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Toronto: Ian Baas race report

Baas's Second-Place Finish In Sunday's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Race Is One For the Highlights Reel TORONTO, Ontario, July 9 - Take 19 SPEED World Challenge Touring Cars on a tricky 1.755-mile course, add water in the form of rain, ...

Baas's Second-Place Finish In Sunday's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Race Is One For the Highlights Reel

TORONTO, Ontario, July 9 - Take 19 SPEED World Challenge Touring Cars on a tricky 1.755-mile course, add water in the form of rain, sprinkle in a star like Ian Baas who kept rising to the top, and the fans at Exhibition Place had a recipe for a race to remember on Sunday.

With a light mist falling, Baas, of Noblesville, Ind., started second in the 50-minute contest and immediately got to work trying to pass polesitter Kuno Wittmer at the drop of the green. Baas edged ahead in Turn 2 but things disintegrated in Turn 3, when Baas' STaSIS Motorsport Audi A4 slid into a runoff area.

Baas got it pointed in the right direction on his own and started all over again.

"I just went too deep into the corner," Baas said afterwards.  "I saw the
race flash before my eyes.  But I was able to get it turned around.

"Two turns later, there were two cars that got together, and I got into them and then I got plowed from behind!" he added. "I came to another standstill, and started over again."

Baas was in 15th for the restart on lap five.

The race leader, Wittmer, joined Baas at the back after the restart when he went too wide in Turn 3 to land in the same runoff area that Baas had earlier. That gave the lead to Baas' teammate, Chip Herr, but Baas didn't have time to cheer for Herr because he was still back in 13th, having passed James Sofronas and getting one other spot due to Wittmer's misfortunes.

Things got to a rolling boil on lap six, when Baas vaulted from 13th to ninth with his No. 18, which advertises Team Janica Racing, PFAFF, STaSIS, Clear Capital and the not-for-profit group Baas helps, the Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation. The big advancement was due partly to Baas passing some rivals and some who went backwards in the running order, but as long as he was moving up Baas was happy.

He passed both Seth Thomas, who set the fastest race lap, and Jason Martinelli on the next lap to move to seventh, and then he took care of Jeff Altenburg on the next lap to nab sixth. On lap 10 Herr tumbled from the lead due to some mechanical issues and ended up behind Baas, moving Baas to fifth.

Baas was surprised to see his teammate headed backwards but the 24-year-old was determined to push on with his Audi. He charged into fourth on lap 12 by passing Charles Espenlaub, although the Audi's right-front was damaged a bit in the tussle. Baas continued his march to the front, and two laps later he was once again in podium position when he passed point leader Randy Pobst for third.

A podium is always nice. In Baas' previous five races in this series his best finish was an eighth at Lime Rock, Conn., in May at a race that Herr won, so he wouldn't have been criticized if he'd just gone on the defensive at that point to protect his podium spot. But Baas wasn't done racing, and he immediately zeroed in on the second-place car being driven by Pierre Kleinubing.

Baas considered the best way to get around Kleinubing during the five laps the field circled under yellow from laps 18 through 22 after Espenlaub hit the wall. He also looked for puddles to cool his rain Toyo Proxes tires, since the track was drying off. In the end he just had to capitalize on what was developing in front of him on the restart, because Kleinubing and the leader, Peter Cunningham, who also owns Kleinubing's car, made contact in Turn 8 on lap 24, allowing Baas to blast by Kleinubing to take the runner-up spot.

Time was running out but Baas still had Cunningham ahead of him, and he wasn't intimidated by the fact that Cunningham is the series' winningest driver. Cunningham's Acura and Baas's Audi went side-by side on the last lap and Baas got ahead briefly. He had the line but Cunningham hit him repeatedly, or Baas would have kept him behind him.

Cunningham took the checkered in first with Baas second, 0.538 of a second behind, but the officials have a review on their hands due to the contact. Baas was second in the provisional results, but what he gained in confidence will be immeasurable in races to come. Both his second-place qualifying run and the second-place race result were his best so far in his rookie season in this series.

"I passed Cunningham on the last lap," Baas said afterwards. "I held my line into the next corner, but before I got into the turn he hit me once, and then he hit me again. I had him the whole time until he hit me.

"The early caution and restart helped, and the Audi all-wheel drive is definitely an advantage," he added. "Obviously in the wet it's good, but when it dries and you're on wet tires things are slick too, so it's an advantage then as well.

"It was a wild race," he added. "This one will be on the highlight reel for the year."

-credit: ianbaasracing.com

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Series PWC
Drivers Randy Pobst , Pierre Kleinubing , Charles Espenlaub , Jeff Altenburg , Chip Herr , Ian Baas , Seth Thomas