This year marked the introduction of GT Challenge to the CASC-OR regional schedule, which consisted of a series of one hour and three hour races. The series is the brainchild of two regional racers, Nigel Krikorian and Richard Foegele who spent a year and a half putting it together and selling it to the Region. “It was a tough sell, but we never gave up on our philosophy for the series,” says Krikorian. One day, one race, one hour. Included in this format is a mandatory pit stop to allow teams with more than one driver to share equal points and, potentially, to end up as co-champions. Endurance racing has always been a part of Ontario Regional Racing from the days of the Mollyslip Enduro Series right up to the Canada Challenge Cup of the late 90s. Borrowing ideas from various European FIA GT Championships has added a tactical element not found in shorter sprint races. For the one hour races, a mandatory pit stop must be made within a designated window between 20 and 40 minutes. The three-hour event also adds the elements of refuelling and the inclusion of other team members in the mix. “Regional racing is supposed to be fun, so why not let all the team members play a part in the race’s outcome?” said co-GT Challenge creator Foegele. Judging by the recent three-hour War Bonnet Enduro, it was definitely a team effort that kept drivers out in front.
As with anything new, the early rounds of the series had an acceptable number of entries, but nothing to write home about. That situation, however, did not last for long. By season’s end, GT Challenge had well over 120 different starters throughout the Championship. “We tried to make something that was user friendly -- a simple formula,” said Krikorian. As with the GT Sprints Championship, the longer GT Challenge races use the same class structure, GT1 to GT6, which allows the ambitious to race in both series with no changes to the car or setup.
The Subaru dominance continued in GT2 with older brother Nicholas Krikorian taking the title while others around him succumbed to reliability issues. Second place GT2 finisher Russell Saulnier steadily improved all year, and capped the season with his first win in his Dodge Ram. The team of Ted Rance and Mike Dolan were always quick, but fragile, and failed to score points on many occasions. Switching from his Porsche to a Panoz GTS, Andrew Romocki overcame teething problems to post strong finishes at season’s end, and will be moving to GT1 for the 2011 season.
At the traditional season opener at Mosport, teams were met with unseasonably cold and intermittently snowy conditions. Former Canadian Touring Car Champion Nigel Krikorian unveiled the latest evolution of the Can Jam Motorsports Subaru, a brave move, as the car was just finished days earlier. Alex Habrich, driving his trusty Viper, was robbed of the opportunity to challenge for the GT Challenge title, after severely damaging his car at a non-championship race at Calabogie which forced him to miss the balance of the season. With Habrich out, the menacing black Subaru marched on unabated, with only late season challenges from Ian Patterson, who was developing his GT1 Corvette.
In a bold move, Paul Myers moved to GT3 for 2010 with minimal upgrades to his Porsche. A season long battle ensued with the Acura of Alec Chalvardjian and the BMW of Allan DeWolfe. The GT3 title was decided when Chalvargjian wrote off his car in a Turn 9 incident at Mosport and DeWolfe had one too many engine maladies. Both drivers will return in 2011 to try and snatch the title from Myers.
Andrew Bearss reigned supreme in GT4. This class was one of the best supported, and speed and reliability made Bearss almost unbeatable. The team of John Maloney and Chris Johnson ran a partial schedule, but strong finishes at the three-hour event moved them to the top of the class. Late comer Markus Glarner’s BMW had some strong finishes, as did second place Joe Chan. Honourable mention goes to Pat McDermott who ran several young co-drivers in an effort to introduce them to this series.
The GT5 class was the property of David Shep. The former Grand-Am racer was dominant and with his closest challenger, Richard Foegele’s Mazda, succumbing to a series of DNFs, Shep secured the title before season’s end. Some of the best racing of the year was seen in GT5, sometimes with groups of four or more cars battling for the class lead. Despite missing earlier rounds of the championship, Mark Durant was always a strong contender and has vied to return and challenge for the GT5 title in 2011.
The essence of GT Challenge can be summed up by Brian and Jonathan Rashleigh -- the father and son duo shared their GT6 Toyota, and made several trips to the top step on the podium. A late season charge by Edwin Lau and three-hour co-driver Chris Paczynski were the main challengers to the Rashleigh duo.
Great racing made the 2010 GT Challenge season a success. The 2011 edition will have some changes, but you can be sure the competition will be even tougher and stronger for the upcoming year.