Wild Racing for Third with Aschenbach holding off other contenders

BOWMANVILLE, Ont., Canada – Young Jade Buford returned to the Pirelli World Challenge this weekend in the GTS division and continued his success rate with another 50-minute sprint race victory in the No. 45 Racer’s Edge SIN R1 GT4 car at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Saturday in Round 5.

Buford, the 28-year-old from Brentwood, Tenn., played a patient game in the battle for the lead, as young Ernie Francis Jr. of Miami, Fla., jumped out the advantage from the start. Francis, driving the No. 40 PF Racing/Breathless Racing Ford Mustang, returned to PWC action for the first time this year and was impressive.

But it was Buford who saved his Pirelli tires and stalked Francis for the first 15 laps of the 36-lap contest over the historic 2.458-mile, 10-turn road circuit. Jade was able to slide past Francis Jr. and extend his lead to 8.49 seconds at the checkered flag. The victory was fourth in his PWC career, all in the Racer’s Edge SIN R1 GT4.

“I knew a lot of the strengths of Ernie’s car and the strengths of my car and what I really needed to do to put a race in,” said Buford. “We put a lot of thought of what we can do to protect our tires so that when the heavier cars have a bit of fall-off, we can be good on the track which is mostly in the corner. We’re just a snail on the back straight so all we can do there is stay close. But we need them to fall-off a little bit with their tires and us not suffer so much. We’re thankful that everything fell our way and we’re glad that it came out on top. BOP (Balance of Performance) is never going to be perfect, but I think the series is doing a good job with it. We just went out and ran the best race we could and we’re happy with the result.”

Francis Jr., a former PWC “Rookie of the Year,” made his 2017 PWC debut Saturday after a strong third place in qualifying with the new Ford Mustang. He jumped to lead over pole winner Martin Barkey of Huntsville, Ont., Canada in the No. 80 Mantella Autosports KTM XBow.

But Buford closed the gap with his lighter SIN R1 GT4 including posting the fastest lap of the race and a trap speed average of 105.11 miles per hour.

“The biggest thing for us in the race was to try to get a good run out of turn 5b to get down that straightway fast,” said Francis Jr. “Our Mustang is pretty quick in the straights and it’s not too bad in the turns so if we could get a good run out of 5b we could usually hold the guys off. For the debut of the car this weekend, we couldn’t have asked for a better result with second place out there; I was really happy. Jade (Buford) did a good job. Once he was within striking distance, he was able to draft me down the back straight. I knew it was just a matter of time before he was able to sneak through. I was just trying to save the tires and be consistent and be safe for the end of the race. The whole weekend was decided on Monday of this week and I got my passport on Tuesday so it was really tight to get over here to CTMP.”

The race for third was more exciting than the lead duo with former GTS champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro GT4R battling Barkey, Anthony Mantella of Toronto in the No. 8 Mantella Autosports KTM XBow and Rodrigo Baptista of Spain in the No. 3 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR. The four contenders put on a spectacular wheel-to-wheel, door-to-door battle before Aschenbach was able to hold off Mantella for the final spot on the podium.

“That was a lot more exciting than I wanted it to be,” said Aschenbach. “The key for us was to get a good start because I knew if I could pounce early maybe I could keep the guys behind me and it ended up working out okay for us. I have to say hats off to everybody at Black Dog. We don’t quite have the speed we want right now, but at least we can say we have a car that we can still race people, since that was quite a struggle for us last year.

“We had one heck of a battle and I have to say thanks to Martin Barkey, Anthony Mantella, Baptista – all those guys around me, they race clean, they race smart and they gave it everything they had. They kept me on my toes the entire race. I knew if I could just place my car in certain spots they weren’t going to be able to get around me and if they did I could get by them on the straight. It was a tough one for us today but it was well-earned and I’m excited about another podium.”

In the GTS Amateur division, Aristotle Balogh of Palo Alto, Calif., drove his Stephen Cameron Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 to the win and seventh overall in the 50-minute GTS sprint event.

Round 6 of the GTS division is set for Sunday (May 21) at 10:15 a.m. at CTMP and will be live-streamed; check World-Challenge.com for links. The GTS tour then moves to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut next week for two more rounds at the popular 1.5-mile road circuit.

Results of Round 5 GTS 50-minute sprint race Saturday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Pos,PIC,Class,Name,Hometown,Car,Laps,Status,Race Time,Gap
1,1, Pro,Jade BUFORD,Brentwood, TN,SIN R1 GT4,36,Running,51:19.517
2,2, Pro,Ernie FRANCIS Jr,,Ford Mustang,36,Running,51:28.007,8.490
3,3, Pro,Lawson ASCHENBACH,Palm Beach Gardens, FL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,36,Running,51:33.148,13.631
4,4, Pro,Anthony MANTELLA,Toronto, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,36,Running,51:33.527,14.010
5,5, Pro,Martin BARKEY,Huntsville, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,36,Running,51:56.824,37.307
6,6, Pro,Jeff COURTNEY,Milwaukee, WI,Maserati GT4,36,Running,52:02.779,43.262
7,1, Am,Aristotle BALOGH,Palo Alto, CA,BMW M3 E46,36,Running,52:05.947,46.430
8,2, Am,George KURTZ,Paradise Valley, AZ,McLaren 570S GT4,36,Running,52:06.679,47.162
9,7, Pro,Nate STACY,Tulsa, OK,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,36,Running,52:12.605,53.088
10,3, Am,Tony GAPLES,Libertyville, IL,Chevrolet Camaro GT4,36,Running,52:24.551,1:05.034
11,4, Am,Alan BRYNJOLFSSON,Port Orange, FL,McLaren 570S GT4,36,Running,52:28.220,1:08.703
12,5, Am,Cameron CASSELS,Coldstream, BC,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,36,Running,52:33.162,1:13.645
13,6, Am,Fred ROBERTS,Toronto, ON,Maserati GT4,35,Running,51:29.480,1 LAP
14,7, Am,Adam MERZON,Greenwich, CT,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,35,Running,51:49.618,1 LAP
15,8, Am,Bill ZIEGLER,Ponte Vedra, FL,KTM Xbow GT4,35,Running,52:34.424,1 LAP
16,9, Am,Roman DE ANGELIS,Belle River, ON,KTM Xbow GT4,34,Not Running,49:06.539,2 LAPS
17,10, Am,Craig LYONS,Newport Beach, CA,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport,34,Running,51:43.494,2 LAPS
18,11, Am,Jason BELL,Tampa, FL,KTM Xbow GT4,34,Running,52:13.977,2 LAPS
19,12, Am,Mark KLENIN,Lone Tree, CO,McLaren 570S GT4,32,Not Running,46:25.304,4 LAPS
20,8, Pro,Rodrigo BAPTISTA,Barcelona, Spain,Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR,31,Not Running,44:46.718,5 LAPS
21,9, Pro,Ian JAMES,Paradise Valley, AZ,Panoz Avezzano GT,30,Not Running,43:21.591,6 LAPS