Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) was the site for round 5 of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC) and it was an exciting race to watch. All three of the MINI JCW Team cars looked strong and Team Octane showed improvement.
Derek Jones earned his second pole of the season and started the 73 up front. As the field took the green flag Jones got bogged down by the GS class cars and immediately lost about 8 positions. Jones has had this issue with the GS class the past few races which has nullified his strong qualifying efforts. In an interview with FS1 he said he hopes IMSA notices the traffic issue and puts some space between the classes in future events.
With ground to make up Jones did what he has continued to show strength at, which is driving through the field after adversity strikes. Jones took advantage of the JCW’s power and handling and picked off other cars one by one. He had an amazing battle with the 32 Porsche that was fun to watch and would eventually work his way up to second. But that’s when trouble hit. The front left tire was cut and Jones would have to struggle to get the car back to the pits without any damage. Luckily this occurred at the 48 minute mark, meaning Jones had met the minimum drive time and the team could execute the pit stop and driver change at that time.
Mike Lamarra took the first stint for the 37 JCW. Lamarra didn’t have any issues at the start and looked strong from the get go. Lamarra worked his MINI up to second place just 14 minutes into the event. Lap after lap Lamarra continued to run cleanly and easily held on to his position for the remainder of his stint, showing exactly why he is a former series champion.
The trouble free run by Lamarra to open the race would set up the 37 for a strong run to the end.
Jared Salinsky was back with the MINI JCW Team this week. After last weeks second place running at Watkins Glen the outlook for the 52 this season is on the upswing. Salinsky was also able to get through the early traffic jam without issue. Salinsky had the 52 in 6th place early and was running comfortably with the leaders. Unfortunately 48′ into the event it looked as though Salinsky had contact with another car sending him flying into a tire wall. While the car took some heavy damage Salinsky was able to walk away.
Closers Come On Strong
Pit stops were completed under the full course yellow brought on by the 52 incident. Mat Pombo would take over the 73 for Jones and would have his work cut out for him after the cut tire issue. He would rejoin the field in 11th. It didn’t take long for Pombo to show why the 73 has won two races this year. Pombo quickly started passing cars as the race got back under way. After 15 minutes he had already worked his way back up to 7th and only 5 minutes after that he was up to 5th.
With 39 minutes still left in the race it looked like Pombo would be challenging for the win in no time. But it was not meant to be. The 73 would end up spinning after what looked like contact to the rear from the 84 BMW. Pombo was close to the pits and despite not making contact with the wall would duck in to have the team check on the car. While the MINI seemed to be ok their position in the standings was not.
Pombo fell back to 13th in the field. While there was no chance of him catching the leaders he continued to fight, eventually bringing the 73 home in 10th.
James Vance would take over the 37 at his home track. Vance has shown he is strong at CTMP in the past and wouldn’t disappoint this time.
After Lamarra’s strong run to start the race Vance would take over in third position. Vance wasn’t looking to waste any time. He quickly moved up to second minutes after the race returned to green. And just a few minutes after that, with 50 to go in the race, Vance took over the lead.
Though he was in the lead he had plenty of pressure from behind. The 56 Porsche was on his tail for much of the remainder of the race, hounding Vance through every turn. As their battle continued the 44 Nissan was eventually able to catch up and contribute to what would be an excellent three car battle for the remaining 30 mins of the race.
The 56 would continually try to poke his nose past Vance with Vance steadfast-idly holding him off. The 44 continued to poke and prod at the 56, but at times sat back as he had used up his tires catching up to them.
After 45 mins of dodging attacks and holding the lead it looked as if James might be headed toward victory. But the 56 had other ideas. With 4 minutes left in the race the 56 stuffed his nose into a corner, drove over the curb and into the side of Vance. While Vance was able to save the car he still fell back to third place as the 44 followed the 56 by.
If you’ve been a fan of the series for a while you might have been shocked, as we were, that there was no penalty given to the 56. We’ve seen penalties handed out for much less but IMSA deemed the contact a racing incident.
While Vance was still able to finish in third and earn him and Lamarra their first podium of the season they were undoubtedly disappointed. This looked like a sure victory for the 37 and it was heartbreaking to see it taken away like that.
Team Octane is still continuing to develop there JCW. With this being their second outing they definitely showed some improvement. They were able to run lap times within two seconds of the leaders and kept their car mostly clean.
While the 15th place finish is not what they were hoping for they should still be happy with their progress.
Team Octane will run one more event this season at Lime Rock Park.
Next up on the Calendar is the Lime Rock Park 120 on Saturday July 22nd. While the MINI JCW Team didn’t have a strong run at Lime Rock last season their performance this season will hopefully carry over.