By Steve Wittich
With the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire winner in all nine previous races in Toronto, Ont., starting Saturday’’s first of two Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products races is critical.
It’s so essential that pole-sitter Rinus VeeKay wheeled a damaged car into the run-off in Turn 1 to avoid causing a red flag and losing his pole lap.
The Dutch driver’s final lap of 1:07.974 was only seven-hundredths quicker than Malukas. His pole laps obliterated the old Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire track record of 1:10.7635 set by Aaron Telitz in 2016.
VeeKay is currently the owner of the USF2000 and Pro Mazda track records on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.
“It was really tough,” said the 17-year-old. “I was quickest in the first practice, so It started off well. But, of course, everyone gets better, so I knew it was going to be close, but not this close. Charles Crews (former Indy Lights driver), my driver coach was telling me you need half-a-tenth, and then again that you need half-a-tenth. So, I was pushing and pushing so hard, and I finally got it.”
VeeKay told us that his lap time didn’t come up on his dash and because of that, he was pushing hard after crossing the timing line and tagged the wall with the right side rear of his No. 2 JUMBO sponsored Juncos Racing machine.
VeeKay, David Malukas, and Parker Thompson traded the provisional pole four times in the final five minutes and will start second and third. Sting Ray Robb will start fourth, tying his best start of the year on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The first of two Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire Friday qualifying sessions began under blue Ontario skies at just after 10 AM. The ambient temperature was 76F, and the track temperature was 103F.
Impressively, the BN Racing crew was able to get the No. 78 race car ready for Kris Wright. The Juncos Racing gang were able to rectify the issue in the No. 1 ’s, and Carlos Cunha was able to qualify.
Unfortunately, the Cape Motorsports crew were not able to get the No. 8 repaired for Nikia Lastochkin.
At the half-way point of the 20-minute session, Rinus VeeKay, with a lap of 1:08.540 held the provisional pole by two-hundredths of a second over points leader Parker Thompson. Sting Ray Robb, David Malukas, and Robert Megennis made up the remainder of the top five.
Sting Ray Robb went to the top of the charts just past the half-way point before bringing the familiar team Pelfrey yellow and black No. 82 to pit road.
Robb didn’t hold the provisional pole for long before Thompson was able to surpass him.
Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products Unofficial Qualifying #1 results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|4||82||Sting Ray Robb||1:08.295||0.3218|
|14||8||Nikita Lastochkin||No Time||—|
The Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire drivers will be back on track for their second qualifying session at 3:30 PM for their second qualifying session.