an EvoSR lockout of the front row. Championship contender, Dennis Ipenberg, could only manage eleventh in his BMW M8. Dean Powell qualified an impressive eighth overall and fastest in the AM class.
During the early laps of the twenty-five-minute opening race, McMahon strived to pull away from Aarron Powell and the charging BMW of Daniel Lee. Powell flinched first. A tiny mistake on the exit of White’s corner, dropped Powell’s left rear Michelin onto the dirt and sent his Ford GT shooting into the pit wall. Daniel Lee miraculously avoided the incident but Mads Gravsen couldn’t avoid the stricken Ford. Luckily, Gravsen soldiered on and maintained his strong pace, despite the damage to his 911 RSR. Meanwhile, Dennis Ipenburg continued his valiant ascent to fifth place, after a difficult qualifying session. However, Bodin spoiled Ipenburgs’s party, slinging his Hellracers BMW around the outside, at the terrifyingly fast Clayton corner.
Bodin’s charge continued towards the podium battle. Utilising his Munich monster’s grunt up the Mario Andretti straightaway, the Swede blasted by the defenceless Mads Gravsen.
Back at the front, Daniel Lee reeled in Tom McMahon. With three minutes to go, the battle for victory ignited. Through the rapid curves of sector one and two, McMahon held firm. His Ford GT seemingly glued to the Canadian tarmac. However, exiting the slow first gear twist of Moss corner, Daniel Lee unleashed his twin turbo V8 BMW and reeled in McMahon’s wheezing Ford, with relative ease. Ever the racer, McMahon cleverly defended the inside line for turn eight. Lee immediately switched to the outside and pounced. Sadly, Lee’s Michelins cried no more and the MSignsUK.com driver spun. With that, his chances of a first win, were over. McMahon escaped to the win, but the defending champion’s reign had been questioned, if only briefly.
Lee avoided damage but found himself in a BMW triple threat fight for the podium with Jonas Bodin and James Crouch. Mads Gravsen shadowed the BMW trio in his Porsche. However, Daniel Lee’s misery was far from over. Mistakes often breed mistakes. Unfortunately, this was to be the case for the BMW man. A seventh-place finish left the Briton reeling over what might have been.
Further drama ensued on the final lap when championship contender, Dennis Ipenburg crashed at turn eight. Not only did the Dutchman miss out on critical points but also a berth in the critical reverse grid for race two. Perhaps a pivotal moment of this Apex Racing League GT Championship season?
Amidst the chaos, James Crouch and Jonas Bodin took second and third place, respectively. Dean Powell took the AM class victory and a welcome boost for MSignsUK.com, following the demise of Daniel Lee in the PRO class.
Race two’s reverse grid jumble placed Team Bearded Racer’s Jim Steffey on pole position. Race one protagonists – McMahon, Crouch, Ipenburg, Bodin et al – started at the wrong end of the top twenty. This forty-minute encounter promised to be busy for the championship contenders.
As the iRacing.com Ford Mustang pace car peeled off, Jay Steffey immediately pulled into pit lane. A bizarre beginning to the race. Incredibly, two corners later, proceedings became stranger still. At the fast left of Clayton, several high-profile drivers slipped off track. Amongst others, Bodin and Ipenburg slid off and out of contention. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park may be Canada’s premium motor racing venue, but the track surface mimicked the adhesion of an NHL ice hockey arena.
However, Tom McMahon and Daniel Lee evaded the cold tyre calamities. Lee surged to tenth. McMahon fifteenth.
On lap four, James Salt continued to pull away in the lead aboard his Ford GT. Further back, contact between Bob Humphrey and Ryan Jones, triggered a monumental melee at Moss corner. A melee with significant consequences. Astonishingly, Tom McMahon managed to slip his Ford through unharmed. Daniel Lee wasn’t so fortunate. Lee’s BMW M8 snagged in the epicentre of the chaos and incurred damage. However, the BMW man battled valiantly back up the field.
Ironically, the instigator of this vicious scrum, Bob Humphrey, escaped to third. Would the stewards intervene?
On lap nineteen, Daniel Lee suffered yet again as an innocent bystander in other driver’s incidents. EvoSR’s Kev Copland struck the pit wall. Thus, leaving his Porsche 911 RSR strewn across the narrow pit straight. The luckless Lee had no room to thread his BMW M8 through and ploughed into Copland’s Porsche. Copland’s EvoSR teammate, Tom McMahon, slithered through unharmed. Surely, a trip to the local newsagents to buy a lottery ticket featured on McMahon’s agenda after the race. However, McMahon’s repeated avoidance of incidents can only be partly apportioned to good fortune.
James Salt capitalised on a favourable grid position and drove to a flawless victory. Championship leader, Tom McMahon, completed an EvoSR Ford one-two finish. Dean Powell finished a dream day at Canadian Tire Motorsport with another AM class win and an outright podium finish. Powell’s fortunes contrasted with his MSignsUK.com teammate, Daniel Lee.
Post-race, ARL GT stars gave their thoughts to the Apex Racing TV broadcast team.
Tom McMahon gave his view on Daniel Lee’s race one challenge: “I was thinking about the championship. I was carrying quite a lot of speed, so I thought if he could make the move stick, fair play to him. Then Daniel spun” recalled the defending champion. “Mainly, I knew we were ten seconds clear, so it was about bagging some points. It worked out pretty well.”
Dean Powell left Canadian Tire Motorsports Park delighted with a brace of AM class victories: “It was an excellent night. I had a couple of offs at the double right hander but managed to recover well. It was quite eventful, but I had good fun” beamed the AM class championship leader.
In a fortnight’s time, the Apex Racing League GT championship heads to Road Atlanta. This wonderful circuit in Braselton, Georgia hosts an annual endurance classic – Petit Le Mans. Cut into the Georgia clay, Road Atlanta features steep undulations and punishes tyres. Tune in to Apex Racing TV on the 27th of September at 8pm BST to see how the ARL GT drivers conquer the challenge of this premier sports car racing venue.