TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Just one day after claiming his first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship pole and podium finish, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen went one better this morning to claim a conclusive first victory for himself and the Jay Howard Driver Development team. Rasmussen finished barely a car’s length ahead of yesterday’s winner Darren Keane (Cape Motorsports), from Boca Raton, Fla., at the conclusion of a dramatic 20-lap Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products on the challenging Exhibition Place street circuit.
Englishman Matt Round-Garrido (BN Racing) profited from a variety of incidents to claim a hard-earned first podium finish.
Anxious to atone for an error which cost him a potential victory yesterday, Rasmussen, who started second, made an incisive move to the inside of polesitter Keane at the first corner to take the lead. Behind, Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., also took advantage of Keane’s loss of momentum to sneak through into second place at Turn Three.
Rasmussen’s teammate, Christian Bogle, from Covington, La., was the biggest mover on the first lap, pulling off an audacious outbraking maneuver at Turn Three – perfectly cleanly – to vault from 10th on the grid to fourth by the completion of the first lap ahead of Brazil’s Eduardo Barrichello (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and series leader Braden Eves (Cape Motorsports), from New Albany, Ohio.
Bogle soon slipped down the order but still seemed to be set for a career-best seventh-place finish until clipping a wall moments before the third and final full-course caution. Unfortunately for him, the clean-up was completed just in time for a one-lap dash to the checkers, so had no option but to head for the pit lane and retirement.
Up front, meanwhile, Rasmussen had managed to eke out a little breathing space by the time the caution flags waved for the first time after seven laps due to a spin for Barrichello in Turn Three. Rasmussen maintained his advantage over Kaminsky at the restart, and again following another caution period shortly afterward when Barrichello’s teammate, Jack William Miller, found the wall in Turn Five.
Rasmussen was gifted a much greater cushion on Lap 16 when Keane muscled his way past Kaminsky into second place at Turn Three. Kaminsky then came under intense pressure from the second Cape car of Eves, who attempted a similar move in Turn One which again ended in contact and ensured yet another full-course caution. Eves and Kaminsky were able to continue after stopping in the pits but could manage only distant 11th and 12th-place finishes respectively.
The one-lap dash to the finish saw Rasmussen barely hold off Keane, while Round-Garrido was hot on their tail in third, just ahead of DEForce teammates Manuel Sulaiman, from Puebla, Mexico, and 14-year-old Jak Crawford, from Houston, Texas.
Australian Cameron Shields rounded out the top six despite losing a lot of ground in the early stages. Next up was Brazilian Bruna Tomaselli (Pabst Racing), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award for climbing all the way from 16th on the grid to edge teammate Yuven Sundaramoorthy.
Rasmussen’s rousing victory ensured a first ever PFC Award for former USF2000 and Indy Lights champion Jay Howard as the winning team owner.
Christian Rasmussen (#6 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-17): “Goosebumps! I’ve been waiting such a long time for this first win and first podium this weekend. I managed to get Darren at the start and build from there, pulling a gap again on the restarts. That last restart was a little too intense: Darren was right there. But I managed to pull it off and I’m so happy. I really enjoy the street races, they are much more driver-dependent than other tracks. We struggled a bit early in the season to find our pace, but we’re on a roll now and I can’t wait for the next race.”
Darren Keane (#2 Cal Development/Keane Architectural Woodwork-Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17): “I was quick in the first practice so when I did an interview with (the voice of the Road to Indy) Rob Howden and he asked what my goals for the weekend were, I said ‘two clean races’ because I haven’t had that this year. This weekend has been amazing for me and for the team. It was a hard-fought race today and I didn’t get the win, but second is great for the points especially with Braden and Hunter finishing behind me. This is a spark for my championship chances, and I can’t wait for the rest of the season. Huge thanks to (driver coach) Ozz Negri, to my parents, my friend and my girlfriend who came this weekend to support me.”
Matt Round-Garrido (#27 Excel Labs/No Stone Unturned-BN Racing Tatuus USF-17): “This is still a new team for me and I feel as though things are really coming together. This is a massive credit to the boys and to (team owner) Bryn Nuttall. I knew ovals would be a big challenge coming over here to the States, but these street courses are so much fun to drive. I’m so happy for myself, and for Christian – he’s one of my best mates and he has worked so hard. Now I just need to knock him off into P2 so I can get my first win.”