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Racing Roundup: ‘Tag’ wins GP3R; a lesson for Toronto and Ontario; Szoke wins another superbike title; all the racing results

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

TROIS-RIVIERES, Que. – In what was one of the most intense and ferocious NASCAR Pinty’s Series races on record, Alex Tagliani won Sunday’s 49th Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières – his second GP3R victory in a row.

It was Tagliani’s fourth consecutive podium appearance at the legendary 1.530-mile street course near the waterfront of this historic community on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, 120 kilometres west of Quebec City.

Hometown driver L.P Dumoulin muscled his way through to finish second while Alex Labbe, who finished ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Columbus on Saturday, was third after having to start last in the 22-car field.

Fellow Trois-Rivières native (and L.P.’s brother) J.F. Dumoulin came home fourth. Pole sitter Camirand, who led the first 37 laps, was fifth. D.J. Kennington and Donald Theetge finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

French driver Frederic Gabillon – participating in an exchange program that will see J.F. Dumoulin race in Europe – recovered after a mid-race spin to finish eighth. Luc Lesage and Mark Dilley completed the top 10.

It was a rough race from the start, with plenty of spins and near-misses. Emotions ran high and, at one point, NASCAR Canada officials had to break up a confrontation between rival pit crews. There were a record eight caution flags for 20 of the 50 laps but there could have been plenty more.

Twenty-Two drivers started the race with 17 crossing the finish line. Fifteen cars finished on the lead lap.

“In the first moments of the race, it was an all-out war on the track and there were a lot of contacts,” winner Tagliani, who started fourth, said later. “Then, I had an opportunity to move into second place behind my teammate, Marc-Antoine Camirand, who’d won the pole.

“I finally had the chance to take over the race lead and nobody was going to take that away from me. This was not an easy race to win because it was very competitive. I am very proud of the hard work put out by (Scott Steckly’s) Team 22 Racing.

“We are a dominating force at this time with a fourth podium finish in our last six races and we are grinding away on the points leader. This win comes at an opportune moment of the season. With five races to go, we are going all out to win this title.”

Tagliani is now third in the championship with 317 points, 11 points behind championship leader L.P. Dumoulin and one behind second place Camirand.

The Pinty’s Series drivers now move on to the Maritimes for next Saturday evening’s Bumper to Bumper 300 at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S. The green flag for the Aug. 18 event will be waved at 7 p.m. EDT.

In two weeks, the Pinty’s Series will be back at Canadian Tire Motorsport  Park in support of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race

Meantime, the Premier of the Province of Quebec arrived this morning. The Mayor of this 160,000-population town on the north shore of  the St. Lawrence River actually drove in a race Saturday and strapped in for another today.

Tens of thousands of motorsport fans have poured into this place, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on hotel rooms and in bars and restaurants. A half-dozen downtown streets are blocked off and a Ferris Wheel – we’re talking a BIG Ferris Wheel – dominates a major intersection.

The street closure extends down to the waterfront, where Nissan, on Saturday night, sponsored a huge outdoor concert and fireworks.

That Quebec embraces motor sport, let there be no doubt. And the reason is simple: it means millions and millions of dollars to the economy. The media reflect this. RDS, the Quebec equivalent of TSN, has been reporting on the racing all weekend and planned to televise the Pinty’s headline race this afternoon.

And Jennifer Klein, who handles communications for the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series for IMSA, is shown at the top of this post standing in front of a wall of newspaper clippings of stories and photos published by local and provincial publications.

Talk about blanket coverage . . . . .

It’s tough for a guy from Toronto to watch what happens here, and in Montreal every June when Formula One arrives in that town, and not think about what would be possible if the provincial and municipal politicians and the major media in my town showed any interest.

Since the Molson Indy started in 1986, two premiers – David Peterson and Mike Harris – have attended. Peterson once and Harris a couple of times. Of all the mayors who have been in office over all those years, only two – Mel Lastman and Rob Ford –bothered to show up. And Ford, with his brother, Doug, in tow, just held a press conference; he didn’t stick around to actually watch.

And this year at the Honda Indy, only two of the four Toronto papers sent reporters – the Star being one. I don’t know how you can ignore a major international event that is being shown on television around the world, but they did.

Curious, isn’t it?

Now, we all know that David Miller, the mayor before Ford, was not a fan of the car. But Miller’s administration went further – it actually went so far as to use public money (yes, there was some sponsorship but not a lot) to invent and promote a Yonge Street Festival on the very same weekend as the Molson Indy. They closed Yonge from the waterfront to Eglinton Ave. and at every major intersection there were free rock shows, or jazz shows, or gymnastics displays, or whatever.

For years, people who weren’t fans of motor sport but were at loose ends, would go to the race on Molson Indy Sunday. It was something to do and those folks added to the tens of thousands who went to watch the action. So that street festival was designed to do one thing and one thing only: give people something to do other than take in that car race.

