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Trois-Rivières Saturday Report: Camirand on Pinty`s pole; Robichon on fire; Godin laments absence of Ontario drivers

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

TROIS-RIVIERES, Que. – They are racing through the streets of this Quebec city this weekend and here are the results so far.

Late Saturday, Marc-Antoine Camirand won the pole for Sunday`s headline event, the NASCAR Pinty`s Series Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières.

Camirand turned a lap of one minute, 7.179 seconds (81.990 miles and hour) to score his second career pole and second pole at the festival marketed as GP3R.

The 39-year-old driver from Saint-Leonard- d’Aston, Que., scored his first career pole at the 1.530-mile street course back in 2014 and is looking to win his first road-course race Sunday.

Andrew Ranger has never finished worse than second at GP3R. Ranger set a time of 1:07.203 (81.962 mph) and will roll off the grid second.

Kevin Lacroix, a two time GP3R winner, scoring back-to back-wins in 2015 and 2016. will start third after turning a time of 1:07.379 (81.867  mph).

QUALIFYING RESULTS

Defending winner Alex Tagliani and 2013 GP3R winner D.J Kennington will go off fourth and fifth. Pinty`s Series points leader L.P. Dumoulin and his brother J.F. qualified sixth and seventh, respectively.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series driver Frederic Gabillon, Simon Dion-Viens and Jostens Rookie of the Year candidate James Vance round out the top-10 starters.

Alex Labbe, who won the Pinty`s Series championship in 2017 and finished ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio Saturday afternoon, will start last in Sunday`s race.

Labbe planned to drive to Toronto from Columbus and then fly to Montreal, completing the journey to Trois-Rivières by car.

The Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, a 50-lap race (123 kilometres) around the 11-turn, 2.46-kilometre track near downtown Three Rivers, will go to the post Sunday at 2:15 p.m.

In the first of two Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada races, Zachary  Robichon of Ottawa held off Windsor racer Roman De Angeles on a mid-race restart and went on to win his eighth race of the season by 5.523 seconds.

Robichon, who won two races in the Porsche GT3 Cup USA by Yokohama at Road America last weekend, said that young De Angelis did a great job on the restart.
“It was a heck of a move that he did, full credit,” said Robichon. “We were just able to hold him off. It was good, it was tense and overall I’m really happy.“
Finishing third was Etienne Borgeat, who returned for his third race in Porsche GT3 Cup Canada this year.

Bertrand Godin, who finished fourth in the Formula Tour 1600 race Saturday morning, roared back to finish first in the afternoon race.

Bertrand Godin? You remember “Bert,” don’t you? He was one of the Player’s scholarship drivers who were left high and dry when the federal government forced the tobacco companies to stop advertising and Imperial Tobacco had to start a gradual withdrawal from the sport.

(Remember when that all happened? How apologists for the feds said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, there are other sponsors just waiting to step in and help all these talented young Canadian racing drivers.’ Well, there weren’t any and people like David Empringham and Godin and a whole bunch of others were left by the wayside.

(The result, of course, was that if you didn’t come from a family with money, or have a direct access to money, you were beaten before you started. Talented racing drivers like Godin, who – to this day – won’t pay for rides, partially on principle but more-so because they don’t have any money, were left high and dry.)

In a conversation after his victory Saturday, Godin said that after Player’s was forced out, “it was the end of the world.”

The Canadian won two Formula Atlantic races in 1997, in Montreal and Cleveland, beating drivers like Alex Tagliani and Memo Gidley. But since then, he’s been doing a lot of things other than racing. He’s been an automotive journalist, represented auto manufacturers at car shows, been an analyst on racing programs carried by RDS, the French-language Quebec sports network, and so-forth. He even did a couple of races now and again, like one-offs in Canadian championships like the Nissan Micra Cup. But nothing steady.

“I dream of driving all the time,” he said, after he was peppered with questions by a gaggle of French-language reporters. “I have a simulator in my house – virtual reality – and I do two or three full-length races every week. I do it for fun and to stay in shape.”

He thanked Brantford’s Britain West Motorsports for giving him an opportunity to race  “in this tight, compact, really difficult, hard-to-pass place.”

And, like me and others, he can’t understand the ridiculous situation in Formula 1600 in this country that seems to go back to the beginning of time. With a few exceptions, like Britain West, most of the 19-car Formula Tour field Saturday was made up of Quebec cars. There are at least that many in Ontario but the owners and drivers refuse to race in Quebec and vice-versa.

From my perspective, I cannot understand how race drivers who either own  cars or have access to cars aren’t racing when there’s a race scheduled. I’m not talking about the Formula One race in Montreal, which costs a fortune to run, but what about this one in Trois-Rivieres? It makes no sense.

Nor does it to Bertrand Godin.

“When I am behind the wheel, I don’t have a language,” he said. “And this Grand Prix of Three Rivers owes a lot to drivers like David Empringham and Ron Fellows. The Ontario guys should be here. It’s a shame they are not.”

