LaCombe Wins The Race, Laperle The Title at St-Eustache by Marc Patrick Roy
ACT Quebec Series Season is Now Complete
Sunday, Sylvain Lacombe won his third race of the ACT Castrol Series 2007 schedule when he won at Autodrome St-Eustache, a 4/10th mile oval near Montreal, Quebec.  The St-Eustache 300, an annual long distance race of 300 laps or 120 miles, marked the end of the late model championship in Quebec.  Finishing on Lacombe’s bumper was Patrick Laperle and in third place was Alexandre Gingras.

finished first after having started outside pole.

Daniel Bergeron, the event’s pole sitter, took command of the race with outside pole competitor Martin Goulet settling for second.

On lap nine, Dany Ouellet fell victim to tight racing and heavy traffic when he spun between turns three and four.  He got going again without the necessity to slow the field down for a caution period.

By lap 15, Normand Lavigueur (who started fourth) was now putting the pressure on Bergeron.  They would continue that way until lap 42, when Bergeron went high around the slower car of Jonathan Desbiens, and Lavigueur went low and took over the lead of the race.

On Lap 42, coming into turn four in a very tight section of the race track, Steven Boissoneault made contact with Patrick Laperle and sent him into a spin bringing out the first caution.
Sylvain Lacombe crossed the finish line first to win at St-Eustache, while Patrick Laperle followed and took the 2007 championship.  (ACT Photos)
If starting 13th was lucky for Claude Leclerc and Patrick Laperle in the past (see Kawartha Speedway story published last week), the 13th running of the 300 lap race will certainly have a special place in Patrick Laperle’s memories: not only did he finish second to Lacombe, he also clinched his first career championship.

During practice sessions, Laperle was fastest with 17.1 second lap times - a full 2/10ths faster than the majority of his rivals.  Only Normand Lavigueur, running a limited ACT CASTROL Series schedule after early season bad luck, was able to turn 17.2 seconds laps.  Laperle’s cousin Jacques Laperle, Lake Whales, Florida ARCA driver and hired-gun Mario Gosselin, Sylvain Lacombe and Mike Lavoïe all turned fast 17.3 laps.  Unfortunately, Ontario’s Robbie Thompson lost a rear-end in practice.

The field’s first 18 positions were set via 10 laps heat races qualifying six per heat race.  All three heat races were lead flag-to-flag by their respective pole sitters: Daniel Bergeron (heat 1), Claude Leclerc (heat 2) and Marc-André Cliche (heat 3).  While the leaders didn’t get shuffled, the action behind them was very intense.  For example:  In heat one, Normand Lavigueur, who started sixth and finished second to Bergeron, ran very strong.  Meanwhile in heat three, Patrick Laperle (who started ninth) also moved up four spots.  Positions 19 to 29 were set using an eight lap consi.  Jacques Laperle
Eventual first and second place cars of Lacombe and Laperle visited the pits for gas.  Laperle’s team also made a suspension adjustment.

At the lap 48 restart, Lavigueur still leading was now trailed by veteran driver Claude Leclerc who was running fastest and smoothest he has been in a very long time, especially on the tricky Autodrome St-Eustache circuit.

Only a lap later, the yellow came out again as multiple cars went into a spin between turns three and four.  Credited for causing the second caution of the day, the cars of Mathieu Francoeur, Dany Ouellet and Martin Lacombe were sent to the rear.

At the restart, lap 50, a battle developed between race leader Lavigueur and Mike Lavoïe that continued until the lap 73 caution, when Stephane Durand spun solo in turn four.  The third caution of the event.

Lavigueur, Lavoïe raced each other around lap traffic, with Leclerc in tow watching from the best seat in the house, until lap 115.  Going into turn 4, Lavoïe negotiating the lap car of Sylvain Metivier, who was high on the track, dove below Metivier for the pass,  only to see the Metivier come down on him and pushed Lavoïe onto the pit road ramp. 

