Michael DiMeo (Touring Car, pictured), Ernie Francis Jr. (Touring Car A) and Nathan Stacy (Touring Car B-Spec) took Sunday wins in Round 4 of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships season, and the third race of the three-race Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
While DiMeo is now a perfect four-for-four to open the season, both Francis Jr. and Stacy have their first wins of the season. It’s rather fitting that both of the latter two won; at age 14, Stacy now eclipses Francis Jr.’s previous mark of 15 years old to become the youngest race winner in series history. Francis Jr. set the mark with his win in Round 1 of the TCB season in 2013, at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
DiMeo, of Toronto, in the No. 71 LiUNA Honda Civic Si for Compass360 Racing, started from pole in the Touring Car category but made a mistake on the opening lap when he ran wide at Turn 9 on the circuit. He fell to fourth, but made it back to second place by Lap 3. The previous lap, he’d tried a three-wide move on both his teammate, Karl Thomson, of Toronto in the No. 72 CTF/Racing4Research/HPD Honda Civic Si and rookie Adam Poland, of Mt. Vernon, Texas in the No. 11 Eastex Motorsports/Poland Construction Mazda MX-5, heading into Turn 1.
Gary Kwok, of Markham, Ontario, in the No. 88 M&S Quality Produce Honda Civic Si assumed the lead after DiMeo’s slide off course. But DiMeo quickly reeled him in and was within a second by Lap 8. After hounding him for five laps, DiMeo was able to make the pass for the lead on Lap 13 at the inside of Turn 1, earning the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race.
From there, DiMeo drove a controlled remainder of the race to beat Kwok by 3.690 seconds. Kwok finished second for the third race in a row, while in third, Thomson secured his first podium finish of the 2014 season.
“First off I have to thank everyone that made the weekend possible, Compass360 Racing, and my sponsors, LiUNA and CTF. It’s great to have their support, have them backing me, it just motivates me to do well, especially here,” said DiMeo. “I wanted to put on a good show for everyone here at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, so with three wins, that was a pretty good end to the weekend and I hope we can maintain this going into New Jersey.”
In Touring Car A, Jason Wolfe, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio in the No. 36 Wolfe Trucking Kia Forte Koup sought the same feat as DiMeo in terms of a weekend sweep of the three races. Wolfe led the whole way until the second last lap of the race when Francis Jr., of Dania, Fla., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5 who had started second, passed to take the lead. Francis Jr. end up winning the race by 5.845 seconds. The pass by Francis Jr. netted him the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race and Stop-Tech Brake Late, Finish First award.
“At the beginning of the race I was sliding all over the place, I was just trying to find grip out there, and one of my teammates Jason Cherry, made a mistake on turn #9, got sideways and I was able to get by him and move into second place,” said Francis Jr., “and then it was just chasing down Wolfe and keeping the pressure on him until he finally made a mistake and I was able to get on the inside of him on turn #3 and squeeze him to the outside and then kept on going.”
Shea Holbrook, of Groveland, Fla., finished on the podium for the third time in as many races in the No. 67 TRUECar/Lucas Oil/Radium Honda Civic Si. Holbrook started from the rear of the field after a violation found in post-race technical inspection on Saturday, but bounced back nicely on Sunday.
Class polesitter Jason Cherry, of Gambrills, Md., in the No. 13 Autism Society of America/Avpro/Purposeful Architecture Mazda MX-5, was unable to turn that prime starting position into his first career series win, with mechanical issues forcing him to make an unscheduled pit stop during the race. He finished sixth in TCA.
The Touring Car B race was fairly straightforward in terms of the top two positions. Stacy, of Owasso, Okla., was able to streak away from his first series pole position in the No. 14 TSG/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta. He lead the entire race for a flag-to-flag victory, winning by some 24.328 seconds over Brian Price, of Middletown, Va., in the No. 51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit. Price won the first three races of the season.
Behind them though, was a seriously intense and dramatic battle for third place. Taking the position at the flag was PJ Groenke, of Toronto, in the No. 66 Verax.ca/Tundra/Mulligan Gold Mini Cooper, which was a change of car from his normal Shea Racing Honda Fit, that had had both an accident and mechanical issues forcing the car to be withdrawn for the remainder of the weekend.
Through the generosity of Scott Kuhne and 4R Motorsports, the No. 24 West Real Estate/4R Motorsports/Hawk Brakes Mini Cooper driven in Rounds 2 and 3 by George Calfo of Atlanta, was made available for Groenke to use for Round 4. Groenke made the most of the opportunity despite starting from the rear of the field due to the car, number and driver change.
In a three-way fight for the position, Groenke, his usual Shea Racing teammate Paul Holton and MINI of Charleston Racing’s Nick Lougee spent most of the race exchanging the position. At any one point, Holton, Lougee or Groenke held the position, but ultimately the hometown native and his thousands of laps of track experience paid dividends.
