THE CHAMP IS BACK
HARGROVE RETURNING WITH OPENROAD RACING AT TORONTO
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 28, 2015) – A Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car has rested quietly in the sparkling lobby of an OpenRoad Auto Group Porsche dealership near Vancouver since late last August.
The car still showed the authentic scars of intense racing, with dirt and specks of rubber covering its sleek skin. Scott Hargrove’s name was still on the windshield, as he drove that No. 69 OpenRoad Racing Porsche to the Platinum Cup championship as a rookie last season in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin for the team owned by Christian Chia.
That car continued to tempt Hargrove whenever he visited Chia’s dealership. It teased him. It called his name.
“Every time I would go in there and see it, I would think, ‘Oh, man, they need to race that thing again,’” Hargrove said.
“It’s funny because just having it there was a constant reminder of everything we did last year and wanting to get back into the car. Pretty much every time I saw the car, I’d be writing Christian an email saying, ‘What’s going on with the car this year?’”
Here’s what’s happening: Hargrove will be back in his familiar No. 69 OpenRoad Porsche for Rounds 3 and 4 of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, making his season debut June 12-14 on the streets of Toronto.
Hargrove, 20, from Surrey, British Columbia, won six of 10 rounds last season to storm to the Platinum Cup title in his first season in sports cars. He split time between the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin and the open-wheel Pro Mazda Championship, in which he lost the championship by 10 points after a heartbreaking mechanical failure at the last race of the season.
2013 USF2000 champion Hargrove climbed the next step in open-wheel cars this spring by competing in the first two rounds of the Indy Lights championship in late March at St. Petersburg, finishing fourth and sixth in a car fielded by 8Star Motorsports.
But that deal was just for the opening weekend of the season. So when the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin season opened May 15-17 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), Hargrove’s desire intensified to jump back into the Porsche in that Vancouver auto dealership showroom.
“It’s just that much harder when you’re not racing,” Hargrove said of the season-opening rounds. “I was definitely aware of the race and everything, but this made me turn back to Christian and say, ‘OK, we’ve really got to get this thing done for Toronto because we’ve got to go out there and race with these guys.’”
Chia met with Hargrove and offered him the ride for Toronto.
“He said, ‘What do you think about racing in Toronto?’ Hargrove said. “And I said: ‘You don’t even have to ask that. I’m onboard right away.’”
There definitely will be a different vibe for Hargrove in his season opener this year compared to 2014. Last year, he was the fresh-faced Canadian junior open-wheel phenom who never had turned a wheel in a Porsche or any sports car.
No expectations. Little hype. Just a one-weekend deal.
Then Hargrove swept Rounds 1 and 2 at CTMP last May, and Chia kept him in the car for Rounds 3-4 in June at Calabogie Motorsports Park. Hargrove won one of those rounds to keep the lead in the championship over veterans Chris Green and Spencer Pigot, an edge he wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the year.
Hargrove stood on either of the first two steps of the podium after all 10 rounds, with six victories and four runner-up finishes in a consistent display of precision and poise.
But Hargrove knows he’s a marked man at Toronto. He can no longer sneak in as the new guy.
“Last year was just all about learning and having fun,” Hargrove said. “There were literally no expectations going into the year. And obviously what happened was a very pleasant surprise, and toward the end of the year we were the guys to beat, so the mindset kind of changed. But compared to the beginning of the year, where it was just us showing up and not knowing what was going to happen, there wasn’t any pressure, so I could just drive to the best of my ability.
“Of course, it was the first year of the 991 (Platinum Cup) car last year. It was a new car for everybody, so it was the right time for me to come in as a rookie. Now this year, Chris (Green) has got a full year under his belt. He just did another race. So he’s going to be pretty tough competition. I’m going to be hopping into it for the first time since last August. So it will be interesting to see where we stack up now that everyone is familiar with the car and I haven’t been in it for a while.
“But at the same time, I’m pretty confident I can get the job done, and it shouldn’t be too bad to hop in and see if we can go get the win.”
The resumption of the Hargrove-Green rivalry will move front and center at Toronto, where the two made contact during a rough-and-tumble, exciting Round 6 last year. Green swept the first two rounds of this season on Victoria Day Weekend at CTMP in his Pfaff Motorsports Porsche.
“Christian wants to be able to win a few more races this year,” Hargrove said. “It was his decision that he wants to go back for a few races. We’re not going to go back for the championship but go back and win as many races as we can.”
That also was the plan for last year: Show up at the opening event at CTMP and race in the Porsche owned by Chia and prepared by Mark Motors Racing. One race weekend at a time. But as Hargrove continued to finish first or second, Chia continued to put him in his car at every event.
But regardless of whether Hargrove competes only in Toronto or finishes the season with OpenRoad, his unexpected love affair with sports car racing continues to blossom as he also tries to nurture his open-wheel career.
“I’ve been committed to open-wheel until last year, and then I get into the sports car for the first time and I fell in love with the racing,” Hargrove said. “It’s extremely fun. If you don’t start on pole, that doesn’t mean you can’t win the race. You can battle side by side; you can bang wheels and get away with it.
“They (sports car racing and open-wheel racing) both have their benefits, their positives.”
Rounds 3 and 4 of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin will take place June 12-14 during the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto. Both races are 45 minutes.
For more information about Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #GT3CAN @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
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