TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Rinus VeeKay clearly has an affinity for street circuits. The young Dutchman produced a commanding performance for Juncos Racing in this morning’s crash-marred Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products to ensure his first victory since the season-opening double-header on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Brazilian teammate Carlos Cunha steered clear of the carnage to vault from 11th on the grid to second ahead of Raul Guzman, from Guadalajara, Mexico, who secured his first visit to the podium in just his third start for RP Motorsport Racing.
VeeKay’s flawless display began with an exemplary start from the pole position to maintain his advantage into Turn One on the demanding 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street circuit. Behind, outside front row qualifier David Malukas (BN Racing) left his braking a tad too late and ran a little wide on the entry, gifting the position to Canadian favorite and championship leader Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport).
A half-mile or so later, in the braking area for Turn Three, there was carnage as Englishman Harrison Scott (RP Motorsport Racing) was squeezed by Thompson’s teammate, Antonio Serravalle, then launched into a terrifying roll after making contact with the rear of Sting Ray Robb’s Team Pelfrey car. Scott, thankfully, emerged unscathed from his badly damaged Tatuus-Mazda PM-18. Scott, Serravalle, Robb, Robert Megennis (Juncos Racing) and Andres Gutierrez (Team Pelfrey) were all out of the race on the opening lap.
VeeKay once again took off into the lead at the restart after a lengthy cleanup as Thompson attempted to fend off Malukas. On the next lap in Turn One, Malukas made a late lunge for the inside under braking which resulted in more contact and another full-course caution with two more drivers out of the race.
Cunha, having started 11th after making a mistake and collecting the wall in qualifying, suddenly found himself in second place ahead of Cape Motorsports teammates Oliver Askew and Nikita Lastochkin as the remaining seven cars once again circulated behind the Mazda Pace Car.
There was one more miscue when Kris Wright lost control of his BN Racing Tatuus and found the tire barrier in Turn Eight, after which VeeKay once again romped away into the lead. He even underlined his superiority by posting a new lap record of 1:07.8409, an average speed of 94.775 mph, on the final lap of the race while finishing 3.5546 seconds clear of a delighted Cunha, who also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Askew’s recent run of misfortune continued as his attempt to overtake Cunha during the middle part of the race was firmly rebuffed, which allowed Lastochkin to nip through into third. Later, after the final restart, Askew’s similar move to displace his teammate allowed a close-following Guzman to nip past both of them into third place.
Rinus VeeKay (#2 Jumbo Supermarkets/La Place Restaurants/KNAF Talent First-Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “Parker was right on me and David was in my mirrors on the start but then I saw cars flying and I knew there would be a caution. I was hoping that it would just be a yellow, not red, so I could stay in front of the field on the restart. I feel badly for them, but to have Parker and David not finish is a boost for me in the championship. It was hard with all the yellows as well, since there was so much time spent not completely focused on the race. I knew the guys that were close to me in lap times were out, so I just had to do a good restart and set the quickest race lap. I focused on that and not hitting any walls, just being very clean. I really appreciate all the hard work the team has put in to help me get the pole and the win.”
Carlos Cunha (#1 Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “That was crazy. The whole weekend has been crazy so far. This is my first time here and most of the rest of the field has been here two or three times before. I tried to push hard in qualifying, but it was the wrong moment, so I started way back in 11th. This first race was really hard, but we did a really good job and I’m very happy with that. The attrition helped me gain some positions but VeeKay was as fast as me so I couldn’t pass him. It was a good job but I am still waiting for my first victory – I hope it comes tomorrow.”
Raul Guzman (#27 RP Motorsport Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “This is so different from my first race in the series at Road America. It’s so fast there and here, you need to reset your mind. You have to be really close to the walls to be fast. I have been on other street circuits but this one is the best one I’ve been on. It’s very technical and more challenging, though my hands hurt a bit from the bumps. But I’m happy to get the team a podium – they’ve been great in helping me learn the series. I’m really happy with the championship and the team in my second weekend.”