Ottawa Citizens Race Series: GT Race #6

Event 6

With rain surrounding the track all day long but never actually hitting Calabogie, we were hoping to stay dry until after the race.  Unfortunately, by 4pm, the rain started and stopped long after everyone had packed their gear and left for the night.  A track full of standing water, rain still coming, fogged windshields and rear windows, and not-so-rain-oriented tires, made for an interesting night of racing for all our competitors and for our last event of the season.

The Calabogie Mustang Class race was really between Harry Steenbakkers in the #17 and Chris Harrison in the #49. Battling through other cars all race, and making each other work for each pass,  it was Harry who crossed the finish line first followed by Chris, and then by our season points leader Steve Bruder in the #8.

With only 2 points separating the 1st and 2nd place point leaders Greg Van Dalen and Chris Bernier in the GT1 class, and while over the season Greg had the power to pull away from Chris, days before the final event, Chris had installed a new M series motor in his little BMW warrior. Event 6 of the GT1 Class was set to be an epic battle of American Z06 power, vs German Engineering and M Power for first place in points for the season.  In the end, some electrical gremlins kept Chris’ car from starting, and Greg was on his own in the points battle.  The stunning drive of the night came from James Bergeron in his #37 S2000, consistently a slow car in the wet, James decided to remove a sway bar, and in combination with rain tires, was setting laps times only 1 second slower than his dry times at the beginning of the year.  His lap times were not only low enough to secure a win, but also to lap the entire field… including second place in his own class.  2nd place was also a phenomenal drive from Shawn Bernier in his #915 BMW.  After fogging up in qualifying and setting nearly the slowest time of the day, Shawn passed the entire line-up of cars during the 35 minute race (excluding James Bergeron).  The final podium spot went to Mani Azeri in his #101 Ford Contour.  Mani also drove an incredible race, setting a qualifying lap just tenths behind James Bergeron, and holding second place for nearly the whole race.  Mani’s third place finish was also his first GT1 podium of the year.

While on paper a ~4500lb street car would seem like no competition for a Subaru STI or Porsche 911, especially in the rain, after the IMSA Cup weekend though, few were surprised when veteran racer and “rain driving guru” Patrick Irwin took first place in the GT2 class with his Chrysler 300 SRT8. Pat dominated the field, and even after overshooting turn one for a spin out late in the race, there was still no question, that the top tier of the Event 6 podium belonged to him.  Our second “Spin and Win” Victory of the year! Mario Godbout took second place and his first podium in only his second race, and Michael Schmitz rounded out the top 3 for his second podium finish of the year.  It only took 30 minutes of fiddling, bump starting, and a broken tow-rope to get his #515 Porsche 911 started in the paddock minutes before qualifying finished.

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