May 23rd, 2017 by Patrick Taylor
After several intense battles on the ovals at Pocono and Texas, the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment shifts gears this week by travelling to a road course north of the border. Specifically, the sim racing series makes its first-ever visit to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, better known as Mosport.
The track – located in Bowmanville, Ontario – may seem like an odd choice to host an Indycar race – even a virtual one. However, the 2.46-mile circuit does have a long history with open-wheel racing, having hosted the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix numerous times between 1967 and 1977.
Indycar even has a brief history at Mosport thanks to the USAC Championship Series that visited the facility for the first time in 1967. That year, Bobby Unser emerged as the winner after two 98-mile heat races. Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt and Danny Ongais would also earn Canadian victories in three additional USAC events at the track. The Atlantic Championship also raced at Mosport for many years between 1974 and 1994 with future Indycar names like Bobby Rahal, Kevin Cogan, Roberto Moreno and Greg Ray all earning victories in the Indycar ladder series.
Indycar has had a much larger presence in Canada during the past three decades thanks to races in Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. During this period, Paul Tracy has been the only Canadian to win on his home soil, doing so twice in Toronto (1993 & 2003) and three additional times in Vancouver (2000, 2003 & 2004.)
As it happens, the current Lionheart points leader Andrew Kinsella is also Canadian and he will be looking to follow in Tracy’s footsteps this week by winning the 41-lap sim race. In order to accomplish that feat he will need to find a way around Jake Wright who is undefeated on road courses this season. Mosport may be Kinsella’s best chance to challenge Wright – and the precedent for such an upset already exists thanks to Michael Gray.
Last season, Gray scored an unexpected win for Team #NailedIt at Brands Hatch due primarily to strong pit strategy. After exiting the pits ahead of Wright, the Australian hung on throughout an intense battle in the closing laps and took the checkered flag. If anything, passing will prove even more difficult at Mosport, so if Kinsella – or any other sim racer – can find a way to either out-qualify Wright, or get ahead of him in the pits, chances are good that another upset winner could emerge.
Kinsella may have plenty of motivation to win his hometown race, but Michael Gray might have even more at stake. He currently sits fourth in the championship and another upset victory would allow him to cut into Kinsella’s points lead. Gray, not surprisingly, has been posting strong practice times but that’s no guarantee he’ll be visiting victory lane. He will once again need flawless pit strategy and a little bit of luck if he wants to stand on the top step of the podium after this event.
As far as Jake Wright is concerned, motivation won’t be an issue for the defending series champion. Already a winner at Imola and Watkins Glen in 2017, he’s the clear favourite to win yet again. Currently sitting 102 points out of the points lead, Wright’s continued dominance on the road is a must if he wants to find himself back in the championship fight. Barring a mistake, he could easily dominate again, but as far as the standings are concerned, he’s also going to need Kinsella to hit a slump at some point – something the consistent Canadian has yet to do.
Finally, Dan Geren has, as usual, put in hundreds – if not thousands – of laps in preparation for this sim racing event. Currently sitting second in the standings, Geren has proven in the past that he can work his way to the top of the field on a road course even if it takes hours of practice to get there. After coming very close to victory at Phillip Island last season, could Geren earn his first road course win this week in Canada?
Other sim racers who currently sit in the top ten overall are Bob Mikes, Ryan Otis, James Krahula, Pierre Daigle, Michael Goodman and Brian Yaczik. Each of them will be looking for a strong and consistent run in Canada so that they can maintain (or improve) their position in the standings heading into the league’s double-points Indianapolis 500 on June 11th.
All-told, five Canadians are expected to start the event, including points leader Kinsella, race sponsor Robert Blouin, Patrick Taylor, Tyler Turnbull and Pierre Daigle. Daigle is the only sim racer in the field to have real-life experience on the 2.46 mile Mosport circuit having raced Formula Fords there in 2006 and 2007.
The Indycar Grand Prix of Canada presented by iRacer.ca will be broadcast live on the Global SimRacing Channel and iRacing Live on May 24th beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.