Guillaume Archembault was second in that second race Saturday while the morning race winner, Didier Schraenen, finished third. I took that photo of them all at the post-race media conference afterward (above). Bert’s in the middle, with Archembault at left and Schraenen at right.

Meantime, the Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) kicked things off Friday with a night race that is always among the most popular of the annual meeting.

Etienne Borgeat was the overall winner and first in the GT Cup class, driving a Porche GT3 Cup car. Except for fellow GT Cup racer Mario Guerin, in a Ferrari 458, everybody else was at least a lap behind Borgeat.

Malcolm Strong was first in the GT Sport class driving an Audi R8 GT4 LMS, Marc Raymond in a Porsche Cayman GT finished the race in front in Super Touring and Michel Sallenbach won the Touring class race wheeling a MINI Coup JCW.

The Touring Cars raced again Saturday afternoon and the results were the same. Nearly 30 Touring Cars raced at Trois-Rivieres and many of the other runners finished in different positions but the four first-place drivers were the same.

Moving right along, the Nissan Micra Cup race Saturday morning was won by Olivier Bedard, with Kevin King second and James Exton third. The mayor of Trois-Rivières, Yves Levesques, was in the race but went into a tire wall; he crashed during Friday practice, as well.

And I say good for him. That’s the difference between the mayor of Toronto and the mayor of Trois-Rivières: the latter actually drives in a race in his community while the first one doesn’t even bother showing up to the big one in his town.

I did an interview with this mayor. He had some interesting things to say about being a politician. I wonder if I could convince him to move to the Big Smoke . . .

Other racing, elsewhere Saturday:

Ben Young of Clarksburg, Ont., scored his first career national Mopar Canadian Superbike win Saturday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Ben Young (left) won his first national superbike race at CTMP Saturday.

Young, riding the No. 86 BMW S1000RR, started from pole and dueled with Belfountain, Ontario’s Kenny Reidmann on the No. 42 Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja. Reidmann took the lead mid-race, but Young fought back a couple of laps later to take back the spot and held off the No. 42 rider to take the checkered.

Defending Champion Jordan Szoke, from Lynden, Ont., finished third aboard his No. 1 BMW S1000RR and looks to finish 14th or better in Sunday’s 2018 season finale race to secure the seven points needed to clinch his record 13th, and fourth straight, series title.

Also at CTMP Saturday, Peterborough’s Tomas Casas successfully defended his Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Championship riding his No. 1 Yamaha YZF-R6 to victory in class.

Mark Wilkins of Toronto finished second in the Pirelli World Challengge Grand Prix of Utah at Grantsville, Utah.

Denny Hamlin won the pole Friday for Sunday`s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

The Detroit Grand Prix IndyCar race will returtn to Belle Isle State Park for the next three years, it was announced Friday.

TAGLIANI LANDS SPONSOR FOR TRUCKS RACE

There is just no stopping Alex Tagliani.

Here we are at the beginning of two days of racing at the 49th Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières and he’s making an announcement about the NASCAR Camping World Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 that will be held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in two weeks.

Tagliani, a veteran of Formula Atlantic, CART, Champ Car and IndyCar racing who’s been making his living in recent years by racing primarily in the NASCAR Pinty’s Canadian national stock car series, is in Trois-Rivières this weekend as defending race champion and that, of course, is his priority.

But RONA, which is one of his primary sponsors, started life as a Quebec-based Canadian industry (since purchased by U.S.-based Lowes), so what better time and place to talk about the pickup truck race at Old Mosport than here?

“Tag” will be sponsored at CTMP by the RONA Contractors Division and that, plus his partnership with Chevrolet, will be featured on his truck.

Meantime, he has a stock car race to win.

Tagliani likes racing at Trois-Rivières. He’s been on the podium the last three years and, of course, won this event a year ago. In eight NASCAR starts on the downtown circuit, Tagliani qualified in the top-three seven times, four times on the front row and twice on the pole.

Said Tagliani Saturday morning: “My first goal this weekend is to defend and win the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. Team 22 Racing (Scott Stickley’s outfit out of Milverton, Ont.) is ready for this challenge. We have an excellent road racing car in which we finished second last month in Toronto. The competition will be fierce as everyone wants to win this race, especially me.”

But then Tagliani shifted gears.

“It is also exciting to represent RONA, this time through their Contractors Division, in this very important NASCAR truck race coming up in two weeks,” continued Tagliani.

“I will be heading to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park road course to win in both the NASCAR Pinty’s and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. Because we made an early deal with Young’s Motorsports, we will be more than ready this time around.”

In the Pinty’ series driver’s championship, Tagliani is tied for fourth with D.J. Kennington with 270 points, 16 behind championship leader L.P. Dumoulin. In 65 NASCAR Pinty’s Series starts, Tagliani has six wins, nine poles, 26 top fives and 43 top ten finishes.