All Canadian Race Team Exclusive Autosport Revels in All Canadian Victory

16C 2366-min-min

By: Christian Ryan

While Canada spent July looking back on its history, Canadian race team Exclusive Autosport was focused on its future.

The Saskatchewan-based team entered the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda season as a new entry to the series. Having begun in 2013, the team had been enjoying immense success in F1600 and was searching for a new challenge. Team President and CEO Michael Duncalfe saw 2017 as the time for Exclusive Autosport to begin to climb the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

“We won every championship that we entered in F1600,” Duncalfe explains. “We felt with the new Tatuus USF-17 coming out, this was the perfect time for us to make the jump to the next step.”

Part of that jump was committing to the team’s Canadian identity.

In 2016, a young driver from Red Deer, Alberta took the USF2000 series by storm. Parker Thompson scored four victories and nearly claimed the championship in his second season in the series. However, in the offseason, Thompson was without a ride while the new Exclusive Autosport USF2000 entry was without a driver. With the history and heritage between Thompson and Exclusive, an integral part of their 2017 lineup came together.

“The majority of our drivers are American drivers, but when we came into USF this year, we wanted a Canadian driver,” Duncalfe says. “With Parker, we’ve had a relationship for a number of years. He actually did a bit of 1600 with us in 2015 and got his first open wheel car win with us in 1600 so we knew he would be the Canadian we wanted to have in our lineup the second we decided we were going into USF2000.”

As a new entry to a series, there will always be roadblocks. Exclusive Autosport was putting together impressive performances, including two third place finishes in the first five rounds, but had aspirations to stand on top of the podium. For a team made up of Canadians, there was one race weekend circled on every calendar in the shop.

“We had a decent start to the season, a few podiums, a few ups and downs,” Duncalfe says of the team’s state leading into the Honda Indy Toronto, the only Canadian stop on the Road to Indy schedule, “but we came together as a team and said ‘listen, we’re going to go into Toronto and we are going to dominate.’”

Parker Thompson, fuelled by the team’s passion, took to the streets of Toronto with a vengeance. In Saturday’s race, Thompson started from the pole and was untouchable from the flying of the green flag to the checkered. Pushing the car to its limits, Thompson would claim the first win for the Canadian team in front of a home crowd in Toronto.

“We were pushing to the absolute ragged edge, we were hitting walls,” Thompson explains, “and honestly I was surprised none of us in the top three crashed we were pushing so hard in the first race. So that was a memorable win just because I thought that was probably one of the best drives I’ve had in my career.”

The win was followed by a more hectic Sunday event, as Thompson started fourth and held back as the top three in the field fought for the lead. As they made contact, Thompson was able to pass through the incident unscathed and proudly hold the Canadian flag high on top of the podium for the second time that weekend.

“I can’t relay the last time I cried in the helmet on the cool-down lap, but Toronto was two very very emotional victories,” he admits. “Obviously getting the first one on Saturday was emotional, but to clean sweep the weekend on Sunday and really get that win in front of the home fans and for my team that’s all Canadian was the most emotional win that I’ve ever had.”

As emotional as Thompson was in the car, it was matched by the Exclusive Autosport team in pit lane. With their hard work culminating in their first victory on home soil, the win was a major breakthrough for the team that will now move on to the next step, Pro Mazda, in 2018. Exclusive hopes to maintain its configuration in Pro Mazda, bolstered by continued success two weeks after Toronto with Thompson scoring another victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

However, for Michael Duncalfe and Parker Thompson, the clean sweep of Toronto remains their greatest achievement, as well as the spark of a new era for Canadian motorsport.

“Honestly, it’s hard to put into words,” Duncalfe explains. “It was absolutely incredible. We knew we could do it, but weren’t able to do it up until that point. When it came together, it was the most emotional and rewarding weekend of my career.”