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Pole Chase Mirrors the Championship Fight in Platinum Cup

Tim McKenzie (#92) sits on the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge pole. Photo by freidrichphoto.com/IMSAAs the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama reaches the halfway point of the 15-race season, the championship contenders are showing no sign of letting each other out of their sights: the top three in the Platinum Cup class standings are the top three in today’s qualifying at Mosport International Raceway, with the Gold Cup race showing signs of getting tighter.

With an up and down season so far, pole sitter Tim McKenzie, in the #92 Kelly Moss Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, sits 27 points behind NGT Motorsport’s Henrique Cisneros in the standings, with Fernando Pena, in the Autometrics Motorsports/Colours Inc. Porsche, another 10 points back in third spot. But McKenzie, with a fast time of 1:23.385, couldn’t get much distance between himself and the other two, as Pena (1:23.575) starts alongside in second place and Cisneros (1:23.672) behind him in third.

“That was pretty exciting!” said McKenzie. “This is a wild place to drive. We had the pole early and I came in, then my guys said Fernando took the pole, so I went back out to try and do another flyer. I was able to pull it off, so this feels pretty good. This is my first time here, but I had great coaching from Collin Brown this weekend and was really committed to learning the track. And every time I’ve had the pole I’ve won wire to wire this year, so that’s the plan tomorrow – no mistakes!”

"I lost one year of life expectancy doing that session,” smiled Pena. “It is such a tremendous thrill driving here! It’s my first time at Mosport, so I didn’t expect to be doing this well. It’s very gratifying to be going this fast, especially with the Canadians who know the track so well. We had our share of fire drills, but the car is extremely stable, so I think we’ll be good in the race!”

“I got my fast lap on my first lap out and had the pole early,” said Cisneros. “After that, I got into a lot of traffic. I came into the pits and saw that McKenzie was only a tenth behind me. Then I dropped down to second, then to third. I tried to go back out and improve my time, but I got into traffic again. It’s a great track and it will be interesting during the race – there will be a lot of traffic, which will hurt some guys and help others.”

The two Toronto drivers in the field, Marco Cirone (#88 6th Gear Racing) and Randy Oswald (#14 TRG/Verax) will start fourth and seventh, respectively.

Mitch Landry is on the Gold Cup pole. Photo by freidrichphoto.com/IMSA Mitch Landry, in the #54 Wright Motorsports/VersaCrane Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, starts on the Gold Cup class pole, trying to take a bite out of the 30-point championship lead of Madison Snow (#62 Snow Racing), who starts in fourth. Eduardo Cisneros (#29 NGT Motorsport), another 13 points behind Landry in the standings, starts second.

“I ran a bunch of laps and wasn’t quite up to speed,” said Landry. “My crew chief called me in, but I thought there was more left in the car, so I decided to do one more lap and did a good one. I did one Porsche Club of America race here last year and just fell in love with the track. You’ve really got to man up here – it’s really fast and scary in some of the downhill sections but it’s a fun track once you get used to it!”

Eduardo Cisneros led the title chase early in the season before missing the previous event at Lime Rock Park and was happy to be back in the chase – and impressed with the famed road course.

“This really is a great track,” said Cisneros. “It’s takes a while to get used to, so I’m very proud to qualifying second my first time here. There are a couple of blind turns that require you develop the muscle memory to trust the car and go for it. It takes a while to get your confidence up – if you get the right line, it’s great, but if you’re a little bit off line, you’re going out.”

The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama features semi-professional drivers racing head to head in the largest single-make series in North America. Powered by one of the world’s most successful race cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, the multi-class structure of the series teaches drivers essential skills for an eventual career in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.

The series is divided into two classes; the Platinum Cup, featuring the more powerful 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, and the Gold Cup, which includes 2005½ - 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. Both classes race on environmentally-focused Yokohama ADVAN ENV-R2 racing tires.

Rounds 8 and 9 of the ISMA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama will take the green flag Saturday at 11:35am and Sunday at 12:55pm, just before the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón race. Live timing, news and schedule information is at www.imsachallenge.com

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