It's only fitting that possibly the pivotal round of the 2014 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin is taking place on the series' biggest stage this season.
Scott Hargrove and Chris Green will continue their compelling duel for the championship during Rounds 5 and 6 of the 10-round series July 18-20 on the Streets of Toronto as a featured part of the Verizon IndyCar Series event weekend. It's the first time the Porsche series has competed in the largest city in Canada.
Two 45-minute races for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned series are scheduled on the 11-turn, 1.755-mile circuit at Exhibition Place near the scenic shore of Lake Ontario. Round 5 is set for 12:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, July 19, with Round 6 at 1:20 p.m. Sunday.
On-track action starts with practice sessions at 11 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. Friday, July 18, with qualifying at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Hargrove leads Green, 78-74, through four rounds of the series, one of 19 Porsche single-make championships providing thrilling action worldwide. Both drivers have occupied the top two spots on the podium in all four races, with Hargrove earning three victories and Green one.
The rivalry has continued to blossom between the Canadian stars since Hargrove was a late entry for the season-opening weekend in May at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Hargrove won both of the CTMP rounds in the No. 69 OpenRoad Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, with Green finishing second twice. Green rebounded to win Round 3 in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports entry last month at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Calabogie, Ontario, with Hargrove finishing second. But Hargrove countered with a victory over second-place Green in Round 4 at Calabogie.
The title race between Hargrove and Green is a compelling study in contrasts. Hargrove, 19, is a series rookie who hails from the west coast of Canada and drives for Vancouver-based OpenRoad Racing. The original plan was for him to race only in the first two rounds of the season at CTMP and possibly a few more rounds at the end of the season, as he is a title contender and race winner this season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires junior open-wheel series.
But OpenRoad team principal Christian Chia rewrote that blueprint after Hargrove swept the first two races of the year, and Hargrove has stayed in the No. 69 Porsche.
Montreal resident Green, 30, is in his third season in Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin. He finished as the championship runner-up by six points last season to David Ostella with Pfaff/Alegra Motorsports and entered this season as the title favorite with the newly solo Pfaff Motorsports team, based near Toronto.
Hargrove and Green have been nearly flawless through four rounds this season, and that superb driving will need to continue if their title charges are to persist. There are just four rounds remaining after this weekend, two each Aug. 9-10 at Trois-Rivières, Quebec, and Aug. 30-31 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Plus street circuits like Toronto leave far less margin for error than natural road courses like CTMP or Calabogie, as concrete barriers line the entire course just a few meters from the edge of the racing line.
Neither Hargrove nor Green has blinked this season in their staredown for the championship. But if they do, Spencer Pigot could be there to turn the title tussle into a three-man race.
Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Florida, is third in the Platinum Cup standings with 54 points in the No. 21 Alegra Motorsports Porsche. He has finished third, behind Hargrove and Green, in the last three rounds.
There's also no question Pigot would like to take the upper hand in the sports car portion of his rivalry with Hargrove. Pigot also races in the Pro Mazda Championship junior open-wheel series and leads the standings by 17 points over second-place Hargrove.
Hargrove, Green and Pigot are just the start of a quality field in the premier Platinum Cup class, which features the all-new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car. Developed for Porsche one-make Cups worldwide, the car is based on the street version of the current Porsche 911, with a 3.8-liter power unit that produces 460 horsepower.
Marco Cirone, from Toronto, is fourth in the standings with 49 points in the No. 88 Mark Motors Racing Porsche. He also leads the Platinum Masters (drivers 45 and older) championship by 10 points over Carlos de Quesada of Odessa, Florida, who moved to the Platinum Cup this season after winning the Gold Cup (2010-2013 model cars) championship in 2013.
Etienne Borgeat, from Montreal, rounds out the top five in the Platinum Cup with 47 points in the No. 2 Porsche fielded by Quebec-based team GT Racing. Borgeat is the only driver besides Hargrove, Green or Pigot to stand on the overall podium this season, as he finished third in the opening round at CTMP.
The race for the Gold Cup championship is tight among five drivers, including three from Ontario.
Shaun McKaigue, from Gilford, Ontario, took the lead in the Gold Cup standings with 68 points in the No. 34 Fiorano Racing Porsche after he earned a victory and a runner-up finish at Calabogie. McKaigue is aiming for his second Gold Cup drivers' title, as he won the inaugural crown in 2011.
Tim Sanderson, from Pickering, Ontario, is second with 66 points in the No. 07 Alegra Motorsports/Northwest Atlantic Motorsports Porsche. He earned his first victory of the season in Round 4 last month at Calabogie.
Quebec-based drivers Jerimy Daniel and Martin Harvey are tied for third with 64 points in the No. 75 TRC and No. 08 Wingho Racing Inc. cars, respectively.
Toronto resident Ilker Starck is the fifth driver in title contention, with 58 points. Starck and his SCB Racing/Downtown Porsche team worked tirelessly to rally from an accident in Round 2 in May at CTMP that damaged his No. 48 Porsche, finishing fourth in both rounds at Calabogie.
An Alegra intra-team duel will continue for Silver Cup honors between Masters competitors Keith Bass and Chuck Harris of Tampa, Florida. Silver Cup competitors race in 2005 ½ to 2009 GT3 Cup cars.
For more information on the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, visit www.imsa.com and @IMSA on Twitter with the hashtag #GT3CAN. Live commentary for both races will be provided on Twitter at @IMSALive.