At the start of the 2012 racing season Kyle Marcelli had one goal — win a race in the American Le Mans Series LMPC class in the No. 8 Merchant Services Racing Oreca FLM09.
On Saturday at the Victoria Day Weekend SpeedFest at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park the 22-year-old from Barrie adds another goal: A win in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
Marcelli almost got his first goal at the Long Beach Grand Prix last month when he came in fourth and then last week at California’s Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca he came within 90 seconds of winning before mechanical problems shuffled him back to fifth.
Marcelli will try again to get that first win of the season in the No. 9 Pfaff Automotive Partners GT3 as the Porsche Cup series runs a pair of races at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park to open its 2012 calendar.
“It will be my first experience in this car,” Marcelli said Friday as he took to the track. “Last August Christopher Pfaff approached me after Porsche had asked him to enter a car in this championship.”
Marcelli said that he jumped at the chance as long as it didn’t conflict with his day job in ALMS.
After all, the best place for a race car driver to be is in a race car, no matter where.
“So here we are,” he said. “I am going to be doing the full Porsche GT3 championship with Pfaff.”
The only conflict comes when the GT3 Cup races at Mount Tremblant July 6-7.
Marcelli will be behind the wheel of the LMPC at Lime Rock Park that weekend in the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix.
But that is the only drawback for Marcelli.
“The (Porsche) is awesome,” he said. “It is fun drive and is a really impressive piece of machinery.”
Marcelli said that the most important thing for him doing dual duty this season is that he is getting plenty of seat time in a race car.
It makes it better, as well, that he will be going from his ALMS car — the Oreca FLM09 prototype — that is capable of hitting almost 200 m.p.h. to the GT3, with a top speed of about 160 m.p.h.
“It is bit easier to go from a prototype to a GT3 car,” Marcelli said. “It would be a little more difficult going the other way.
Everything happens just a little but slower (in GT3 car), but then again it requires a whole new driving style.
“A lot of different things come into to play but overall the experience has been good, I’ve really enjoyed my time in this car so far.”
As for his ALMS season with the newly formed Merchant Services team, Marcelli said the race car has been fast every time out, but he has been plagued with some bad luck.
“We’ve had some things not go right in pit stops that have affected our results,” he said. “At Laguna Seca this past weekend we had about a 30 second lead with 25 minutes to go in a six hours race and a yellow came out and bunched us up.
“We ended up in a heated battle with about a minute and a half to go when he developed some gear box issues.”
Marcelli is also thinking long term as his ultimate goal is to land a factory racing job with one of the big sports car manufacturers.
And, of course, Porsche, no surprise, is just the kind of manufacturer that could come up with such an offer for the young Canadian.
Jacques Villeneuve has signed a two-race NASCAR Nationwide Series deal with Penske Racing. The 1997 world champion will drive the No. 22 Dodge at the Road America 200 at Elkart Lake and in the NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. ... NASCAR bad boy Kurt Busch announced Friday that Monster Energy will sponsor him in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
BOWMANVILLE — Robin Buck only races on road courses in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
That is because he is truly one of those “road course specialist” who turns both left and right in a stock car with terrific results.
He will be at it again on Saturday as he attempts to qualify on the pole for Sunday’s Vortex Brake Pads 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
For the majority of drivers who compete in the entire 12-event NCTS calendar, they would prefer Buck just stay at home because every time the driver of the No. 66 Quaker State Dodge is on the grid he is favoured to win.
He has already had some test time at the Bowmanville track last week and he liked the results.
“After our test day we made our final preparations,” he said.
Last season Buck entered all five of the NCTS road courses and won two — ICAR Montreal and the Trois-Rivieres Grand Prix — with third-place finishes in another two — the Honda Indy Toronto and at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
Only at the NAPA 100 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve did Buck fail to get a podium finish.
“Our last race in Montreal wasn’t up to our standards from earlier in the year and that’s kind of stuck with everyone,” Buck said. “We’ve gone through the entire race car and made some improvements and tested them on the track”
One reason for Buck’s optimism is that he will be getting more engineering support from Quaker State.
“This season they have involved more of their departments in the racing program and it’s very exciting,” he said.
Buck said he is particularly pleased to see that the NCTS will be racing at the Edmonton Indy again this season, giving him one more opportunity to win.
“I’m really happy to be headed back to Edmonton and I’m looking forward to the challenging new track layout,” he said.