P.J. Groenke Racing and team headed into the Pirelli World Challenge Series Remo Ferri Group Canadian Grand Prix presented by Replay XD at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport) with the expectation of great results. I know the track better than the back of my hand, crew Chief Sean Asselin knows the setup, we have won here before.
The two test sessions on Thursday in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper went well and our lap times were pretty much where we expected them to be, but I noticed that we seemed to be down on power up the back straight and let Sean know over the radio. Practice and Qualifying took place later that afternoon with only 5 minutes in-between the sessions. Sean and I decided to run the full practice session on scrubbed P Zero racing slicks and then swap to our Qualifying and Race 1 tires. We set a lap time of 1:47.062, a full second off my quickest lap time from Mosport last year and 2.032 seconds off the quickest lap time of the session.
Time for Qualifying and it was time to put it all on the line! Traffic is always an issue at Mosport in a TCB car as it is a very high speed track with very little braking and if you lose any momentum on a lap you cannot make it up. The Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper felt amazing with the new tires and I managed to lower my lap time to 1:46.477 with traffic affecting my laps. Finally a clear lap and the delta on the AIM on-board lap timer predicted that I was on a lap under 1:46.00 and the time was dropping as I headed onto the back straight. As I rocketed out of Turn 8 and into Turn 9 I was greeted by a red flag due to a Touring Class car stopped on track which effectively ended our qualifying session. Race 1 took place Friday afternoon and I managed to lower my best lap time to 1:45.705 finishing in 6th place with some fun and hard fought battles along the way with Wei Lu and Randy Smith.
Race 2 took place on Saturday morning and it was all downhill from there…While battling for 5th place I pushed way too hard into Corner 3 and spun. A few laps later while braking for Corner 5 the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper violently lost control and spun into the gravel trap. I managed to recover and finish the race in 10th place, but that last spin was not normal and I knew something was not 100% with the car. Unfortunately the data for Race 2 from our Race-Keeper system was corrupted and Sean and I could only guess as to what had happened.
Race 3 took place Sunday morning and I was determined to salvage our home race weekend and achieve the results we knew we could. As I headed out for the formation lap and began scrubbing in the P Zero racing slicks the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper began shutting off all on its own. I managed to make it to the starting grid, quickly cycled the main power off and on, and gained two positions from the standing start. Once again battling for 5th place the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper violently lost control while braking for Corner 5 and I realized that the car lost all power (and ABS) at that exact point causing the spin, which is exactly what must have happened in Race 2. I struggled through the rest of the race with the MINI Cooper shutting off and on whenever it felt like it and gained valuable championship points finishing in 10th place.
Home track advantage can be great, but when you look forward to and expect certain results and do not achieve them it can be extremely frustrating and disappointing. Thanks to crew chief Sean Asselin wehave already found and rectified the issue with the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper. P.J. Groenke Racing will be up to full speed for the Pirelli World Challenge DeVilbiss Road America presented by Pirelli race weekend with hopes of repeating my Pole Position and race leading performance from 2014!
About P.J. Groenke
P.J. Groenke has been racing professionally in Canada since 2001 and across North America since 2013. Highlights of Groenke’s racing career include winning the 52nd Annual Indian Summer Trophy, finishing as a semi-finalist on Discovery Channel Canada’s Star Racer in 2006, and sweeping the Canadian Touring Car Championship races at the Vortex Brake Pads 200 race weekend with back-to-back victories in 2011. Most recently, Groenke finished 6th in the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Series TCB Class Championship with three top five finishes including one podium, 13 top ten finishes, one Optima Batteries “Best Standing Start” award, two Sunoco “Hard Charger” awards, and captured his very first Pirelli World Challenge Pole Position at Road America.
P.J. Groenke is sponsored by Verax.ca, Tundra Technical Solutions, Mulligan Gold, Clairhaven Ltd., Clorox Pool&Spa, Martinrea International Inc., Pelto Agri Investments, and Warp Speed Computers Inc. Other sponsors include ARS Access Restoration Services, Affinity Luxury Car Rentals, Alpha Laboratories Inc., Amsterdam Brewery, Confident Paintless Dent Removal, Diplomat Trucking Ltd., Eventscape Inc., Payne Capital Corp. & Hawthorn Equity Partners, Proprint Services Inc., Ro-Ro Property Management Corp., and 4XM.ca/4Print.ca. For more information, please visit www.pjgroenkeracing.com.