Ferrari Challenge: Lisa Clark wins in rainy Montreal
From Le Mans to the Canadian GP: Lisa Clark's Ferrari Challenge season continued with a Shell-Am class victory in a rainy Montreal, as the American extends her championship lead.
From supporting the 24 Hours of Le Mans to an F1 support event: Lisa Clark's racing season has been a rollercoaster, competing alongside some of the most prestigious races on the planet.
Just one week ago, Clark took the start of the massive 70-car Ferrari Challenge field at Circuit de La Sarthe, the legendary racetrack that hosted the Centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Among the highly competitive field, Clark was 13th in class - before heading back to North America, where she hit the track less than a week later at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Notre Dame Island, Montreal, for the fourth round of the Ferrari Challenge North American championship.
Having swept the weekend at the opening round at Homestead Miami, Clark added another podium at COTA to her tally and entered the Montreal weekend, event in support of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix, in the championship lead of the Shell Am class.
At the wheel of the #127 Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo run by Ferrari of Beverly Hills, Clark had good pace straight from the first practice session, where she clocked a 1:46.866 which put her third on the timing sheets. She repeated the result in FP2, but improved her best lap by over three seconds. The breakthrough performance, though, would come in qualifying, as Clark topped both qualifying sessions claiming two pole positions in a very wet Montreal, preceding Dana Goodwin and Bruce Cleveland by almost four tenths of a second.
Lining up in 28th place out of a 37 car field on the extremely tricky semi-permanent circuit, Clark had to battle the weather conditions as well, with a downpour flooding the track just before the start of the first race of the weekend.
After a clean start throughout the massive pack, it would be the overall leader Matt Kurzejewski to make the first mistake in the treacherous conditions; the Pirelli class driver hit the wall at the exit of the hairpin, triggering a FCY on the second lap of the 30 minute race. From the Shell Am pole, Lisa Clark had a cautious start, retained the lead in class and moved up to P25 overall. With more drivers making mistakes in the slippery final sector, the Safety Car was deployed.
The green flag waved back with 15 minutes to go: Clark kept Dan Cornish at bay at the restart, also gaining a position overall. Cornish and Cleveland swapped positions for second, before the former reclaimed the runner up spot in Shell-Am. Just ahead, Clark had a 8 tenths margin, as the top three had put a few Shell cars in between the rest of the Shell-Am pack.
With 4 minutes to go, Cornish went for a gap that was closing at the final chicane - ending up making contact with the #127 Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo of Lisa Clark. Clark kept it on track and managed to hold on to the lead, while Cornish spun and dropped down, promoting Cleveland to second and Lin to third - the latter having set the fastest lap in class.
After an exciting final lap for the overall victory - eventually claimed by Martin Burrows - Lisa Clark crossed the finish line in P22 overall, securing the class win in Shell-Am.
With her third win of the season, Clark could step on the F1 podium and extend her championship lead after Cornish's seventh place in race 1.
On a dry Sunday morning, 36 cars took the start of race 2, hours before the start of the Canadian Grand Prix. With two class pole positions - and already one class win in the bag, Lisa Clark lined up in P26 overall and alongside Shell-Am rival Bruce Cleveland with Dan Cornish - her closest competitor in the championship standings - one row behind.
A few contacts at turn 1 left third-placed overall Jason McCarthy facing the wrong way, but he was luckily avoided by the rest of the field. Lisa Clark led the Shell-Am entries ahead of Cornish and Nunberg after the first lap, moving up to P22 overall - in a replay of Saturday's race.
On the second lap, though, Lisa was hit by McCarthy at the hairpin, which dropped her to third moments before the FCY was deployed for a big shunt at turn 1 involving Ray Acosta and Michael Petramalo.
The race was back under green with 13 minutes to go; Roger Monteforte surprised Lisa Clark and moved up to third - but the action was short-lived, as contact at turn 1 for Shell-Am runner up Nunberg brought out another Full Course Yellow.
After debris was collected by the marshals, the green flag flew with 7 minutes left on the clock. Up to 18th overall, Lisa continued to chase Monteforte and Cornish, while having to defend from the recovering Cleveland as well. With two minutes to go, Clark was demoted to fifth, as both Cleveland and Paul Lin found a way past. They would snatch second and third from Monteforte, with fastest lap going to Bruce Cleveland as well.
Despite the unfortunate second race, Lisa Clark came home with a race win and some more valuable points from race 2, as she continues to lead the championship standings after four rounds, 12 points ahead of Dan Cornish.
Ferrari Challenge North America is set to return to the track in one month's time, at Sonoma Raceway.