MRTI: Hargrove (Porsche GT3 Canada) and Burkett (Atlantic) capture other titles

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A pair of drivers who competed in the Mazda Road to Indy this year have captured championships outside their normal open-wheel seats. Pro Mazda’s Scott Hargrove took home the Porsche GT3 Canada Platinum Cup title, while Daniel Burkett of USF2000 won the Atlantic Championship.

From a one-off guest starring appearance to a championship, Hargrove enjoyed quite the year in Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin.

Hargrove, the 19-year-old from Surrey, British Columbia, rounded out his debut season both in the championship and in a GT car with his fifth and sixth wins of the year over the weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

It made for a perfect book-end after also sweeping the CTMP doubleheader opening weekend in May, driving the No. 69 OpenRoad Racing Porsche for team principal Christian Chia. Overall, Hargrove finished first or second in each of the 10 races and won the title by 22 points over Chris Green.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” Hargrove said. “I can’t thank the guys enough. Michelin tires, IMSA, Porsche, everybody that helps put this series together. I’m proud to be the champion in only my rookie year. I can’t wait to see where this goes.”

Hargrove also shook off the previous week’s defeat in Pro Mazda, where Spencer Pigot emerged with that title at the final race of the year in Sonoma. Pigot ended third in the GT3 Canada season.

“I put that behind me,” Hargrove said. “This is a different championship, and now this is the highlight of my year. I’ve just got to move on from what happened last weekend and just cherish what we did this year in both series. I’m just excited to be here and the champion.”

Hargrove wasn’t alone in winning Porsche GT3 Canada class titles. Hargrove took the Platinum Cup title with Marco Cirone (Platinum Masters), Tim Sanderson (Gold Cup) and Chuck Harris (Silver Cup) also leaving the CTMP weekend with additional season long hardware.

For Burkett, who also made waves this year with a series of humorous videos about the quest for sponsorship, his Atlantic Championship Series win was a season-long tour de force.

Burkett, also 19 and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, won seven of the 10 races this season driving for K-Hill Motorsports, including the finale at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. He clinched the championship in race one of the Thompson weekend.

Burkett ended 11th this season in USF2000, driving for Belardi Auto Racing.

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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