Sixteen-year-old Austin Cindric piloted the Shelby GT350R-C to its first win
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of Ford Performance and IMSA
After finishing just off the podium in its rain-soaked first outing, the Ford Performance Shelby GT350R-C scored its first victory in IMSAâ€™s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Clarington, Ontario, Canada. Saturday’s victoryÂ wasn’t just significant because the Multimatic Motorsports team is headquartered in Canada, but the carâ€™s driverâ€”16-year-old Austin Cindricâ€”was the youngest yet to win in CTSC competition.Â So history was made on two fronts at the track formerly known as Mosport.
Like the GT350R-C debut at Watkins Glen, one of the team drivers put the new race car on the pole thanks to the quickest lap in qualifying, a 1:26.461.
â€œIt was my second career pole so Iâ€™m really happy about that and to be the second pole in a row for the GT350R-C is a storybook in the making,â€ driver Billy Johnson said. â€œMultimatic and Ford Performance have done a fantastic job in building the car, prepping it, testing it and this is their home track; their shop is just down the street. They have been to this place for decades and they definitely know how to make a car go around the track, had a great idea for a qualifying setup and it really worked.â€
Hot on his heels in Position 2 was Jade Buford, who lapped just 0.720 seconds slower than Billyâ€™s pole qualifying lap.
â€œThis is a storybook in the making,â€ Billy added. â€œThis is Multimaticâ€™s home trackâ€”their shop is just down the streetâ€”and they have done a fantastic job in building the car, prepping it, and testing it. Theyâ€™ve been to this place for decades, and definitely know how to make a car go down the track. Itâ€™s great to have two of the new Ford GT350R-Cs on the front row with my teammate Jade Buford starting next to me. Hopefully weâ€™ll be able to bring it home in the same 1-2 position.â€
Billy was paired with Scott Maxwell and Jade was teamed with Austin Cindric for the race, but the storybook only played out for one of the teams. Early on it looked good though, as the two GT350R-Cs were holding the Number 1 and 2 positions as the teams changed drivers on the 39th lap. Just a few laps after the driver change Scott Maxwell got clipped passing a slower car. He went off-track and hit the tire barrier hard. The car was totaled, but Scott was OK.
â€œIt was definitely a bittersweet day for the whole team,â€ Billy said. â€œWe started off great with two cars on the front row at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The whole team from Multimatic, and Ford Performance has put a lot of hard work into making great race cars and this was our second race. Itâ€™s just unfortunate that all that hard work was thrown away by somebodyâ€™s lack of judgement and the No. 15 was crashed out in the race.â€
After one Shelby GT350R-C was out of the race, the pressure landed squarely on the shoulders of Austin Cindric in car 158. Austin was presented with his first chance to finish a CTSC race.
â€œThis was a pretty physical race, especially with how hot the cars get,â€ Austin said. â€œI think I cycled in fifth or sixth in line and about everybody was at the same pace. I was thinking, â€˜How am I going to get by these guys?â€™ because I knew we needed to. I tried to make my way through and made a few risky moves, but they ended up paying off.â€
The risks definitely paid off, as Austin pulled into the lead with 30 minutes left in the race and held it until the checkered flag fell.
â€œI knew we had a great car for Watkins Glen for the debut so we really just needed to go ahead and capitalize and try to make a perfect race and I think that is what was key to this win,â€ heÂ added.
Despite the crash, the Multimatic team was clearly excited to win the first race with the Shelby GT35R-C on its home turf.
â€œI couldnâ€™t be happier. We have a couple of hundred employees here and everyone had high expectations. We had the front row wrapped up and it was unfortunate what happened to Scott. I think, with all due respect to our competitors there would have been two Shelbys racing at the end for the win. Iâ€™m totally happy with the outcome,â€ Larry Holt, of Multimatic Motorsports, said. â€œYou could have written the script slightly better but you couldnâ€™t have written that part of the script any better. And Austin Cindricâ€™s first win. The kid was absolutely spectacular the last 45 minutes of that race. He drove way beyond his years; an unbelievably mature drive and fast.â€
â€œJust a typical racing incident,â€ Larry added. â€œI think that carâ€™s finishedâ€”weâ€™ve got a body in white and will build it up for our next race at Lime Rock.â€ That next race will take place at the historic track in Lakeville, Connecticut, on July 25.
If you want a little refresher on what these cars are all about before the next race, watch this IMSA videoâ€¦
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