IMSA: Several young stars stand out in Trois-Rivieres

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Four young stars we’ve monitored over the years – Kenton Koch, Scott Hargrove, Stefan Rzadzinski and Kyle Masson – all had a very solid weekend up at the legendary Canadian street circuit in Trois-Rivieres this weekend, as a pair of IMSA championships held a standalone weekend north of the border.

Koch, driving for P1 Motorsports, won his fourth and fifth LMP3 races of the season driving a Ligier JS P3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda. The lanky Californian missed the season-opening weekend at Sebring but still holds a chance of overtaking Norma M30 driver Colin Thompson for the championship lead at the Road Atlanta season finale, to be held in October, although he still sits 18 points back.

Koch has finished first or second in all but one of his nine starts this season. Thompson has had one fewer first or second place results – a total of two wins and five runner-up finishes – but has been consistent and, additionally, banked 23 points on Koch from the off in Sebring in the first two races of the weekend. Koch won this championship two years ago in 2015 with JDC Motorsports, when the series was then known as IMSA Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda, and raced only the Elan DP02 open-top prototypes.

While Koch has raced in the LMP3 cars for most of this season, he had a new teammate this weekend in the form of Edmonton native Stefan Rzadzinski, who has a wealth of Trois-Rivieres experience and starred in a pair of completely different types of cars.

Rzadzinski, who made waves this year as a ROC Factor fan vote winner into the Race of Champions, promptly finished on the podium in LMP3 in both races in his debut (fifth and third overall), and first and fourth in a pair of Nissan Micra Cup races at the circuit. It was a banner weekend for the likable Canadian who’s driven occasionally in Korea this year, of all places.

Performance Tech Motorsports’ roll in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship PC class has been impressive to watch but so too has the roll of one of its drivers, Kyle Masson, in the Prototype Challenge series. Masson has dominated in the MPC class this year – the renamed class for the Elan DP02 prototype – has now sealed that class championship with one weekend to go at Road Atlanta.

Despite an “off weekend” where he won only one of two races in class, he holds a 76-point lead over Kris Wright with just two races remaining. Masson, who we profiled earlier this year and who also gets to race alongside his father Robert, will pull double duty with less pressure on him at Road Atlanta, between his MPC car and the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 in Petit Le Mans, in that car’s series signoff.

Like Rzadzinski, another Canadian who was an open-wheel prospect turned burgeoning sports car star is Vancouver’s Scott Hargrove, who continued his roll in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama with his ninth win in 10 races.

A weekend sweep of these two races, driving for Pfaff Motorsports, saw him extend his title lead to 22 points over Zacharie Robichon. The series concludes Labor Day weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and provided Hargrove maintains the same gap after race one of two there, he’ll win another Porsche GT3 Canada title – as he did in 2014 but came up just shy in 2015 (Chris Green won title) and 2016 (Daniel Morad).

Koch and Masson have already won Rolex 24 at Daytona races in the PC class each of the last two years, winning a Rolex watch at their first attempt, while Hargrove and Rzadzinski are two Canadians who’d dazzle in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship if given the opportunity. Either way, we’ll continue to monitor these drivers as they continue to develop and win races.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.