TORONTO - For the second straight year, Florian Latorre, the reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Champion, won his first race of the season on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place in Toronto. The 18-year-old and his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing #10 Soul Red MazdaMotorsports.com machine held off a first lap challenge and cruised to an "easy" 5.35-second victory over Team Pelfrey rookie Pato O'Ward in the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto.
It was the first Pro Mazda podium for the impressive 16-year-old O'Ward of Monterey, Mexico, who moved from fifth to third on the first lap and was able to get around second-place qualifier Garett Grist of Juncos Racing on Lap 14 to claim the second step on the podium.
Scoring his sixth podium of the season was 20-year-old Timothe Buret. The Juncos Racing rookie from Montpellier, France spent the majority of the race in fourth place, but was able to also get around Grist on the same lap as O'Ward.
Grist, from nearby Grimsby, Ontario brought the No. 5 Juncos Racing machine home in fifth place, the highest placed Canadian while Victor Franzoni of M1 Racing claimed his career-best finish in only his fifth Pro Mazda race after starting 11th, earning the RePlay XD Move of the Race for his pass on Grist on Lap 15.
The 18-car Pro Mazda field made it through the first two turns on the 1.755 mile, 11-Turn Exhibition Place street circuit cleanly, but unfortunately a series of incidents in the long run down Lake Shore Boulevard into Turn 3 removed six drivers from the contest and very well could have serious championship implications.
The chaos started when Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) made contact with the inside wall at the kink going into Turn 3. He suffered damage to the right side of the car and, as he slid through the apex, made contact with the No. 22 of Weiron Tan.
Behind the initial contact, Toronto native Dalton Kellett of Andretti Autosport made contact with Juncos Racing's Jose Gutierrez. The pair of sophomore drivers tagged the outside wall and ended up in the Tire barriers in the Turn 3 run-off. The third incident saw Canadian Daniel Burkett (Cape Motorsports) drive over the back of fellow Pro Mazda rookie Will Owen (Juncos Racing).
After a seven-lap caution to clean-up the incident, the remaining 12 drivers were able to complete an exciting 13 green flag laps. After picking his way through the Turn 3 mess, 24 year-old Kyle Connery (JDC Motorsports) who qualified fifteenth, restarted the race in ninth and was able to make up three more spots to finish a season-best sixth and earn the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award. His charge through the field included a daring pass around the outside of current points leader Santiago Urrutia (Team Pelfrey) in Turn 3.
In the Expert class, for drivers over 30 years of age, it was Bobby Eberle (World Speed Motorsports) from Chicago, Illinois who beat Jay Horak (M1 Racing) to the checkered flag.
Additional contingency awards included the Staubli Award to O'Ward and the PFC Award to the winning team of Cape Motorsports.