“Its unfortunate, we had a very fast car, maybe the fastest out there,” declared a very disappointed Lavoïe after the event.  “The 70 car came down on us.  I had worked my way to the front from my 11th place starting position.  I took my time, my car could have gotten me to the front a lot faster, but I paced myself.  Now I have a busted up racecar, this could impact our race schedule, we had sights on Oxford and White Mountain events.  Now we don’t know.  The right side suspension is totalled, the impact with the pitwall was so intense, the cross member was damaged”
Taking advantage of this third caution of the event, drivers Alexandre Gingras, JF Déry, Marc-André Cliche and a number of other drivers elected to get service from pit road crew members.

On lap 124, when racing resumed, Karl Allard capitalized on the field’s regrouping and restart, took over second place, right on Lavigueur’s bumper, with Leclerc still racing in third.  Dany Ouellet, Jacques Laperle, Sylvain Lacombe, Donald Theetge, Eric St-Gelais and Patrick Laperle rounded out the top 10.

A lap later, Mario Gosselin, who ran fifth before the restart, took over the second position and started to put on the pressure on Lavigueur.  The two JPN Racing drivers put on the show, dicing traffic door-to-door around the track.  On lap 128, Gosselin got the lead with Lavigueur settling in second. 

Just a few laps later, on lap 130, Lavigueur slowed down and was moving back fast.  On lap 133, Sylvain Lacombe went around Leclerc for third.  The order was now: Gosselin, Allard, Lacombe, Leclerc, Theetge, Laperle, Jacques Laperle, Gingras, Déry, and Boissoneault. 

“On lap 140, I couldn’t stay out there any longer.  The team knew we would lose laps, but the car was slow and undriveable we had a right side flat.  We eventually lost 4 laps in this fiasco.” said Lavigueur.
There was a full grandstand and field of cars at St-Eustache.
Patrick Laperle
By lap 154, Lacombe took the lead from Gosselin, taking with him to second Karl Allard, and moving Gosselin to third.

The fifth caution of the event came out on lap 160, when, after contact between Mathieu Francoeur and Sylvain Metivier, turn 3 was blocked with cars sitting across the track and facing the wrong direction. 

Under caution, several drivers had to visit the pits for repairs or to top off fuel and get tires.  Amongst those were: Gosselin, Theetge, Jacques Laperle, Steven Boissoneault, Karl Allard, André Coursol and Claude Leclerc.

After the shuffle, when the green flag waved, Lacombe, Laperle and Gingras were at the top of the leader boar.  But rapidly, another yellow came out, this time for Martin Goulet who lost control of his racecar coming out of four and spun on the front stretch.

As the field was going to resume racing, second place Gingras (outside) did not come up to speed with race leader Lacombe.  Gingras with a flat visited the pits for a quick tire change.

But the field would resume racing only for a few laps, as on lap 185, the sixth caution was thrown for the car of Jonathan Desbiens who got dumped and turned around in turn three.  Several cars, once again, got body damage in the incident. “We don’t know who hit us in the wheel, but it knocked the housing out of alignment.  It wasn’t too bad, but the shock was binding.  We knew our hopes of a good finish were gone then” declared Karl Allard after the race.
As if the race was now cursed, with the race back to racing conditions for only three laps, racing in third position at the time, Mario Gosselin’s engine exploded – parts thru the pan – going into turn three.   Sending teammate Normand Lavigueur into the wall and ending his day.  “When I got in the oil, I said to myself I need to save the front end, so I sent the car into a spin and rear-end first into the wall.  It damaged the rear, but it is not as bad as it looked at first, since we couldn’t shift anymore we retired the car” told us Lavigueur.

Defending ACT Castrol Champion Donald Theetge, running sixth at the time, was also a casualty of this incident when he made front end contact, which resulted in a broken cooling fan.  After attempting to do pit road repairs, he would eventually retire from the event just a few laps later, due to overheating.

