TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Kyle Kirkwood this morning claimed a hard-earned third Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires victory of the season – and his third in as many starts at the unforgiving 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street circuit in Toronto – for the RP Motorsports USA team. Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., who also won last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 championship, was pushed every inch of the way by Canadian favorite Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports), from Red Deer, Alb.
Championship leader Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, finished close behind in third for Juncos Racing.
The top three were barely separated by no more than a few car lengths throughout a gripping 30-lap race which was interrupted only briefly by an incident on the opening lap in Turn Four involving yesterday’s winner, Singaporean Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport), and local driver Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing) which ended with Serravalle’s car making solid contact with the wall.
Kirkwood, who had defended his pole position perfectly on the run toward Turn One, maintained his lead at the restart but was never able to eke out any breathing room at all. The top five cars, driven by Kirkwood, Thompson, Lindh, Idaho native Sting Ray Robb aboard a second Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18 and Frost, remained in a snarling high-speed train for the first 20 laps, with each of them trading fastest laps on a consistent basis.
All five were clearly very closely matched, but with overtaking no easy task on the Toronto streets, each of the protagonists knew they would require a mistake from the driver in front in order to make a pass for position.
The pace continued to intensify, with Lindh finally recording a new lap record of 1:07.0213 (95.934 mph) on the penultimate lap, but Kirkwood was flawless and his victory – and RP Motorsport’s third PFC Award of the season – was assured.
A last-ditch effort by Lindh to find a way past Thompson on the final lap saw Kirkwood cross the line with his biggest margin of the race, 1.7233 seconds over Thompson, whose fourth consecutive podium finish enabled him to move back to second place in the championship points table, narrowly ahead of both Kirkwood and Frost, who finally found a way past Robb for fifth after 20 laps.
Guatemalan Ian Rodriguez couldn’t find quite the same pace as yesterday but still finished a solid sixth ahead of Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), from Louisville, Ky., who earned his second Tilton Hard Charger Award, after starting 12th on the grid, in as many days.
Rounds 10 and 11 of the 16-race Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will be held July 27/28 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Kyle Kirkwood (#28 Mazda/Firstex Industries/Bell Helmets/Sabelt-RP Motorsports USA Tatuus PM-18): “I’m so glad to get the win today. We have been stronger this weekend than at any point this season so it was especially disappointing to not get the win yesterday after the incident with my teammate. It should have been a sweep, but that’s why we’re on the Road to Indy, to learn all these things early. I could see that Rasmus and Parker were side-by-side in Turn One so I worked to get even more of a buffer between us. Once I had the lead, I just had to limit mistakes because it is hard to pass here. You have a bit of an advantage when you’re leading on restarts, because of the different pavement: the concrete has no grip and the asphalt has tons of grip, so coming out of Turn 10, if you can get on the throttle, the guys behind you are spinning their wheels.”
Parker Thompson (#8 Abel Construction/Badlands Motorsports Resort-Abel Motorsports Tatuus PM-18): “I’m really proud of that drive. It’s not easy, switching back and forth between a Porsche Cup car and the Tatuus PM-18. The Porsche race was delayed last night but I came back this morning ready to go, and was on it right away. I got by Rasmus early and pressured for the race win and I don’t think you could ask for any more than that. I’m so appreciative for both Abel Motorsports and Sports Car Boutique for letting me do this double duty; it’s so special to do this in front of the home country crowd. To come away from the weekend with two Indy Pro 2000 podiums and some great championship points, it’s what we need to take the fight for the championship.”
Rasmus Lindh (#10 Chicago Pneumatic/PWR Junior Team/SKF-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “We’ve been having problems with the top speed all weekend long and that’s been our weakness on the straightaway. Parker got my draft on the back straight and there was nothing I could do; I didn’t want to crash and damage the championship. We have a good lead now and that’s important. The whole weekend has been between me, Kyle, Parker and Danial and that’s the championship as well so I want to keep them behind me as much as I can.”