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First in Continental Tire feature, Kyle Marcelli celebrates ‘biggest win’

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Class winner Casey pays tribute to the late Jeff Green at post-race media conference

Calling it the biggest race win of his young career, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, along with Nate Stacy of Owasso, Okla., co-drove a Ford Mustang GT4 to victory in Saturday’s IMSA Continental SportsCar Challenge race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

And because of a miscommunication with his pit, which left him short of fuel, Marcelli had to drive as slowly for the win as he possibly could.

The Continental race was the Saturday headliner leading into Sunday’s Grand Prix of Mosport, featuring  the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The two-hour and 40-minute timed race will get the green flag at 2:05 p.m. A preliminary race, the IMSA Prototype Challenge, which will run for an hour and 45 minutes, will get the day’s activities under way at 10:30 a.m.

Marcelli and Stacy, racing in the Grand Sport (GS) class,  won their two-hour race by about two seconds over Martin Barkey of Huntsville, Ont., and Brett Sandberg, who were also in a Mustang. Their winning speed was 103.873 miles an hour. Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner, in a Mercedes AMG, completed the podium.

In the TCR (Touring Car) class, Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long, driving for the Toronto-based Compass Racing, won in an Audi RS3. The second and third-place finishers, also driving Audi RS3s, were Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson, and Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing, who were also driving for Compasss.

In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Nick Galante and Devin Jones were first in a BMW, Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones followed in a MINI and Max Faulkner and Jason Rabe were third in a Porsche Cayman.

During a post-race media conference,  Casey paid tribute to the late Chicago-area auto dealer and businessman, Jeff Green, who died in a racing accident at CTMP on the Victoria Day weekend in May.

“I knew Jeff right from when he first started racing,” said Casey, “and he quickly ramped up. He did a lot of Pro Mazda and Radical (class) racing and a lot of historics racing. I’m dedicating this race to him. He was an extremely close friend and a true racer.”

(In the photo above, Tom Long (left) listens as Britt Casey Jr. pays tribute to Jeff Green. Kyle Marcelli of Barrie (beside Casey) and Nate Stacy were the overall winners of the Continental Tire race.)

Marcelli, 28, has been a professional racing driver since 2010 and has won numerous “support” races but was ecstatic Saturday at finally having won a “main event” on what he considers his home track.

“This is my biggest win,” he said. “I feel so fortunate that it happened here at CTMP.”

He also thinks this might be the year where he experiences a real breakthrough. He explained that his family was able to afford to keep him in racing but that he wasn’t able to get rides with top teams.

“My dream was to make it to the American Le Mans Series, and that happened in 2010,” he said. “I’ve been able to get a ride every year since but to really be successful you have to have the right car, the right team and the right co-driver and everything has to fit.

“This year is probably the first time in my career where it’s happened and it’s happened in both series (Marcelli will also be racing Sunday in the WeatherTech championship race for Lexus with Dominik Baumann co-driving).

He said all this has given him a big boost of confidence and that all he has to be concerned about now is his performance in the cockpit.

“It’s been a great year for pace and results in both programs. I really hope it’s the year that launches my career. My goal is a factory gig and I feel like I’m getting closer.”

Marcelli explained the miscommunication with his pit this way.

“We figured we could go about 55 minutes on a tank of gas. It’s a 120-minute race so we had about a 10-minute window. We wanted to extend Nate’s first stint as long as possible, pit, get a full tank of fuel, four tires, and do the driver change. And then I would go out and drive for about 15 minutes and when we reached the point where there was 55 minutes left in the race, I would come back in, we`d do a short fill – I would only have burned 10 or 15 minutes worth of fuel – and I would go back out.

“The plan was that I might take two tires. Nate ran his stint, I went out and it was 10 or 15 minutes later when that full-course caution came out (for an on-track incident) and I was going through Turn 8 and my crew chief asked if I wanted tires and as I was going through Turn 9, I was answering him and as I released the radio button I heard, ‘Pit, pit pit.’ But I’d missed the pit entrance (going into Corner 10) so we were committed at that point to go to the end.

“I had to make up the fuel so I saved about two and a half laps of fuel. It was a different kind of win because I’d never won a race that way before. We were leading and I was managing the gap to the second-place car – there was no need for me to pull away; I just didn’t want him to start catching me – and saving fuel and winning the race as slow as I could. That was the goal.”

And he ran out of fuel as he crossed the finish line.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca

 

 

 

 

 

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