"My father has only missed two of my races all my life, so it would be great to win one for him tomorrow with him here," imagined Andrew Caddell in a quote to Matt Cleary, the Mustang Challenge's PR rep. "It is also his birthday today, so that would be a pretty good Father's Day weekend if I can come home with another win for him." With the second race falling on Father's Day, many drivers had similar thoughts on their minds--but only one driver could make it a reality.
Mosport International Raceway is a 2 1/2-mile natural-terrain road course located just north of Toronto, Ontario. The track can be intimidating to first-timers, such as TC Motorsports' Carlo Sparacio. This being his first visit to Mosport, its fast, blind corners and sudden elevation changes were real eye-openers.
While this was the Miller Cup's first visit to Mosport, many of its drivers have gained experience here from racing in other series. Road Atlanta winner Andrew Caddell and Third-Place finisher Pratt Cole are veterans of the Mazda MX-5 Cup, which visited Mosport previously, and their experience showed during Friday's test session. Caddell topped the timesheets with a 1:33.120, and Cole was not far behind. He felt the two-seater was not well suited to such a high-speed track, the Mustang providing a more satisfying drive.
The course played to the Mustang FR500S's strengths. Its large front splitter and rear wing worked to plant the tires firmly on the pavement through the long corners, and the long back straight allowed all 325 horses to stretch their legs. But the Mustang's ability to carry so much speed through the corners took its toll on some cars. Apparently buckling under the high cornering loads, two in Rehagen Racing's stable bent their Panhard bars during Friday's test sessions. Slone's and Mike Harvison's engines went south and were subsequently replaced. Make no mistake: These cars are very fast in the turns. Understandably, some production parts were never designed to operate under such high engine speeds and cornering forces.
Slone borrowed the "FRMC Media Ride" for Saturday's morning session while the Rehagen crew swapped a fresh bullet into his No. 6 ride. Slone took No. 00 to Third quickest, behind Tony Buffomante and Andrew Caddell. The second practice session on Saturday was changed to qualifying, with Sunday's morning session designated as a warm-up.
In a spec series where the competition is fierce, a good qualifying session is critical. Drivers want their quickest time in as few laps as possible, as competitors must start the race on the same tires. Andrew Caddell laid down a blistering time of 1:32.344, with Pratt Cole a full seven-tenths behind. Pleased with their times, both drivers waited out the remaining sessions in pit lane. Of his position outside Caddell, Cole told Matt Cleary, "Andrew and I have raced a lot and we trust each other. Neither one of us is going to risk anything at the start. I hope I have something for him tomorrow because he's the guy to beat, no question."
Caddell admits he could be a better race starter. Getting a good "run" at the green flag is often worth a position or two. Slone can testify to this, as he jumped ahead of Caddell to lead the first lap at Road Atlanta. Mosport was deja-vu for Caddell, as Cole sprung ahead on the green flag to lead into Turn 1. Like a predator stalking his prey, 19-year-old Caddell methodically inched closer to Cole and took the lead after three laps. Caddell had built up a five-second lead when the double-yellows were shown. The race's only full-course caution gathered the field behind Caddell, with Cole in Second. "I couldn't believe there was a yellow after I'd built that lead. I was thinking this was the last thing I need!" Caddell recalled to Cleary. But Caddell held Cole off to maintain the lead. Cole added, "On the restart, I had a great run going again and had probably 20 miles an hour on him, but it was too much and I had to hit the brakes and then he just took off."
But after the restart, others shuffled farther back in the field. Buffomante, running in Third position, had to fight to regain his position after green-flag racing resumed. "I lost Third at the start to Carlo [Sparacio], but I was able to get back later on," Buffomante explained to Cleary. "I was hoping he was going to leave me a little more room than he did, but we went side by side and didn't touch, and still got through."
Buffomante said of his best Mustang Challenge finish to Matt Cleary, "It's great to get a podium on Father's Day here this weekend, and we learned a lot here and I can't wait to race next weekend at Mid-Ohio. I have a lot of experience there so we can put these lessons learned to good use." Jamie Slone finished Fourth behind Caddell, Cole, and Buffomante, but remains Second in driver's championship points.
Caddell, who extended his lead in the driver's championship points, contemplated the significance of his victory: "I'm really happy to have my dad here to see this win on Father's Day!" With that, competitors packed up their FR500S Mustangs and headed south of the border to Mid-Ohio. With its short, tight turns, the legendary course's layout contrasts sharply with that of Mosport and could change the course of the season. How? Let's just say that from here on in, things are going to be interesting.