Lougee, of Minneapolis, Minn., finished fourth in the No. 37 MINI of Charleston Racing/MINIUSA.com Mini Cooper with Holton, of Tallahassee, Fla., fifth in the No. 65 Radium/TRUECar/Lucas Oil Honda Fit. Holton earned the Optima Battery Best Standing Start Award. Groenke picked up the Sunoco Hard Charger Award (gaining three positions during the race). After missing Round 3, Chris Capaldi of Imlay City, Mich. bounced back nicely in the No. 31 Wolverine Bronze/Capaldi Racing Ford Fiesta, finishing just three tenths of a second behind Holton in sixth place.
Results are final. In TC, DiMeo leads with 596 points, Thomson is second with 341, and Gary Kwok in third with 340. In TCA, Wolfe leads with 504, Cherry is second with 367, and Holbrook and Francis Jr. are tied in third with 346 each. In TCB, Price leads with 547, Stacy with 427, and the team of Palmer/Lougee are in third with 378.
The races from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park will be broadcast on MAVTV on a date to be announced in early June. As well, the races will be viewable online at world-challengetv.com after the broadcast airs on MAVTV.
After a two-week break, the Pirelli World Challenge TC, TCA and TCB competitors will head to New Jersey Motorsports Park for a double-header weekend May 30-June 1, for Rounds 5 and 6. The GT, GT-A and GTS competitors are also back in action on the same weekend, on the streets of Detroit at Belle Isle Park, for their Rounds 5 and 6, as well.
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Results from Sunday’s 26 lap 63.934 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship TC/TCA/TCB RND 4 race, part of the Victoria Day Weekend – CTMP at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. TC, (1), Michael DiMeo(R), Toronto, Ontario, Honda Civic Si, 26.
2. TC, (2), Gary Kwok, Markham, Ontario, Honda Civic Si, 26, -3.690.
3. TC, (3), Karl Thomson(R), Toronto, Ontario, Honda Civic Si, 26, -21.600.
4. TC, (4), Tom Kwok, Markham, Ontario, Honda Civic Si, 26, -1:13.578.
5. TC, (5), Adam Poland(R), Mt. Vernon, Texas, Mazda MX-5, 23, -3 lap.
6. TC, (6), Jason Saini, Chicago, Ill., Mazda MX-5, 2, Mech.
1. TCA, (2), Ernie Francis,Jr, Dania, Fla., MAZDA MX-5, 26.
2. TCA, (3), Jason Wolfe(R), Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Kia Forte Koup, 26, -5.845.
3. TCA, (6), Shea Holbrook, Groveland, Fla., Honda Civic Si, 25, -33.165.
4. TCA, (5), Robby Foley(R), Randolph, N.J., Mazda RX-8, 25, -33.509.
5. TCA, (4), Russell Smith, Buford, Ga., Kia Forte Koup, 25, -46.541.
6. TCA, (1), Jason Cherry(R), Gambrills, Md., Mazda MX-5, 21, -5 lap.
1. TCB, (1), Nathan Stacy(R), Owassa, Okla., Ford Fiesta, 23.
2. TCB, (3), Brian Price(R), Middleton, Va., Honda Fit, 23, -24.328.
3. TCB, (7), PJ Groenke, Toronto, Canada, MINI Cooper, 23, -29.806.
4. TCB, (4), Nick Lougee, Minneapolis, Minn., MINI Cooper, 23, -37.183.
5. TCB, (6), Paul Holton(R), Tallahassee, Fla., Honda Fit, 23, -37.209.
6. TCB, (9), Chris Capaldi, Imlay City, Mich., Ford Fiesta, 23, -37.560.
7. TCB, (2), Jim Cleveland, Brisbane Australia, , MINI Cooper, 23, -1:16.511.
8. TCB, (5), Jason Fichter(R), Jupiter, Fla., MINI Cooper, 21, -2 lap.
9. TCB, (8), Nick Wittmer, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, Fiat 500, 12, Mech.
Time of race: 40 minutes, 27.440 seconds.
Average speed: 94.817 mph
Margin of victory: 3.690 Seconds (TC), 5.845 Seconds (TCA), 24.328 Seconds (TCB)
Lap leaders: Laps 1-12, #88 Gary Kwok; laps 13-26, #71 Michael DiMeo(R) (TC); Laps 1-2, #13 Jason Cherry(R), laps 3-24 #36 Jason Wolfe(R), laps 25-26 #98 Ernie Francis Jr. (TCA); Laps 1-23 #14 Nathan Stacy(R) (TCB)
Fastest race lap: #71 Michael DiMeo(R), 1:32.217 (95.995 mph) (TC); #13 Jason Cherry(R), 1:34.954 (93.228 mph) (TCA); #37 Nick Lougee, 1:45.005 (84.304 mph) (TCB)
Fastest qualifier: #71 Michael DiMeo(R), 1:32.561 (95.638 mph) (TC), #13 Jason Cherry(R), 1:35.445 (92.748 mph) (TCA), #14 Nathan Stacy (R), 1:45.208 (84.141 mph) (TCB)