By Steve Wittich
What do Paul Tracy, Greg Moore, Andrew Bordin, David Rutledge, Michael Valiante, Antoine Bessette, and Parker Thompson all have in common?
The Canadian race car pilots have all won an Indy car ladder series race on home soil on the streets of Toronto, Ontario.
In 2017 there are three drivers, including Thompson, who is looking for a second win, and one team that would love to fly the Canadian Flag while standing on the top step of the podium.
So far – it’s Thompson, who won the second USF2000 race on the 1.786 mile, 11-Turn Exhibition Place street circuit last year – who is the best candidate to win at ‘home.’
When we caught up with Thompson after he won his second pole of the USF2000 season and fifth career MRTI pole, he was almost at a loss for words.
“There’s no words to describe what it feels like,” Thompson told TSO after winning his second pole of the season. “That was such a special moment. There was pressure coming back. I won last year (with Cape Motorsports), so to come back here again this year, it was so cool. Even when I touched down in Toronto, the memories were there.
“I’ve been the happiest I’ve been all season, just because we are back in Toronto, but to come and repeat the success I’ve had is just amazing. Especially with the new team Exclusive Autosport. You know, the bounce back from Iowa, I’m pretty sure is going to be a pretty good Cinderella story. What this team has done on such a short turn around in a weeks time from our race in Iowa is incredible.”
Thompson, who hails from Red Deer, Alberta, has twenty guests attending the Honda Indy Toronto this weekend.
“It’s unbelievable. This is the only race where my whole family has come out. This is the first race that mom and grandma have shown up to. I’ve got my two best friends coming out (from Alberta). I’ve got all my sponsors on the car at this race. In total we have over twenty people here, so it’s pretty unbelievable to come and get pole for them. They all showed up for the qualifying this afternoon so it was definitely a really special moment.”
Thompson’s Exclusive Autosport team who also fly the Canadian flag, calls Saskatoon, Saskatchewan home, and over the last four years have had incredible success racing in Ontario.
The Michael and Kimberly Duncalfe led squad has over 20 F1600 and F2000 wins at Calabogie Motorsports Park, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport), Shannonville Motorsports Park, and on the streets surrounding Exhibition place (Tristan DeGrand in 2014).
“It’s an honor. I’m absolutely thrilled,” exclaimed Michael Duncalfe when asked what winning the pole in Canada meant to the team. “Parker did a fantastic job. The crew busted their butts, and to go P1 in both sessions is pretty amazing. “It’s fantastic to have all the hometown support, and great to put the car up front for them.”
Dalton Kellet, who was born at the North York General Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, and grew up in Stoufville, a northern suburb Canada’s largest city, did not attend the Honda Indy Toronto until he first raced here in 2013. That isn’t because he didn’t want to, it’s because the 23 year-old always had a karting event to take part in.
(I’m) Really looking forward to Toronto”, explained Kellett. “It’s awesome, Toronto is one of the best races on the calendar. I really love the track. Having driven the streets in a road car, going down Lake Shore (Boulevard), and having the chance to driver three to four times the speed in an Indy Lights car is really awesome. You have the hometown crowd, lot’s of friends and family, and just the Canadian race fans. It’s just an honor.”
Because we are geeks, TSO had to check exactly how fast Kellett is going on Lake Shore Boulevard. His K-Line Insulators sponsored No. 28 Mazda/Dallara hit a top speed of just over 163mph, or 262kph in the speed trap just before Turn 3. The posted speed limit on Lake Shore Boulevard is 60kph, so Kellett’s top speed is exactly 4.36 times over the speed limit.
Kellett told TSO that between sponsors, their guests, family and friends, he has over 100 guests attending over the course of three days.
Kellett, who finished third in this year’s Freedom 100, and Mazda Iowa 100 has also kept busy keeping local media up-to-date on the event and his activities.
Zachary Claman De Melo, who hails from Montreal, Quebec, told TSO that between his sponsors and family, he has almost 20 guests to entertain this weekend.
De Melo said: “I have a lot of my sponsors coming, my family is coming, so hopefully I can do well and show them a good time.”
Claman De Melo, who recently won his first Indy Lights at on the 14-Turn, 4.014-mile Road America road course , will be making his third and fourth starts on the streets of Exhibition Place, and told TSO that it’s the passion of the Canadian fans that he appreciates the most.
“It’s a big race, there is a big crowd, so it’s exciting to race on the streets of Toronto,” said the 19 year-old. “I like street courses particularly, so it’s a lot of fun. There was a lot of support at the autograph session, so I couldn’t be happier to race in Canada. It’s one of my favorite races on the calendar. It’s a Friday, and it’s already really busy today. Too see this much support for the Canadian race is a great thing.”
The first USF2000 race of the weekend takes place at noon on Saturday, and is immediately followed by the first Indy Lights race at 1pm.