August 15, 2012
Cooper Lites at Mosport Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge
Feature: Racing a Mazda2 in the CTCC B-Spec Series
Feature: The Joy of Driving On a Track (or Off-road)
Article and photos by Mike Schlee
Spec Racing at Mosport Grand Prix
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario – A great many of us wish we were race car drivers. We wish we had the funds, talent, time and unwavering commitment needed to spend every available weekend at the track throwing down in an octane-fueled battle to the finish. Since I ‘like cars’, it is assumed by many friends, family, and coworkers that I automatically should know any car-based question. One I have been asked many times in the past is: “How does someone become a racecar driver?” Now that is a loaded question with an almost infinite number of answers, but I will delve into a prominent racing career path here: Spec racing.
Racing as a hobby is expensive. Just ask our own successful racer and Contributing Editor James Bergeron about all the costs associated in a single race weekend. Racing isn’t like other sports in North America. There isn’t a large, scout-able pool of potential talent playing in thousands of similarly governed minor leagues across the continent. There is yet to be a ‘Timbits Racing League’ (although… that would be pretty awesome). So, with the limited number of professional racing series throughout Canada and the USA, just how exactly do they scout talent then? Well, one way is through feeder series that involve spec racing.
Spec Racing at Mosport Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge
Spec racing is the short form for specification racing, which basically means all vehicles within the given race series adhere to stringent regulations requiring all vehicles to perform within a tight set of guidelines. Now, the rules and regulations will differ from series to series and can run the gauntlet from engine-sealed cars the driver’s cannot even work on to vehicles that must only meet a minimum weight, engine size, and tire width. Regardless of the specifics for each series, they all share a common goal—give the drivers an even playing field to let the best of the best rise to the top.
One of the highlights of the Canadian racing season is the Grand Prix of Mosport at the recently renamed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, where we had a chance to witness a handful of these spec racing classes live. Here is the rundown of the events we caught.
IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin
Porsche GT3 Cup racing at Mosport Grand Prix. Click image to enlarge
For those of us that may be a bit (or lot) older, or maybe lack the talent of some of the true professional racecar drivers, there is the GT3 Cup Challenge. This is a five-race weekend series that takes place across Ontario and Quebec. It is designed for the well-heeled privateer that wants to take their hobby beyond club racing and to the next level. The series involves three classes of race cars: Silver, Gold and Platinum. These classes correspond to the three most recent generations of Porsche 911 GT3 road cars. So currently, the Silver class consists of the 2003–2005 996 Mk2 911 GT3, the Gold class consists of the 2005.5–2009 997 Mk1 911 GT3 RS, and the Platinum class consists of the 2011-2012 997 Mk2 911 GT3 RS 4.0.
Obviously, with the newest vehicles featuring the largest engine displacement, the Platinum class is the fastest. However, a new 991 911 GT3 should be just around the corner and will replace these cars as the Platinum class, thus knocking the 997 Mk2 to the Gold class and the 997 Mk1 to the Silver class and effectively retiring the 996 GT3s from competition. As mentioned earlier, this is a rich man’s sport. Every one of the new Platinum class cars costs $200,000 alone. Then the costs for fuel, tires, transportation, replacement parts, etc. need to be added on. On top of this, roughly every 50 hours of use or so the engine and transmission need to be rebuilt by the Porsche factory.
The latest Porsche 911 GT3 R racecars are equally prepared and feature a sealed engine to prevent any possible horsepower advantage. Each vehicle weighs approximately 1,200 kg and has a 100 L fuel cell installed. They come with all the necessary racing hardware like race ABS brakes, race brake pads, steel discs brakes, a fully adjustable suspension using spec parts, centre-locknut wheels, a race exhaust system, a race clutch, and a six-speed sequential transmission. All vehicles run on RON 98 Octane gas (equivalent to roughly 92 on our pumps), which enables the 4.0 L flat-six engine to produce around 473 hp. Finally, the 911’s body can be increased in width using add-on parts made of carbon fibre and Kevlar.