Germany’s Klaus Graf might have won the overall pole for Sunday’s American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Mosport but the hero of the afternoon on Saturday was 21-year-old driver Kyle Marcelli of Barrie.
Marcelli set the fastest lap and won the pole in the LMP Challenge class with a time of 1 minute and 11.331 seconds (124.103 miles an hour), which smashed the lap record for the class of 1:11:455 that was set at Mosport a year ago.
Marcelli will start the two-hour, 45-minute timed race from the fourth position.
Graf’s time of 1:08:679 (128.895 mph), set in a Porsche Spyder Prototype, was fastest of the four LMP1 cars entered in the Grand Prix. Chris Dyson of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., will start second overall in an LMP1 Lola/Mazda.
Marcelli, who’s in his second year of ALMS competition, was thrilled to be fastest in his class and fourth overall.
“We unloaded off the trailer quick,” he said in explaining that the car was fast right out of the gate. “That was the key. With these cars, there’s a window and if you’re in that window you’re golden and if you’re outside of it you’re lost. We pulled up this weekend in that window.”
In June, Marcelli won his class in a European Le Mans Series race at Imola in Italy (he finished on the podium at Lime Rock, Conn., two weeks ago) and acknowledged that he was on a bit of a roll.
“We brought a lot of momentum with us this weekend,” he said. “I think it gave me a lot of confidence coming back to the ALMS.”
Sports-car racing of the American Le Mans Series variety is made up of four classes, running from the sleek LMP1 Prototypes (cars designed especially for the race track) to the Grand Touring Challenge class (GTC) – souped-up versions of automobiles that the buying public can purchase off the showroom floor entered by privateers rather than factories.
In between are the Prototype Challenge class (LMPC), which is made up of slightly less-powerful prototypes while the GT class is made up of factory teams representing Corvette, BMW, Jaguar, Ferrari and Porsche.
In addition to Graf and Marcelli, pole winners were Dirk Mueller of Switzerland in GT and Damien Faulkner of Ireland in GTC.
Although impressive, all times were significantly slower than the all-time qualifying record set in 2008 by Italian driver Dindo Capello, who drove an Audi R10 diesel around the 10-turn, 2.45-mile Mosport circuit in 1 minute and 4.094 seconds, which translates into an average speed of 138.116 mph – scary fast.
The speed of the circuit was not lost on Graf, who will be partnered in Sunday’s race by another German, Lucas Luhr.
“We only brake hard about twice the whole lap,” said the driver who not only won the pole for last year’s Grand Prix but the race itself.
“There are a lot of fast places; if you look at the speeds, you say to yourself, ‘This is unreal.’ So it takes a lot of experience and a lot of confidence in the car to go fast here.”
Graf, who suffered a crash during practice earlier in the day, said Mosport suits his style of driving. “I have a feel for high-speed corners,” he said. “I’m not the biggest fan of slow chicanes so a fast track like this one is suits my natural driving skills.”
Graf also let be known that while many of the spectators and other drivers were sweltering in the Southern Ontario heat, he was quite comfortable because his enclosed racing car has air conditioning.
“It is a rule (of the French automobile club that establishes the rules for Le Mans-style racing) that the temperature inside an enclosed cockpit has to be within seven degrees Celsius of the ambient temperature.”
He explained that there is a thermometer inside the car and if it gets too hot the team can receive a penalty.
Sunday’s feature race will go to the post at 3 p.m. and 30 cars are expected to take the green flag.
In addition to Marcelli, two other Canadians will drive in the race. Tony Burgess of Toronto will start eighth in an LMP1 Lola and Ken Wilden of Toronto will go off 24th in a Jaguar XKR.
All drivers have co-drivers. Wilden, for instance, will be partnered by Indy car driver Bruno Junqueira.
Mark Webber, driving his Red Bull-Renault, was the surprise winner of the pole at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton a surprise second for McLaren-Mercedes and Webber’s teammate, Sebastien Vettel, a surprising third.
Fernando Alonso was a surprising fourth in a Ferrari and his teammate, Felipe Massa, was fifth.
Everything and everybody was surprising (except Massa) because Vettel was expected to win the pole and Alonso, the winner of the last GP in Britain, was expected to challenge him.
The race goes Sunday morning on TSN at 7:55 a.m.
In the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Edmonton, Takuka Sato of Japan was the surprise pole winner (what's with all these surprises this weekend?) with Will Power of Australia second and Scott Dixon of New Zealand third.
Series defending champion Dario Franchitti goes off fourth while E.J. Viso (all together now: what a surprise!) qualified fifth.
Top Canadian is James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, who will go off 10th. Alex Tagliani starts 17th and Paul Tracy will start 25th out of 26th.
In the first Indy Lights race of the weekend, won by Esteban Guerrieri of Argentina, Maple's David Ostella and Markham's Daniel Morad were eliminated early when they crashed into each other.
Other Mosport races Saturday:
Tim McKenzie of Madison, Wis., won his fourth race of the season from pole in Round 8 of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada held the first of two races this weekend. Marco Cirone of 6th Gear Racing was the winner.
The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites also held their first of two weekend races. Toronto’s Robert Sabato was the winner after starting from pole positon.
For Sabato, leading the Lites 2 championship with four straight victories, the race was a lesson in survival as his No. 22 6th Gear Racing West WR1000 started giving him problems right at the start.
“I had a great start,” said Sabato. “Then the car stopped shifting. I was having a good time chasing the guys in front of me then it just wouldn’t shift anymore, I kept thinking I was going to lose it. The yellows helped because it cooled things down but I had to get a good jump on the restart because I saw my teammate behind me. It was close!”
Windsor native Michal Chlumecky finished second. 6th Gear’s Max De Angelis, also from Windsor, finished fourth, just missing a 6th Gear podium sweep.
Saturday's racing also saw the Castrol Touring Car Championship run the first leg of their weekend doubleheader. After winning the pole in qualifying, Mississauga's Sasha Anis took the checkered flag in the Super Touring Class. The Markham duo of Gary and Tom Kwok finished one-two in the Touring Class.
Ontario driver Scott Steckly won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race in B.C. and Jason Meyers won the World of Outlaws feature at Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania. The Outlaws will be at the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford next Wednesday. Don't miss that show. It'll blow your mind.