Reigning GTS series champion Lawson Aschenbach scored his third 2018 Pirelli World Challenge GTS Sprint victory Saturday in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as part of the Castrol presents Victoria Day Speedfest.
Aschenbach, the five-time PWC series champion, grabbed the lead on the first lap and expanded his margin to 12 seconds for 15 laps in the 50-minute sprint feature at the legendary 2.459-mile, 10-turn permanent road course.
The victory was Aschenbach’s 27th in his Pirelli World Challenge career to rank him fourth all-time in the 29-year road racing series history, trailing only Peter Cunningham (43), Randy Pobst (30) and Pierre Kleinubing (29).
Veteran Mark Klenin of Lone Tree, Colo., drove his No. 62 KPR/Premiere Copier McLaren 570S GT4 for his second GTSA race win Saturday, placing seventh overall in the 23-car field.
“I love this place,” said Aschenbach. “It’s a pleasure to come here because there’s so much history here. The track really suits our car. I’ve qualified and raced here in the rain multiple times, so I was really confident going into the qualifying. But I just couldn’t quite get the grip level I needed out of my car. Going into the race, my engineer made a really good call to change the setup quite a bit from yesterday and we thought the track conditions were going to be quite different and he was spot-on.
“The biggest thing I’ve come to understand from these races is that it’s Sprint racing – you have 50 minutes to win a race, so when you have to do what you have to do, you’d better do it early and soon. It was a bit sketchy in the first couple of laps, I was hanging onto it just trying to get everything out of it to get a gap. Fortunately my car was on rails today and it ended up being a great day.”
Taking second in the GTS category Saturday was veteran Jade Buford of Nashville, Tenn., in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 after a wild, spirited fight with fellow veterans James Sofronas and Ian James. After tight racing, Buford, a two-time GTS race winner at CTMP, was able to fend off his challengers for the runner-up position.
Filing out the GTS podium (top-three) was Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., in the No. 72 Ranch 74 Robinson Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 followed by GTS Overall point leader Sofronas of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4, and James of Paradise Valley, Ariz., in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT. Lewis’ teammate, Gar Robinson of San Antonio, Tex., took the No. 74 Ranch 74 Robinson Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 to sixth in the 35-lap main event.
“On the qualifying in the rain, the McLaren does a really good job in being forgiving and being smooth really pays off huge,” said Klenin. “In the race, I just stayed focused and hit my marks and it just worked out. The race was very calm and anti-climactic. But it was exciting to win the race. I’m 56-years old and started this six years ago and I’m just living the dream. Having won here, at this historic track, it’s a fantastic day.”
Klenin’s battle for the GTSA Saturday win was also a dogfight, as local favorite Fred Roberts of Toronto, Ont., Canada, pressured Klenin to the checkered flag. The Colorado racer won by 0.142 seconds over Roberts’ No. 89 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4. Third in GTSA went to Aschenbach’s teammate, Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.
Round 4 of the GTS Sprint series is scheduled for Sunday at 10:05 a.m. EDT and can be seen live on http://www.world-challenge.com and heard on SiriusXM Satellite Radio channel 383 (app channel 983).