All photos courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: GP3R, Road America set stage for development series title bouts

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While much of the focus last week coming out of Road America was IMSA’s future direction and platform for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the renamed Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda, four of IMSA’s developmental or single-make series have had particularly busy last couple weeks on track – potentially setting the scene for champions to move up in 2017.

Last week at Road America, IMSA’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America were in action.

This weekend, it was the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama and Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires racing on the streets of Trois-Rivieres, for the annual Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (GP3R).

Morad (17) and Hargrove (28). Photo courtesy of IMSA
Morad (17) and Hargrove (28). Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama

The battle between Canadian talents and rivals Daniel Morad and Scott Hargrove rolled onto the streets of Trois-Rivieres this weekend. Hargrove closed to within three points of Morad, 137-134, leaving the streets of Toronto in mid-July.

In race one of the GP3R weekend, Hargrove made the gap tighter still with a win in his No. 28 OpenRoad Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, edging ahead of Morad (No. 17 Porsche Centre Oakville/Alegra Motorsports Porsche) at Turn 6 after making contact with his title rival.

“I had an opportunity on the first lap, and I was kind of kicking myself for not really going for it because I didn’t know if I was going to get another chance,” Hargrove said. “But then coming out onto the back straight, I got a really good run up behind Daniel (Morad) and he knew, and I said, ‘It’s now or never,’ and I just went for it. Probably one of the sketchiest moves I’ve made, but I’m just very happy the car stopped.”

Morad bounced back in a big way on Sunday with a win while Hargrove lost points and time at the end of the race. He was credited with eighth place after sustaining damage to his car from a late collision, and was assessed a post-race time penalty for incident responsibility.

“The team and myself are working together, and we’re constantly improving the car,” Morad said.” I’m looking forward to our chances in the last race, although anything can happen, and we need Lady Luck on our side.”

Although Hargrove has five wins to Morad’s four, Morad now leads Hargrove by 13 points, 175-162, heading into the season finale weekend Sept. 2-4 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The doubleheader will be Rounds 11 and 12 this year, and will make this the first IMSA Single-Make Series that concludes its 2016 campaign.

Toppe. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Toppe. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires

Clark Toppe closed the gap on his JDC Motorsports teammate Austin Versteeg to just two points (154-152) with two race weekends remaining in the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires season. Meanwhile the lanky (6’6″) 18-year-old Texan helped to extend the John Church-owned team’s overall win streak to 27 races straight, dating to August 2014.

Toppe passed Versteeg for the lead in the first of two races and Versteeg’s later spin dropped him down the order. Kyle Masson and Max Hanratty completed the podium.

Toppe then took the lead on Versteeg off the start in race two to pull away for his second win of the weekend. Hanratty and Masson swapped their race one positions. Behind them in easily his most impressive weekend of the year was Hanratty’s Patron ESM teammate James Dayson, who finished fifth and fourth in the two races.

Rounds 10, 11 and 12 will be Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as part of the all-Mazda weekend at the scenic, 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit in Salinas, California. The final two races of the year will be part of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October.

Lazare. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Lazare. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama

Jesse Lazare’s weekend sweep at Road America last weekend, in the No. 21 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, brought his win total to seven wins in 10 races and extended his points lead over Lucas Catania (No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche) to 26 points (173-147). The win also occurred at Kelly-Moss’ home race; the team is based in Madison, Wis., 110 miles away from Elkhart Lake, Wis. 

Rounds 11-12 are scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at VIRginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia, with additional doubleheader weekends to come at Circuit of The Americas (Sept. 14-17) and Road Atlanta (Sept. 28-Oct. 1)

Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America

After its third weekend of the year at Road America, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America has three more weekends left – at VIR, Circuit of The Americas and then at Circuito de la Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo (Dec. 1-2) for the final North American rounds of the year before the World Final there Dec. 3-4.

Ferrari Challenge

Ferrari Challenge North America has been off since the Canadian Grand Prix weekend in Montreal June 10-12. Remaining weekends are at Lime Rock (Sept. 23-24), Homestead (Nov. 4-6) and Daytona (Dec. 1-4), the latter of which is its World Final.

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”