Donald Theetge Wins in Front of Home Crowd at Circuit Ste-Croix by Marc Patrick Roy
Backmarkers Again Play a Role in the ACT Challenge 100 Finish
On Saturday, Donald Theetge scored his second career victory on the ACT Tour by wining the ACT Challenge 100 at Circuit Ste-Croix, near Quebec City. Brent Dragon and Jean-Paul Cyr completed the podium of this race, the fourth on the ACT Tour 14 race championship.
for a solo-spin by Eric St-Gelais, at the restart the biggest challenge being put forth was by Theetge who could not capitalize and pass Allard. He would have to wait until the 15th circuit to complete the pass. Meanwhile, Dragon had worked his way around Hoar. The order at that point was: Cyr, Brown, Theetge, Allard and Dragon.
Cyr opened up his lead, meanwhile Brown was being challenged by Theetege for second place. Theetge passed Brown on lap 18. A couple laps later, on lap 20, Allard picked up a spot and got around Brown for third. Hoar would eventually drop Brown outside of the top five for the day.
Donald Theetge was the man to beat in ACT action this weekend. (Yvon Dignard Photo)
Theetge of Boischatel, QC who lives only minutes away from the track was a favourite to win, not because he knows this track inside-out or because he has a huge fan base cheering him on, rather he was a favourite by being the defending race champion. “Don” won the 2006 edition of this race by claiming his first ACT Tour career win.
During pre race ceremonies, the most famous words in racing, the commands to “Start your engines” were given by Beaver Dragon, who is still very popular with Quebec race fans despite being a retired competitor for a number of years.
Jean-Paul Cyr of Milton, VT and Roger Brown of Lancaster, NH started the race on the front row of the 28 cars field. At the green, Cyr jumped in front and took command of the race, with Brown right behind. Karl Allard of St-Félicien, QC settled in third place ahead of Brian Hoar of Williston, VT. Then came the cars of Theetge and Dragon of Milton, VT.
By lap three, Theetge had passed Hoar for fourth and now had his sights on fellow countryman Allard. The first and only caution flag of the event was thrown on lap seven
The group of leaders (Cyr, Theetge, Allard and Dragon) clicked down the laps working lap traffic in a train-like and orchestrated fashion. At the half way, Theetge , who had caught up to Cyr, was now putting on the pressure for the top spot and at the same time he was protecting the second place over Allard.
At about this time, Brent Dragon’s left rear rotor would glow ardent red all around the track. The other cars with glowing rotors would have the front rotors light up during braking and then turn off. But Dragon’s stayed lit for the remainder of the race.
Soon enough, as if Cyr didn’t have enough with the charges lead by Theetge, he would now have to deal with backmarkers as well. Cyr drove smart, using the backmarkers to protect his position and lead of the race. This game of cat and mouse went on for a good 10 – 15 laps. Theetge managed to get along side Cyr on numerous occasions but just didn’t have enough to go around him. He tried high. He tried low. He just couldn’t pull it off.
By lap 82, Cyr and Theetge were boxed in behind a group of three cars about to be lapped. Claude Leclerc of Lanoraie, QC led them and then came in a side-by-side formation Brown and Ryan Vanasse of Warwick, RI. They would stay that way for a
couple laps. Cyr committed to follow Brown, while Theetge went behind Vanasse. On the 86th circuit, Vanasse completed his pass on Brown, Theetge tightly in tow assumed the lead of the race and became the second race leader.
Theetge’s issues with backmarkers were not over. For several laps and what seemed like it went on for an hour the tension was so high, Leclerc and Vanasse raced racing side-by-side and took up both racing grooves blocking all the others behind. Déjà vu again? On everyone’s mind at the time: will the outcome of the race be decided by backmarkers?
Eventually Leclerc would pass Vanasse, Theetge would then quickly go around both of them with five laps to go. Meanwhile behind Dragon assumed the second place. Cyr, now third, paid the price for choosing once again the slower of the two grooves.
Legend Beaver Dragon gave the command to fire up engines at Ste Croix. (Yvon Dignard Photo)
Cyr (#32) leads Theetge's #80 (ACT Photo)
“I saw the passing flag being waved, but I was racing for positions,” said Leclerc. “I wasn’t going to let Vanasse run away with it. I didn’t really have enough to make a pass but I did it in the end.”
At the line Theetge held off Dragon, Cyr, Hoar, Ryan Nolin and Allard to take the victory.
“I am so happy about this one,” said Theetge. “I had to work so hard so Karl Allard didn’t pass me. He made me work hard for so long. Later on, I had to outsmart Jean-Paul Cyr who was very intelligent and used backmarkers to his advantage and protected his lead. He even slowed down to do so. That was smart. But when my team told me there was only twenty to go, I knew I had to go. I caught a good break and got the lead.”
After the race, Theetge was the recipient of much praise by his American racing counterparts.
“We had a good race,” said Dragon. “I maybe should have made a move faster in the race, as I got hung up and didn’t move up fast enough. Theetge ran a very good race. I loved to race him it was a fun race for me.”
“Donald [Theetge] offered quite a challenge,” said Cyr. “He drove a smart and intelligent race. He is a smart racer. He raced clean and I think he has very good chances of being a contender at the end of the year for the Championship… I still would have liked to win and beat him on his turf.”
Allard hung on to finish sixth.
“I had a fast car, my team did outstanding work,” said Allard. “But our brakes went out with ten laps to go and we faded. Sixth place is still a good finish with this level of competition, but we could have done better.”
Scott Payea of Milton, VT, Joey Polewarczyk of Hudson, NH, Randy Potter of Groveton, NH and Patrick Laperle of St-Denis, QC rounded out the top ten.
Barely in the top 10 was Quebec’s own Patrick Laperle, who is usually a threat to win any ACT event, but was not on this day.
“I wasn’t a factor all day,” said Laperle. “I had a bad setup and my car would push like a plow especially in turn three. But we will bounce back.”
The race was fast paced and slowed for caution only once. Regardless, ACT Tour boss man Tom Curley wasn’t happy with how the day’s events were ran.
With rain affecting the practice sessions and still threatening as the qualifiers were scheduled to start at 4pm, he asked race Promoter Denis Lachance to have the Tour’s qualifiers run first and to run the Tour’s 100 lap feature ahead of the other supporting classes, or at the very least have the 100 lapper sandwiched between their double features races instead of at the very end. Lachance would not budge.
Curley was so upset with the lack of compromise, he offered the drivers to load up the cars and go home in exchange for $400 of tow money. They declined in respect to the paying fans who dished out a whooping $35 for general admission ($45 in the pits) to see the race. After the event, rumour around the pits was that the other two ACT sanctioned races at Ste-Croix were no longer on the schedule. Also in jeopardy is the ACT Super Series race at Sanair Super Speedway, as the race promoter is also Denis Lachance. We will keep you posted as the situation develops.
Theetge waves the winning flag. (ACT Photo)