TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Game on. Three races ago the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires seemed to be all over bar the shouting as teenaged Mexican Patricio “Pato” O’Ward had reeled off a string of five consecutive victories to establish a commanding 55-point advantage over Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz. Not so fast. The quest for a substantial Mazda scholarship to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the top tier of the Mazda Road to Indy, in 2017 was turned on its head this afternoon when Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., romped to his third consecutive win while O’Ward fell victim to an unfortunate first-lap incident in the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto.
Telitz won by a comfortable 2.5-seconds over Nico Jamin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), last year’s winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Jake Parsons earned his second podium finish with a solid effort for Juncos Racing.
Coming off a pair of wins at his home track, Road America, at the end of June, Telitz maintained his momentum by grasping pole position – his fifth of the season – in qualifying this morning. He took full advantage by leading into the first corner, then benefited even more when an incident between O’Ward and Jamin resulted in O’Ward’s car making stout contact with one of the omnipresent retaining walls. His race was over.
The race was neutralized for a few laps while the disconsolate Mexican’s car was removed, whereupon Telitz continued where he left by leading the field at the restart. Jamin remained in contact for quite a while, even posting fastest race laps on a couple of tours around the 1.786-mile street circuit, but Telitz was always able to counter. He reclaimed the bonus point for fastest lap on Lap 22, then improved upon it three more times before taking he checkered flag 2.5327-seconds clear to earn his fourth win of the season to close within eight points, 272-264, with six races remaining this season, including tomorrow’s 11th round which will start at 9:25 a.m. EDT.
Parsons profited from O’Ward’s misfortune to move into third place, which he comfortably maintained to the finish. Juncos racing teammate Will Owen fell to seventh on the opening lap but recovered well, passing TJ Fischer (Team Pelfrey) and Nicolas Dapero (Juncos Racing) before benefitting still further when a fine run by Mexican Jorge Cevallos, aboard a second Cape Motorsports entry, was ended when Cevallos retired to the pits after damaging his car against one of the retaining walls.
Owen reduced a deficit of almost five seconds to Parsons to just 1.2 seconds at the checkered flag but still had to be content with fourth.
Bobby Eberle (JDC MotorSports) was unchallenged in the National Class but earned kudos for improving his lap times throughout the 30-minute contest and posting his fastest lap of the weekend, just 1.5 seconds away from race winner Telitz’s best, on the very last lap.
Team Pelfrey maintained its perfect record of PFC awards as the winning car owner, while Cevallos gained some consolation by claiming the Staubli Award. The Quarter Master Hard Charger Award went to Dapero for advancing two places, from seventh to fifth, over his grid position.
Aaron Telitz (Rice Lake Weighing Systems-Team Pelfrey): “I’m really happy to have take the win today - the momentum has definitely shifted in my direction now, but I would have much rather beaten Pato on the track. I knew I had to go for it and once Pato was out, I had to get as many points as I could. I had the team update me if Nico went faster than me, which it seems like he did every other lap, so I had to try to go faster to get that point. I was hoping to close into the teens over the course of the weekend so to have the differential down to single digits after one race is awesome. I have to keep riding the momentum – I know that Pato will come back with a vengeance tomorrow. I think we’re all starting in just about the same spots so he’ll be trying all he can to get to the front on the first lap. It’s all about staying focused and not letting my guard down, especially at moments like that, when Pato went out.”