In this edition of our WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) round table we travel across the border to Canada for our seventh round of competition in the 2017 IMSA season at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP). We spoke to Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, and Corey Lewis, driver of the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: What challenges does a track like Canadian Tire Motorsports Park present?
Fittipaldi: One of the things that I rave about the IMSA series is that all the venues we go to are awesome tracks. I’m going to be honest and straight forward. The street courses get compromised a little bit on what I just said but street courses are necessary. We are bringing the show to the city and it’s good for us to go there, I’m more than happy to go to Long Beach and Detroit. Apart from those, IMSA does a phenomenal job of picking the best tracks in America and what I consider the best track in Canada.
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is unbelievably quick. There is one long straightaway but you’re always in the turns. When you finish one high speed corner you run a little bit and you’re already in the next one and when you finish the next one, etc. You’re always turning right or left and it’s really, really challenging. Running all the time at high speed your head just starts to operate in a different rhythm there, and you have to be careful. The other challenge that CTMP offers is the last corner is very slow apart from the hairpin. You’re back to second gear then you start building up again, speeding into turn one. Turn two is awesome, then three and then going down the hill to the hairpin so it’s definitely an awesome facility.
Lewis: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is one of the most daunting tracks in my opinion. There are so many high-speed corners and 90 percent of those corners are mostly all blind on the way in. The biggest challenge that all of us drivers face is trying to see where we are going. You know you want to stay full-throttle but you really don’t know where you’re going to go once you crest the hill. The biggest thing is learning where the track flow is and where you want to position the car, once you get that down pat and you know where you want the car to be placed, it’s such a roller coaster. A fast, flowing track and our Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan has always been quick in the past so very much looking forward to getting there.
Q: What is the tire strategy for a track like Candian Tire Motorsports Park?
Fittipaldi: I think all the teams, we try to understand throughout the weekend what the tire is doing. We need to make sure what pressure we need to qualify at, to race at, do we come in early, do we come in later to do the pit stop and take tires? It’s part of the game. The strategy is open to everyone and whatever they want to pick, they do. There isn’t one specific answer on that. We go with the flow according to what we see is happening throughout the race weekend.
It doesn’t make any sense to double stint tires there. Usually the temperatures are very high there and the tires come in relatively quick. We think about double stinting tires when we are driving in 40-45 degree temperatures and it takes like four laps for them to come in. What you gain in these four laps is not going to be off-set by the performance drop that naturally the tire has afterwards. I don’t see us double stinting. Maybe, depending on the yellows, right at the end of the race and it’s your last stop, you’re probably not going to throw tires on with five to 10 laps to go.
Lewis: The first stint is just keep your nose clean. Don’t overuse your tires just in case you have yellows, you may need a little extra punch before the first pit stop. But really keep your nose clean in the beginning, either Jerone or I will start, and then once we get into the mid-range of the race we’ll do a pit stop with fresh Continental tires and push to the end.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park?
Fittipaldi: So far it hasn’t happened. We were very competitive every year we were there. The year we were least competitive was last year and unfortunately we never managed to pull the trick there and win. The one that kills me the most was two years ago when Joao (Barbosa, co-driver) and I had a perfect race, the car was working really well, and with 10 laps to go we were like 15-18 seconds ahead and Joao had to cruise to finish the race and we had a flat tire. That moment is still going to happen.
Lewis: I think it was 2014, my first time ever there, we did a Lamborghini Super Trofeo race in the Gallardo. I think it was one of my first times ever at CTMP and to jump straight into a 600hp, all-wheel drive car, not really knowing where I was going, that will always stick out in my mind about one of the more challenging aspects of going there. Last year we went with the Lamborghini Huracan and had a really strong car but had a little bit of contact with another car and that kind of put us back. Moving forward to this year, we know we have a fast car. The Change Racing organization has done an amazing job on the prep and now it’s time to go get those results we know we can get.
Q: What can fans expect to see at this year’s CTMP race?
Fittipaldi: I think very competitive racing. I think IMSA throughout the year is just getting stronger and stronger and the whole IMSA family in general is doing a solid job. The series is solid, sponsorship is solid. I’m not just saying this because I’m talking to you but the way the Continental tires are built, especially the dry tires, helps the racing a lot because they are very equal and they tend to last a long time. Is it the fastest tire you can come up with, no, but you have to pick. You can go with a faster tire that has a shorter life span or you go with something that is consistent and this is what the series and Continental strive for. I think this is going very, very well and very seldom do you see massive drops in the tire. That makes our life easier to set up the car and it makes the whole series more competitive.
Lewis: Everything! I hear rumors that people live in the hills. I don’t know if it’s true but if it is, I want to go meet them. In all seriousness though, you can come hang out on the fan walk, meet all the drivers, see all the cars, check out the rigs, it’s very family friendly. The drivers are very welcoming.
The competition is always fierce. Anyone can win these races I feel like. Just looking at practice and qualifying times from this year and historically, times are always within tenths of a second and sometimes, within thousandths of a second. It’s always very difficult and the GTD class is one of the most competitive classes but that’s what makes it great. I love that you have to push yourself in qualifying and in the race. There’s a quote out there somewhere that says if you don’t scare yourself a couple times in qualifying then you’re not doing something right. I feel like that always holds true.