A Coldstream sports car driver prepares for the race of his life.
Cameron Cassels has earned a place in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest endurance race held at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe in the countryside of Le Mans, France.
“Anyone who races cars dreams of getting there,” said Cassels, who admits he never expected to reach the milestone, let alone so early in his professional racing career.
The 51-year-old said he was âlate for the gameâ, having started professional racing in 2015. Prior to this year, Cassels had competed in amateur stock car racing and motocross, and had participated in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo in North America. and Europa.
“I had never raced sports cars in my life, it was always ovals, so I only knew how to turn in one direction,” he laughed.
His journey to Le Mans took off in 2018 when he joined Performance Tech Motorsports, a Florida-based team that races under the banner of the International Motor Sports Association, owned by NASCAR, America’s largest sanctioning body. North for professional races.
At Performance Tech, he learned to maneuver the powerful Le Mans prototypes used in the 24-hour endurance test.
“They don’t really look like a car,” he said of the Le Mans Prototypes 2 and 3 he has raced for the past two years. “My kids call them a spaceship.”
|Coldstream’s Cameron Cassels competed in the IMSA 2020 Prototype Challenge series driving the Le Mans Prototype 3 (Contribution)|
Cassels got off to a good start with Performance Tech, helping steer the team to success soon after he joined.
“I drove their LMP3 car and was lucky to win a championship in 2018,” he said, referring to the IMSA Prototype Challenge Masters championship.
2019 turned out to be his biggest year yet. He competed for full seasons in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, what Cassels calls âthe pinnacle of all sports car racing in North America, and the Prototype Challenge. That meant spending most weekends driving two different cars in two different pro races.
Cassels and his team won the WeatherTech Endurance Championship, a finish that helped him win the Jim Trueman Award, which goes to the driver with the most points of the season.
Obtaining the Jim Trueman prize is not limited to bragging: it also comes with an automatic invitation to Le Mans.
“It’s the biggest endurance race in the world, so there’s a huge demand to take part and a limited number of garage spaces,” he said. “There’s kind of only one way to win a nomination if you run IMSA in North America and that’s the Jim Trueman Award.”
Normally held in June, the 88th annual Le Mans race has been postponed to September 19-20 due to COVID-19.
“Unlike some of the other racing venues this year, whether it’s IndyCar or sports cars, Le Mans has been very adamant that the show will go on,” Cassels said.
Those who watched Clint Eastwood’s 2019 film Ford v Ferrari will have seen the race as it was in 1966. Cassels says the films often don’t portray real endurance racing correctly, but named the film of Eastwood as an exception.
âIt gives you an idea of ââwhat endurance racing is and some of the challenges behind it,â Cassels said.
Cassels learned a lot about the challenges of the sport earlier this year, when his team’s car came to a stop 40 minutes from the finish line at the WeatherTech 24 Hours of Daytona.
âWe had a mechanical breakdown after 23 hours and 20 minutes of racing. We didn’t finish the race.
For Cassels, the mechanical breakdown highlighted just how precarious the sport can be. In his first appearance at Daytona last year, his team placed second.
“Twenty-four hours is an incredibly long time for a race, so I don’t care how much money you put into it, just finishing some of those races is an incredible achievement.”
For now, Cassels is delighted to have his wife and four children at Le Mans.
âThey have all been exposed to many races, and unfortunately for my wife, they all want to become professional racing drivers, much to her dismay!â