Cameron Cassels Road to 2019
Cameron Cassels is after another championship in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series with Performance Tech Motorsports, and it isn’t even 2019 yet.
A one and done year in the Masters class was a good steppingstone for Cassels who, as the LMP3 Masters Champion, will now aim for the overall championship in 2019. IMSA PC will feature a dramatic change next season with the official retirement of the MPC class, the final open cockpit car to run under the IMSA umbrella. The series is also expected to hit a record high grid numbers with the all LMP3 switch making Cassels new goal all the more competitive.
“People that know me know how competitive I am. It is really cool to win a Masters Championship. But, I want the overall win. Winning in a class is cool. But I want to move up. I want to be that bronze guy that teams want to put in. A super bronze, if there is such a thing.
“I put myself on a path to run a P2 prototype in WeatherTech. When I get there, I want to add value to the team. Every driver is a chess piece during endurance races, and we all play a role. Whether you put me in during the rain or to maintain a pace, I want to serve a purpose and contribute to the win. I want to be respected among my peers. I’ll continue to push myself to my goal by winning an overall P3 championship.”
Cassels’ 2018 season was a tale of perseverance. Though he walked away as the LMP3 Masters Champion in his first season of IMSA PC, it was not without a few bumps and bruises. Multiple races saw Cassels collected in the aftermath of on-track incidents or on the receiving end of ill-timed yellow flags. He reached his first podium at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with a third-place finish in Round 4. Cassels capped the season with his first win at Road Atlanta in the final round.
“I would say this year we hit bad luck at the start,” Cassels said. “We had great runs, but the race result was not where it could have been due to late yellow flags or doing well after a poor start. I’m too stubborn to quit. I made the commitment to myself and the team. Whether it’s going good or bad, I’m going to stick with it. When things weren’t going well, I just said I’m going to do the best I can with cards I’m dealt. I knew there was more in me, the car and team. We just needed that break.
“At VIR I felt we turned a corner. We as a team and myself as a driver began understanding the car better. The caution at the end of the race hurt us there. Our finishing position did not reflect the pace we had. We had a great strategy going, it was just the late caution that killed us. Going into the season, my expectation was to get a handle on the car. I had never driven a downforce car in my life. I knew it would be different, so I at least wanted to get the best handle I could then assess how well the car suited me at the end. I had a goal to win and a goal for the championship of course. It turned out I took to the car, and I want to move forward.”
To complement Cassels’ competitive nature and to help him to move forward in 2019 Cassels asked James French to join him for the season.French is best known as the driver of the No. 38 Centinel Spine LMP2 for Performance Tech in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. While he has never competed in a full season of IMSA PC French did make his debut this year as co-driver for teammate Howard Jacobs at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, VIRginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta. He finished first at Canada and Virginia and fourth respectively at Atlanta. French often acts as a driver coach to the Performance Tech Prototype Challenge lineup and worked with Cassels loosely throughout the season.
“I met James the first time I got in the car at a test at Road Atlanta,” Cassels said. “We hit it off really well. And of course, we’ve been spending time together under the same tent. We never actually ran together. At VIR, I wanted to get my close friend Trent Hindman in the car, but something came up and I then I tried to do something with James which didn’t work out either in the end. But that weekend James and I spent time together doing the track walk and talking about what we wanted to get out of the race.
“At the end of the year, I was talking with Brent about wanting to win overall next season. I figured James was busy for the year, so I was happy to find out he was interested in contesting the 2019 IPC championship with me. With both James and I already running cars out of the Performance Tech stable with some of the same crew it made great sense to leverage the continuity.”
The decision to make another championship run with Performance Tech was an easy choice for Cassels. Performance Tech has won five championships in IMSA PC and has had a driver in contention of a championship in the series almost every year since beginning the program in 2011.
“Brent and I actually clicked really quickly,” Cassels said. “When I was still running Conti (Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge), there was no pressure from Brent. If I was coming, I was coming and if I wasn’t, I wasn’t. He had confidence in me even though I didn’t have downforce experience. One of the qualities that I immediately appreciated was witnessing him zipping out on his scooter to a corner to provide feedback. Very few team owners out there will do that for you.
“He has a commitment to his team. I’m fully committed to win, and he is just as committed as I am. After getting to know the rest of the crew this year, I felt comfortable. I was very much the new guy, but everyone welcomed me, and I developed a positive relationship with everyone.”
Cassels and Performance Tech Motorsports now start preparing for the season opener in January at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway. The event is open to the public and is the only race feature during the weekend. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and newly renamed Michelin Pilot Challenge attend the Roar as the first official test of the 2019 race season. For more details visit http://imsa.com.