Valiante aims for Canadian success

July 8, 2015

Valiante aims for Canadian success

July 8, 2015

valiante_mosportCanadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) race fans are knowledgeable, friendly and ready to cheer Canadian drivers to victories when the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship makes its only visit to Canada.

As the sole Canadian in the top Prototype class, Michael Valiante would be quite happy to oblige the fans’ desire for a Canadian driver to take the overall win.

watkins_glen_racegal_june28_15_3Valiante leads an impressive group of Canadians competing in the 2015 TUDOR Championship that includes British Columbia’s Chris Cumming and Mikhail Goikhberg in PC, Manitoba’s Daniel Burkett in PC and Quebec’s Kuno Wittmer in the GTD class.

Valiante, 35, of Burnaby, British Columbia, and co-driver Richard Westbrook of London, England, currently lead the TUDOR Championship. They have taken their Corvette DP to overall race victories at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and at the most recent stop at Watkins Glen International.

Theirs is the only Prototype team to score two wins through the first six races of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.

Michelin Alley caught up to Valiante in the excitement at Watkins Glen to talk about racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park:

What’s your outlook going to CTMP?

“I’m really looking forward to it. Anytime you get to race in your home country, it’s a great moment. Last year we finished second here, and this year we’re leading the championship going into CTMP. We had a great race at Watkins Glen and so we go into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with momentum and we hope for a great result (second) like we did last year.”

When you’re flying the Canadian flag at CTMP is there more pressure, less pressure, or does it even affect you?

“Once you put on the helmet and seat belts, no. But definitely before that there is so much pressure that you really can’t have any more in that sense. It’s more a matter of seeing the Canadian support and the Canadian fans that follow the series. When I was going through the ladder system and racing Formula Atlantics in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto – there is a huge fan base in those areas. It’s great to see them follow the sport, and for me as a Canadian, to represent the series.”

What is your previous experience at CTMP?

“I’ve only raced here twice. I’m from the opposite end of the country, so it was closer for me to race in California. I did the Racing School at Mosport, which was my first experience in cars. I tested for AIM Autosport here, which was the first team I tested for, and then did my first race in a Formula Vee at Mosport and finished second. I think that was in 1996 or ‘97. The second time I raced here was last year when we finished second. Hopefully we can finish first this year.”

There is great history and heritage at CTMP. What do you feel when you race here?

“It’s really challenging. The engineers have to get the car right to race here because when you’re on the limit, it is so quick and the car has to be perfect. It’s a high, high commitment for the driver, with no margin for error. We’re lucky that we get to go to famous tracks and famous races where there is so much history. It was satisfying to win a tough race at Watkins Glen last year and again this year. When you look at all of the drivers who have competed there, going all the way back to Formula 1, anytime you can race at those places, you feel that you’re a part of motorsports history.”

What’s it like to have Richard Westbrook as your teammate?

“He’s great! My introduction to driving for Chevy and Racing was in 2012 when Antonio Garcia had scheduling conflicts with his Corvette program. He couldn’t do all of the races for Racing. I was doing Continental and ALMS, and Troy (Fils) asked if I could do four races for him. I was happy that Richard welcomed me to the team, although he didn’t know me well. We won a race together, and then I missed a year when Ricky Taylor joined the team and I did some other stuff. I was happy to come back. Richard was influential in having me come back. He’s a great teammate and we get along very well. He’s one of the best drivers in the paddock, so I feel fortunate to be on the team.”

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