German drivers Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf might have won the Mobil 1-sponsored Grand Prix of Mosport on Sunday but the story of the race was the short-lived charge of Barrie’s Kyle Marcelli, the Canadian hero of Saturday’s qualifying session.
Graf, driving the second stint of the race for the Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing team in the Prototype 1 class, covered 129 laps of the 2.45-mile Mosport track in the two-hour, 45-minute timed feature. Second overall, and on the same lap, came the P1 Lola/Mazda of American Chris Dyson and Englishman Guy Smith.
Third overall and first in the Prototype Challenge class, was the Oreca FLM09 raced by Gunnar Jeannette of Salt Lake City and Ricardo Gonzalez of Monterrey, Mex., who finished two laps behind the overall winner.
Marcelli had qualified fourth overall, and first in the Prototype Challenge class, with a stunning run on Saturday. However, the team opted to have his teammate, Chapman Ducote, of Miami, start the race and he quickly fell back to seventh overall and third in class.
Marcelli replaced Ducote at the first available opportunity (every driver in an ALMS endurance race has to drive at least 45 minutes) and was mounting a charge when he was clipped by a spinning GT Challenge Porsche 911 being driven by U.S. driver Chris Cumming.
Interestingly, Cumming was spinning because he`d been hit by Marcelli`s Intersport Racing teammate, Jon Field, of Dublin, Ohio.
The accident ended Marcelli’s day and any promise of a good finish by the talented young Canadian.
“I guarantee that we would have been one of the cars to watch for the (class) win in that race,” Marcelli said later at his transporter office. "I did my job in qualifying yesterday (a class track record of 1 minute, 11.331 seconds, which translates into 124.103 miles an hour) to show everybody what we can do.
"Then in the race, I got in the car and immediately set the quick lap of the race and was catching up with the leader when, unfortunately, I ran into some circumstances that put us out. But we`ll regroup and we know what we can do and we`ll go on to the next race (in two weeks at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course)."
The start was ragged – the first six rows were way ahead of the rest of the field – but Luhr, who drove the first stint of the race for the winning team, wasted no time taking the lead and was well in front by the end of the first lap. He set a torrid pace and was lapping some of the tail-end GT Challenge cars shortly after starting his fifth circuit.
After that, the delight of watching sports car racing came when either Luhr or Graf would come upon a gaggle of GT and/or GT Challenge cars fighting it out in their own race and start picking their way through.
Sometimes, there would be miscommunication between a much faster and slower car. For instance, on Lap 29, the LMP1 car being driven by Toronto’s Tony Burgess and Johannes Van Overbeek’s GT Ferrari collided and brought out the safety car.
Nobody was hurt but the full course yellow closed up the field and mixed up the order. In fact, because of ALMS regulations, prototypes and GT cars have to pit on different laps and Luhr was forced to stay out longer than he would have liked.
But the time he pitted and emerged with fuel and fresh tires, he was last for the restart and had to tip-toe his way through the field, all the way to the front. It was interesting to watch him do it, to say the least.
Said Luhr: "It was the first time it happened to me (being shuffled all the way to the back) but there`s always a first time for everything in motor racing. I was very angry because I knew now that we were dead last. I was screaming on the radio (he thought ALMS officials had screwed up by opening the pits after he'd gone past the entrance) but they said on the radio (his team) that everybody should calm down and put the hammer down and see where we end up.
"I was very aggressive in traffic. When it came time to take the lead, I said to myself, 'I'm going through, no matter what!` I passed Chris Dyson on the hill up to Turn 2 and that was it." He handed off to Graf soon afterward.
Said the driver who brought the Aston Martin Lola to Winner`s Circle for the second time in two years: "Lucas did an awesome job but we both had to push very hard today. You have to have a lot of experience to drive a race like this. The speed differences are so high that you really have to anticipate what the other driver is going to do. Over the years, you get that kind of second sense."
Jan Magnussen of Denmark and Oliver Gavin of England won the GT class for Corvette Racing and Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende of Los Angeles won the GT Challenge class in a Porsche 911.
Earlier, Don Panoz of Atlanta, Ga., the multi-millionaire inventor of the nicotine patch who’d owned Mosport since the late 1990s, officially passed the torch to new Canadian owners Ron Fellows, Alan Boughton and Carlo Fidani, who purchased the facility in May.
Panoz thanked “the Canadian fans for their friendship and enthusiasm” and wished the new company, Motorsport Ventures Ltd., the best of luck.
Notes: Both Graf and Luhr celebrated birthdays in the days leading up to the Grand Prix. . . Other races Sunday at Mosport: In the U.S.-based IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, Tim McKenzie took the checkered flag for the second day in a row. 6th Gear Racing’s Marco Cirone was the winner for the second consecutive day in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada. . . In the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship, Jonathon Gore won the second of the two races that took place over the weekend, with a total time of 30:18.333. . . João Victor Horto of Brazil won the Star Mazda Championship race after qualifying in fifth position the day before. . . In the Castrol Touring Car Championship, Ashton’s Arek Wojciechowski edged King City native Richard Boake with an exciting last turn pass to win the Super Touring Class by a mere 0.014. Amherstburg’s Dean Fantin finished third. Trois-Rivieres, Que., resident Luc Lesage won in the Touring class.