Going back to green, on lap 200, with Lacombe in the lead, JF Déry assumed second, while third place was occupied by Laperle, ahead of Marc-André Cliche, Claude Leclerc and Alexandre Gingras.

Gingras took over fifth from Leclerc on lap 208.

Laperle took over second from Déry on lap 211.  Order: Lacombe, Laperle, Déry, Cliche, Gingras, Leclerc, Jacques Laperle, Coursol, Boissoneault.

As Lacombe and Laperle were dicing traffic, Sylvain Metivier, already one lap down almost cost Lacombe and Laperle, one after the other, the race and the championship by chopping and squeezing them.  Race Director Tom Curley black flagged Metivier so his officials could remind him of race procedures and etiquette, he would lose another lap there.

On lap 247, Gingras moved around Déry for third.

On lap 250, when Leclerc went down a lap to the leaders, only five drivers remained on the lead lap: Lacombe, Laperle, Gingras, Déry and Cliche.

Cliché would also soon go a lap down as well.  On lap 268, Cliche spun solo in turn three, leaders Lacombe and Laperle went around him putting him a lap down.

On lap 272, Stephane Durand’s throttle hung which sent him straight on into the turn one wall.  He walked away unscarred.  This brought out another yellow.
On lap 276, the green flag waved.  Only Lacombe, Laperle, Gingras and Déry remained on the lead lap.  Jacques Laperle, Claude Leclerc, André Coursol and MA Cliche were one lap down.

24 laps later, Sylvain Lacombe wons his third ACT CASTROL Series event of the year, he was  followed by Patrick Laperle who secures his first career championship and in third place is Alexandre Gingras who ends up third in the championship race with Lacombe second.

This was a very clean race, despite late race yellows, history has shown that year end races can be wreck fests with drivers settling year-long paybacks.  But this race was not the case, everyone raced hard and clean.  A lot of on-track racing at the front, in the middle and also at the back of the field.

Leperle didn’t have a car quite good enough to win, but his runner-up finish brought an even bigger prize - the championship.
“Our car’s handling wasn’t great,” said Leperle.  “It was really fast in practice, but when the feature came around we couldn’t get traction all around.  We had to compromise at one end to be good at the other.  We did finish second, but we got our first Championship that’s the most important.   The team was trying to hold me back some, but I had to race to the front.  On that last restart I got a little worried, my car’s engine bucked, we might be on fumes after all.  Off to Barre this weekend, looking forward to Frenching the cow this time around.”

There were some other satisfied customers after the race as well.

“This is the best we finished since the Saint-Croix race, quite a while ago,” said Dery.  “We were lucky to get this good a finish.  The car lost its wheel alignment in the incident that took out Mike Lavoïe.  We had opted to get a good finish for my dad who just had a stroke, he is always with us at the races, but this time he was sidelined at home.  Because of that and the work to be done on the car, we don’t know if we will be at Barre this coming weekend or it marks the end of our season.”

“When Gosselin blew the engine we got in trouble, it messed our front end up some, but I was sure I was going destroying my car when I saw the oil,” said Jacques Laperle.  “Going home with an unscarred car and a fifth place is sweet.  Obviously I would have wanted a podium, but under the circumstances I am very happy.”

“I was quick, the best I’ve been at St-Eustache in a long time,” said Leclerc.  “I sustained front end impact in one of the yellows near the end, it affected the handling of the car some, it made it push, even with that push my car was still better than it has been in the past at this place.”

Other competitors were not quite as happy.

“Its disappointing.”  Gingras.  “We were second, strategy was set, we came in on lap 120 for gas and tires, but on lap 160 we cut a tire down and were forced to pit to have it changed.  But finishing this good in a brand new car is awesome, the team worked hard.  Don’t know about Barre this coming weekend, it depends on the team and the work we need to do to get the car ready.  I would love to go, but we don’t know for sure.  I also would like to race my Pro Stock at one of the remaining races.  Season is not over, but I just don’t know yet.”

The podium finishers at St-Eustache.