The American Le Mans Series endurance race at Mosport Sunday, originally scheduled for 2 hours and 45 minutes, was stopped with 29 minutes remaining following a spectacular accident on the Mario Andretti Straightaway that brought out the red flag for only the second time in series history.
After a delay, the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport, officially scheduled to end at 5:45 p.m., got the checkered flag at 6:12 p.m. with Klaus Graf of Dornham, Germany, and co-driver Romain Dumas of Ales, France, leading in a Porsche RS Spyder.
Simon Pagenaud of Indianapolis and David Brabham of Henley-on-Thames, U.K., were second in a Honda ARX Prototype and Tony Burgess of Toronto and Johnny Mowlem of Berkshire, England, were third in a Lola B09 Prototype.
Gunnar Jeannette of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Elton Julian of Santa Monica, Calif., were first in the Prototype Challenge class (fourth overall); Joerg Bergmeister of Langenfeld, Germany, and Patrick Long of Belleair, Fla., won the GT class in a Porsche 911 (11th overall), and Lawson Aschenbach of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., were first in the GT Challenge class, also in a Porsche 911. They were 22nd out of 29 cars that started the race.
The only other Canadian in the race, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie (co-driver Chapman Ducote of Miami) finished fifth in the Prototype Challenge class and 18th overall.
Although nobody was hurt when a Porsche 911 driven by Luke Hines of Essex, England, ripped a large hole in the guardrail, the damage was enough for series officials to stop the contest for repairs.
The accident was started by Prototype driver Jonny Cocker of Guisborough, U.K., whose car clipped the rear of Hines` as he pulled out to pass. This sent Hines` Porsche flying into the guardrail and the car and barrier were both extensively damaged.
Following a 40-minute delay, during which attempts were made to repair the guardrail, ALMS officials decided to throw in the towel. Drivers, who had spent the recess chatting in pit lane, were ordered to their cars, engines were started and one slow lap behind the safety car was made of the Mosport circuit before the checkered flag was displayed.
In a prepared statement, the ALMS said that it would have taken a minimum of three hours to repair the barrier and the decision to terminate was made instead of asking fans to stick around for another 29 minutes of racing that would have ended after dark.
Graf, who celebrated his fourth series victory – his second overall – said that a win is a win, regardless of the circumstances.
``We take them as they come,`` he said. ``Whether it goes the full distance or not is not something you think about as a racing driver. The important thing is to be in front when the race ends."
Burgess was thrilled with one of his best finishes as a professional racing car driver.
`This was a great race,`` he said. ``We measured the Drayson car, which we thought was our competition, and we got a lap up on them. My stint was perfect, Johnny`s was perfect and we were set to cruise home. We didn`t make any mistakes.
"Ì would have preferred to have finished the race at race-pace but as soon as I saw that guardrail, I knew there was no way they were going to be able to fix it."
Series officials said the only other time a red flag was displayed during an ALMS race was a year ago during the Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta. Torrential rains wiped out the last four hours of the 10-hour race.
Dumas took the lead at the start and began pulling away from the rest of the field immediately. His car was so powerful and well-balanced compared to some of the others that he was lapping slower cars within five laps of the 2.45-mile circuit.
There were several other incidents, the most serious taking place at the one-hour-and-15-minute mark when David Murry of Cumming, Ga., lost control of his Ford GT and spun approaching Turn 9. Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif., tried to avoid him but, in so doing, drove his Rahal-Letterman Racing BMW M3 straight into a tire wall, bringing out the race’s first full-course yellow.
Neither driver was injured but it was during this safety car period that Dumas pitted and gave way to Graf, who drove the car to the finish.
Pagenaud and Brabham – who drove in his 100th ALMS race on the 43rd anniversary weekend of his father Jack Brabham`s victory in the first F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Mosport in 1967 – still lead the overall points standings with 152.
Graf and his regular co-driver Greg Pickett (who was injured in a testing accident at Mid-Ohio and was replaced last weekend at Road America by Timo Bernhard and this weekend by Dumas) are in second place with 136 points.
Only the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in October remains on the schedule.
INSTANT REPLAY FOR TOURING CAR RACES
In support series racing earlier, the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship race was won – again – by Dave Ciekiewicz of Toronto, with Gregory Pootmans of Toronto second – again – and Sasha Anis of Brampton third (ditto).
In fact, you had to go down to fifth place to find a change from the order of finish Saturday, when the touring cars raced at Mosport for the first time this weekend. Sunday, Etienne Borgeat of Montreal finished fifth; Saturday, it was Nick Wittmer of Montreal.
Just so he doesn’t feel left out, Mathieu Audette of Ste-Anne-des-Lacs, Que., was fourth both days.
These drivers were all, of course, racing in the Super Touring class. The Touring Class race was won Sunday by Tom Kwok, who was third in that class on Saturday.
By the way, the margin of victory was very close on Sunday – 0.553 of a second, as compared to the plodding 0.837 of a second margin on Saturday.
In the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship race, brothers Lucas and Matt Downs of Butterfield, Minn., finished first and second with Charlie Shears of Houston in third place.
Although there were accidents in other races, including the main event, there were several in this race that were completely avoidable – caused by drivers pulling their cars back onto the racing surface before the coast was clear.
In fact, Gary Gibson of Riverwoods, Ill., was winning the race handily when he spun backwards into a tire wall to avoid some dolt who pulled out on the track right in front of him. His race was over on the spot, directly due to the carelessness of the other racer.
The weekend’s competition was conducted under gorgeous sunny skies and Mosport attracted one of its biggest crowds in years.
The ALMS weekend is always strongly attended but the crowd was particularly heavy this weekend and was undoubtedly due, in part, to the 50th anniversary celebrations and the attendance of six former national driving champions as well as retired Indianapolis driver Bobby Unser, who won the first Indy car race at Mosport on July 1, 1967.
Interview and autograph sessions featuring the six champs – Ludwig Heimrath Sr., Bill Brack, Horst Kroll, Craig Hill, Eppie Wietzes and Ross de St. Croix, who are all members of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame – were very well-attended.
Unser was a particular hit, entertaining fans with stories of his early racing days and post-racing broadcasting career that included working with Brian Williams on CBC-TV telecasts of Molson Indy races in Toronto and Vancouver.