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Castrol eSpeedFest Full Weekend Race Rundown

It wasn’t the race weekend we wanted, but perhaps it was the one we needed. If not for COVID-19 the annual Castrol Victoria Day SpeedFest would have gone ahead this past weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s kickoff to the racing season. A long-time Canadian tradition, fans would no doubt have been enjoying the weather and racing action at Canada’s Legendary Home of Motorsport.

With the rise of sim racing, particularly iRacing, the team at CTMP decided a few weeks ago that there might be a way to put on a virtual version of the event for fans, sponsors, and drivers alike to enjoy, and so the eSpeedFest came about to keep the long Victoria Day racing tradition alive.

The virtual weekend kicked off on Saturday afternoon with the Wayfarer Insurance GT Pro Invitational, a 45 minute timed event featuring some of Canada’s established and up-and-coming road racers in spec Cadillac CTS-V race cars. The 20 car grid was reduced to 15 when five drivers failed to show for practice on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, this is one of the issues with sim racing. Kyle Marcelli unfortunately had a rig malfunction. IMSA competitors Roman De Angelis and Ethan Simioni had last-minute schedule conflicts and were forced to withdraw. Two other drivers failed to connect with server issues in the practice session.

Kenton Koch of Glendora, California - a talented young IMSA driver - put his Cadillac on pole with Toronto’s Daniel Morad alongside. A first lap incident saw James Vance, Parker Thompson, and Robert Wickens drop down the order. Through the first half of the race Koch managed to keep Morad in his mirrors. Around the 15 minute mark Morad pitted from 2nd place to get fresh tires. Then only a few minutes later the random competition yellow was displayed, giving Morad the track position on Koch.

The second half of the race saw a spectacular three-way battle between Morad, Koch, and St. Catherines’s Alex Ellis - a former Formula BMW and Indy Lights competitor - running nose-to-tail for nearly 20 minutes. Further back in the field Wickens was able to make the most of the competition yellow and had fought back into the top five. Pfaff Junior driver Mac Clark, who had been running near the front for the first half of the race, entered a closed pit-lane during the caution and was forced to serve a penalty, ending what had been an impressive start. IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR champion Mark Wilkins and CTMP’s own Sam Fellows managed to fight their way into 5th and 6th, respectively, after starting at the back of the grid.

The battle of superb concentration between the Morad, Koch, and Ellis trio finally gave way late in the race when Morad made a mistake into Moss Corner forcing Koch to quickly check up on the brakes. In the domino effect Ellis turned Koch around and ended his chances at taking the win. Morad was able to get away clean and bring his Cadillac home for the win with Ellis second and IMSA TCR driver Michael Lewis, who had driven a careful and consistent race near the front all afternoon, rounding out the podium.

Virtual or not, this was truly an incredible race to watch, aided by the excellent announcing of Pat Gonsalves and Todd Lewis in the virtual broadcast booth. Click here to see the full broadcast replay on GForce TV.

The main event of the Castrol eSpeedFest on Sunday was the NASCAR Pinty’s iRacing Invitational for the Castrol 150 presented by Canadian Tire which aired on TSN around 8:00 PM after the end of SportsCentre following the NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington. A grid of Pinty’s drivers lined up alongside some special guests like Stewart Friesen and Daniel Morad. Pinty’s Series regular Alex Labbé was on pole with Morad joining him on the front row. At the drop of the green, Labbé ran wide into the fast and sweeping Turn 1 and the Moradness machine slipped into the lead. In the opening laps Alex Tagliani was turned around at Turn 2, sending him into a tail-slapping spin that careened his car across the racing line and collected NASCAR Truck driver Stewart Friesen. Up front Morad strode out to a safe enough lead for the first 10 laps or so. Labbé, with good pace and quick thinking, was then able to pull off the under-cut on Morad at the first round of pit-stops.

Around halfway a competition yellow was thrown and the leaders came down pit lane once again to take tires. Morad elected to take left sides only and beat Labbé out of the pits. Morad’s pace was consistent and he looked as if he was going to come to the checkers for his second iRacing win of the eSpeedFest. But with two laps to go in the first ever virtual event for the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, Morad’s steering wheel lost power in his sim rig and he missed the right hander at Turn 10 and drove head-on into the tire wall. Labbé inherited the lead and the race win with brothers Cayden and Treyten Lapcevich - who both had great pace all day and were running near the front - finishing second and third.

The Castrol 150 presented by Canadian Tire will be replayed on TSN on Tuesday May 19 at 10:30AM EDT, Thursday May 21at 2:00PM EDT, and Sunday May 24 at 10:30AM EDT.

The final event of the eSpeedFest featured a championship round for the new Canadian Sim Racing Series featuring several Pinty’s drivers and some top qualifying Canadian sim racers. Forty three drivers came to the green flag racing NASCAR XFinity cars for a 56 lap marathon at virtual CTMP. Alex Labbé and Kevin Lacroix sprinted away from the field at the start with the other 41 drivers scrapping for positions behind them. Two competition yellows were scheduled to spice up the event, and after the first yellow the young Québécois Raphael Lessard had found his way into the lead through good pace and smart strategy.

At the restart Lessard lead the tight-knit group of Labbé, Lacroix, Treyten Lapcevich, and Alex Ellis who had won the public open-qualifier earlier in the day and had started dead last in 43rd. Lessard then made a mistake in Turn 3, letting Lacroix and Labbé through. The battle was then on between Labbé and Lacroix and as the former was pushing very hard he touched the grass at driver’s left into Turn 10 and went into a spin, but managed to stay out of the wall. Then only a couple laps later it was Lacroix who hit hard into the barrier at Turn 8 while trying to get past some lapped traffic without losing momentum through the fast right hander. He was virtually towed and lost a lap in the pit lane getting his iRacing fast repair.

After the second competition yellow Labbé put on an iRacing clinic, building a healthy gap between himself and second place Lessard. With the laps winding down the battle was on for second place between Lessard, Alex Guenette, and Cayden Lapcevich. On the penultimate lap Guenette was tucked up under the rear bumper of Lessard and tried the risky passing opportunity on the inside at Turn 10, knocking Lessard off and out of contention. Guenette then had to hold off a hard-charging Lapcevich on that 56th lap. At the line it was Labbé taking his second iRacing victory of the day, with Guenette beating Lapcevich to the checkers by only three one-thousands of a second in a drag race off Turn 10. This was a spectacular race to cap off the e-weekend. Click here to see the full race replay on GForce TV.

Real-world or digital, it seems that the historic and world-renowned Grand Prix Circuit at CTMP continues to produce tight and exciting racing and race finishes. We hope you enjoyed the racing this past weekend and we hope we can do it for real in the near future. Stay tuned to CTMP’s social media channels for updates on our season as they develop.
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