Patrick Laperle convincingly won the Montmagny 250 at Autodrome Montmagny, just east of Quebec City, on Saturday in front of a capacity crowd. With this win, he is the first repeat ACT Castrol winner of 2009.
Crossing the line behind him were Karl Allard and Patrick Hamel. Because of a pass by Hamel over Donald Theetge was judged to be a “bump & run”, with less than 10 laps to go, Hamel was penalized one position by Series' Director and President Tom Curley. Theetge was credited with a third place finish and joined Laperle and Allard on the podium.
“Last I checked, this was stock car racing. Theetge came loose coming out of turn two, I saw the opportunity to dive under him. He gathered the car and went low as I was passing on the inside. We touched. I didn't rough him or anything. I was just robbed of a podium finish and frankly that sucks” said Hamel after the race.
In qualifying, Derek White won his first career ACT Castrol heat race. Yvon Bédard and Karl Allard also won their respective heats, while Jonathan Desbiens won the consi. The talk in the pits after qualifying were about two unrelated events. First came, the chop by Daniel Decoste in qualifying which resulted in him being parked from the qualifier by Tom Curley for being too aggressive. And the second event was about the incident between Jean-François Déry and Patrick Laperle in the third qualifier. Battling for position, both cars touched on the front stretch, just after the start-finish line, Déry's automobile spun in front of Laperle's and made contact with the outside wall.
“JF had been fighting for the position for a couple of laps. Every time he would move me higher on the track. At that point I had no more room to my outside, so I stood my ground and we made contact as he tried to move me higher” declared Laperle. “It's unfortunate because his car sustained damage and it cost us a brand new left front tire. The sidewall was cut when we rubbed and we have to go to another tire in the feature.”
Twenty four cars took the green flag, the lowest car count this year for the ACT Castrol Series. Without a lap complete, a major wreck occurred ending Etienne Lemay's day as he drove in and under the turn 2 guard rail trying to avoid the spinning Jacques Poulin race car. He retired from the race with heavy front end damage. “This is sad. We just spent over 7K$ getting our car repaired due to the crash we had at Circuit Riverside Speedway and now this with not even one lap into the feature completed” declared Lemay visibly shaken and upset. He was not injured.
Stephane Decoste who started on the pole lead early on. By lap 24, Laperle had moved up from his 14th starting position and motored past Decoste for the lead. He was just too strong for the other cars in the race, even on 100+ old tires he was fast enough to compete with Allard and Theetge would had visited the pits around the 70 lap mark. Following a restart Allard moved into the lead on lap 114. On the next caution, just a few laps later, Laperle visited his pits for tires and gas. Allard stayed in the lead, despite attacks by Theetge, until lap 169 when Laperle moved back in the lead and went on unchallenged to win the long distance race leading a total of 171 of the 250 laps.
Laperle, who had struggled the last few races with tire issues, came back with a vengeance at the Oxford 250 two weeks ago, where he finished second, and now dominated the Montmagny event.
“We had a string of bad luck choosing our tires. We got the stale ones. At Oxford and here we were able to compete one an even keel and show the other teams we mean business and that we still have our sights on the Championship” said Laperle.
“Even on old tires I was able to hold off Allard and Theetge until the caution came out. On the restart Karl, on fresh tires, passed me and I decided not to fight back. When Theetge put on the pressure as well, for second place, my crew chief and I decided we were going to let them duke it out for now and we would go in the pits on the next caution. It didn't take long for it to come out. Once we got serviced we sliced thru the field back to the front. We had no problems getting around all of the cars going to the front” said Laperle.
At one point Laperle's lead was a half of a track on the second place car.
Karl Allard who finished second had mixed feelings about his race.
“Yes a second place finish is great, we would have liked to race Patrick, but he was too strong. I don't feel like celebrating, I feel bad about the contact with Daniel Decoste. I tried going under him as there was room down there” said Allard in victory lane.
After the race, we caught up with Daniel Decoste and his team as they were trying to load what remains from their race car.
“The car is totalled. The engine moved back some six inches judging how far back it is in relation to the windshield. The clip is bent and even the upper halo bars sectioned behind the shock mount. I am ok, obviously the car is not. The 48 [Allard] turned me for no reason. A cheap shot on his part. And then the 15 [Kevin Roberge] had no where to go and plowed into the rear of the car. So that's wrecked as well. We will be back, I will get the second car out for Chaudière this coming Saturday.”
Kevin Roberge who sustained a minor sprain in his arms in the crash told us he was battling with Trampas Demers at the time of the accident.
“Demers got a little loose so I dove under him. I thought I had him covered, but just at that instant, Demers slammed on the brakes because he saw the accident and didn't want to get into it, my wheel climbed over Demers' wheel and when I dropped back on the ground, I was going full throttle and rammed the idle car of Decoste in the rear. I'll be ok. The car doesn't look too bad. The engine mounts, a bumper and some body work. Well be ok for Saturday”.
Credited with third place was Donald Theetge and fourth place was Patrick Hamel. Finishing fifth and the last car on the leader lap was Ontario's Justin Holtom.
Sixth place finisher Patrick Cliche was one lap down to the leaders.
“We went down on lap two trying to avoid contact. We were fast and ran with the leaders all day. I tried to stay out longer than Laperle hoping to have the freshest tires at the end hoping to get my lap back. It didn't work. At one point, we didn't want to chance it on gas anymore. We pitted. We were the last one, except for Laperle, to pit. Our sixth place finish will keep us in the top ten in standings which is one of our goals, the other was to go back home with the car in one piece. Which we did as well. Its mission accomplished” said Cliché, satisfied with the results in the race and the Championship points, but disappointed about being a lap down.
Rounding out the top ten were Jean-François Déry, Jonathan Desbiens, Claude Leclerc and Jacques Poulin.
The points battle thightens up between Theetge and Laperle. Prior to the event Theetge led by 31 points (418 vs 387) over Laperle, but after the race was over Theetge is still in the lead with 499 points, while Laperle now has 400 points. The margin has shrunk to a mere 9 points. Third in Championship standing is Karl Allard with 452 points (47 points behind Theetge), fourth is Jean-François Déry with 425 (-74) points, moving into fifth place, up from 6th, is Patrick Hamel with 411 points (-88). Droping back one position to sixth is Vermont's Trampas Demers with 402 points (-97). The 2008 ACT Castrol Champion is sitting seventh with 382 points (-117), eighth is Patrick Cliche with 367 points (-132), ninth is Claude Leclerc with 356 points (-143) and tenth is Yvon Bédard with 325 points (-174).
The ACT Castrol Series will race this coming Saturday at Autodrome Chaudiere in a 150 lap race. With only two races before the 2nd Annual Showdown at Chaudiere drivers are working hard to stay in the top ten in points in order to be invited in the prestigious - for money and bragging rights only race.