And it worked.

Do not kid yourself: that free festival did a lot of damage to the Indy because people had an alternative that didn’t cost them anything.  It cut into attendance drastically and is one of a myriad of reasons – there are others, but . . .  – that the (now) Honda Indy isn’t the dominant summertime festival it once was.

Can you imagine the mayor of Montreal trying a stunt like that? To launch and promote an alternative to the Grand Prix on Grand Prix weekend? The mind boggles.

Now, the mayor of Trois-Rivieres, Yves Levesque, says he is not a politician. He says he knows his community, he knows what the majority of people think, and that he acts accordingly.

The guy clearly knows what he’s doing. Now 60, he’s been the mayor of Trois-Rivieres for 17 years and has won five elections since amalgamation. He  emphasizes that he’s won seven in total, because he was mayor of a smaller, nearby community before it became part of the bigger city.

“These two weekends (what started in the 1960s as one race is now a week-long festival that features the International Rallycross Series the first weekend and five Canadians series the second) bring $15 million to our economy,” he said.

“In fact, this is good for the region because we don’t have enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone, so some fans and some of the racing teams have to stay in nearby towns. And the Rallycross is bringing global attention to Trois-Rivieres; people come here from all over the world to race and they go home and talk about us.”

Although the mayor says he is not a politician, he certainly knows how to attract attention. He is racing this weekend as the result of a dare. Michel Barrette, an entertainer, was featured at last year’s festival and, while on stage, suggested that if he and Levesque ever got into a car race together, he would win. Levesque took him up on the challenge and the two have been going at it all weekend in a couple of Nissan Micra Cup cars.

The score after two races? Barrette 2, Levesque 0. The loser had to cut the grass in front of city hall with an old-style, non-powered, lawn mower. We await an announcement of day and time. . .

Where Levesque says he’s not a politician is when it comes to dissent.

“I know the vast majority of people like the racing here,” he said. “They approve of it and many of them attend. Like anything, there is a minority that doesn’t. The media go to the minority – there could be 10 people – and put it all over the front page and it’s the first item on TV. They like the conflict.

“Politicians react to that sort of thing. I don’t, because I know how the majority feel and that this is a good thing. If the Grand Prix didn’t happen, it would be the worst thing for this community.

“If we lost this, we would never it get it back. Racing is a small community and it’s all about connections. If the connection is lost, it would take a long time to reconnect, if ever.

“If I listened to what the minority says, we would have nothing here.”

I really hope John Tory is listening. If he wins re-election, I think it’s time he took in the Honda Indy.

SUNDAY RACING

Kevin Harvick won his seventh Monster Energy Cup race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Brad Keselowski was second and Kyle Bush was third. For details of the Monster Energy race, please click here

In motorcycle racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Jordan Szoke made history Sunday by  winning his record 13th, and fourth straight, national Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship.

Szoke secured the title with a fourth-place finish. Tomas Casas, of Peterborough  won for the second straight day in the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class.

Szoke, of Lynden, Ont., riding the No. 1 BMW S1000RR, started second behind pole sitter Kenny Riedmann, of Belfountain, Ont., on the No. 42 Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.

At the drop of the green, Szoke, Riedmann and Saturday’s race winner, Ben Young of Clazkrsburg, Ont., on the No. 86 BMW S1000RR all jockeyed, for position with Young eventually leading Riedmann and Szoke. That order held pat until Lap 7 when Riedmann passed Young for the lead.

Lap 13 saw Young retake the lead only to relinquish it again to Riedmann by Lap 17. Meanwhile, Samuel Trepanier, of St. Isidore, Que., on the No. 14 BMW S1000RR, had worked his way up from his ninth starting position to join the lead pack passing Szoke for third on the penultimate lap.

Trepanier then passed Riedmann for second on the white flag lap only to give the position back running wide through Moss Corner. At the checkers, it was Riedmann, Young and Trepanier across the line. For Riedmann, it was his first career Mopar Canadian Superbike win.

For Saturday Racing Results, Please Click Here

In support races at Trois-Rivieres, Zach Robichon of Ottawa took up where he left off Saturday and won the second of two Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada races Sunday. Robichon can’t lose these days, it seems. It was the fourth time this Canadian season that he’s won both races. And last weekend, he swept both races at a Porsche GT3 double-header weekend in the U.S. Wow.  Roman De Angelis of Windsor was second Sunday (as he was Saturday) and Etienne Borgeat of Montreal finished third (ditto) . . . . . .  In Nissan Micra Cup action, Olivier Bedard of Montreal won his second race of the weekend Sunday, with Jake Exton of Guildford, Great Britain, second and Valerie Limoges of Longueuil, Que., third. In the first race on Saturday, Bedard won, with Kevin King second and Exton third.. . . . 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. . . . . .