Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is the only one of the 12 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races held in Canada, which makes it a unique event for all involved with the series.
It will mean a little bit more for Lexus, 3GT Racing and driver Kyle Marcelli.
A year ago, Sage Karam put the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 on the GT Daytona (GTD) class pole position, breaking the existing GTD track record on the lightning-fast, 2.459-mile, 10-turn circuit with a lap of one minute, 16.563 seconds (115.637 mph).
That’s an accomplishment in itself, but what made it even more special was the fact that it was the first WeatherTech Championship pole for the Lexus program, which began competing in the series at the start of the 2017 season.
“It’s really where our momentum started last year,” said Lexus Motorsports Manager Mark Egger. “We had the first pole for Lexus, the track record with Sage Karam behind the wheel, and since then we’ve been able to build on the momentum.”
Lately, the program has built even more momentum. Jack Hawksworth has driven the No. 15 Lexus to two of the last three Motul Pole Awards – at May’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, and last weekend at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. And at Mid-Ohio, Dominik Baumann and Canadian driver Kyle Marcelli delivered the program’s first North American race victory in the No. 14 RC F GT3.
“We’re learning more about the car, the track data is coming to us, we’ve got a full year under the belt of the car,” Egger said. “Coming off the win in Mid-Ohio, everything is starting to fall into place. Learning the car, the intricacies of the circuits, the tires, the drivers are gelling really nice, and 3GT is able to put together a full race package.”
That bodes particularly well for Marcelli, who will be racing in front of his home fans this weekend. The driver from Barrie, Ontario has been attending races at the track formerly known as “Mosport” since he was a child. He’s also logged plenty of laps around the place.
“It’s once a year that we get to race in Canada and it’s always a pleasure to go there for me,” Marcelli said. “I used to race there a lot as a kid. Now, it’s just once a year. You show up with a little extra hop in your step, I guess, a little more confidence. It’s a track unlike any other circuit, really, it’s very old school, very, very fast and requires a lot of confidence and commitment in your car.”
It’s safe to say Marcelli and Baumann – as well as Hawksworth and his No. 15 co-driver David Heinemeier Hansson – have that confidence. The No. 15 duo is currently fifth in GTD points, buoyed by season-best fourth-place results at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Marcelli and Baumann are eighth in the standings with the Mid-Ohio win the clear highlight of the season so far. But this weekend offers an opportunity for what could be the highlight of Marcelli’s year, and he likes his chances.
“The Lexus seems to really thrive in the high-speed racetracks,” he said. “We won at Mid-Ohio, which was not a fast racetrack, but this RC F GT3 car really likes the smooth, fast surfaces. I think we found a sweet spot with the car.
“It’s a new program for me to be a part of. My teammate, Dominik Baumann, it’s a new program for him. I think we expected some teething issues at the beginning. Hopefully, we can find ourselves in a good rhythm and have good momentum here in the middle part of the championship.”
The two-hour, 40-minute Mobil 1 Sports Car Grand Prix begins at 2:05 p.m. EDT