Canadians Dominate in Weekend Spectacular Montreal, Canada (Monday 11 June, 2007) -- If ever proof were needed that Canada has a reputation for producing some of the finest emerging open-wheel racing stars then you need look no further than...
Canadians Dominate in Weekend Spectacular
Montreal, Canada (Monday 11 June, 2007) -- If ever proof were needed that Canada has a reputation for producing some of the finest emerging open-wheel racing stars then you need look no further than last weekend's results sheets from a variety North American championships. Canadian drivers collected pole positions and wins across the board in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, Star Mazda Series and the Formula BMW USA Championship.
It was A1 Team Canada's James Hinchcliffe and Kevin Lacroix that set the headlines on Sunday with the duo battling it out for victory in Round 5 of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship at Portland International Raceway, Oregon. The double-header meeting saw Toronto's Hinchcliffe capture back-to-back pole positions in the #9 NOCO/ProWorks Sierra Sierra Enterprises entry for Round 4 and 5 at the 1.964-mile permanent road course, James heading into the weekend third overall in the points and the defending Portland race winner.
Saturday's fourth round saw Hinchcliffe lead 23 out of the 30 laps in treacherous conditions but it was another Canadian, Red Bull Forsythe Racing's Robert Wickens who snatched the lead and subsequently celebrated a rain-soaked victory. With Hinchcliffe second, Canada celebrated a 1-2 finish on Saturday, Brazil's Raphael Matos finally deposed from the top step of the podium following three straight wins to kick start the season back in April.
Round 5 on Sunday had people talking even before the start of the race courtesy of Kevin Lacroix's second place qualifying effort. The 18-year-old French-Canadian was making his series debut having concluded a late deal to run the #10 Uni-Select entry with Brooks Associates Racing for the remainder of the 12-round series. Last season's Star Mazda runner-up proved he wasn't there just to make up the numbers and he blitzed qualifying to land a coveted front-row grid slot alongside his pole-winning A1 Team Canada team-mate.
Hinchcliffe once again led the 27-strong Atlantic field off the line but his turn at the front proved to be short lived with a determined Lacroix out to belie his rookie status lining up the leader off the final turn at the end of lap five. Gunning down the start-finish straight starting lap six, Lacroix used the tow from Hinchcliffe to execute a late-braking move into the Festival Curves to seize the lead at the first turn. The gap between the battling Canadians never increased beyond half a second as several full-course caution periods littered the following laps until the final re-start on lap 22. The track stayed green through to the checkered on lap 35 with Hinchcliffe an ever present threat in Lacroix's mirrors while comfortably holding second.
With Lacroix winning and Hinchcliffe second, Canadians celebrated a second straight 1-2 Atlantic race finish following Wickens and Hinchcliffe's Portland 1-2 the day before in Round 4. James, who set the fastest lap on Sunday, moves up to second in the Driver Standings, sitting 17 markers behind team-mate Raphael Matos (140-123).
Commenting after his stunning rookie weekend victory Lacroix said, "First, the weekend started pretty hard because I had a bad time in the practice. I just kept improving and focused on learning the car and the track. Now, finishing today with a win in my first weekend, I think it's amazing especially with my experience in the car, it's very good for me. I had a great car from Brooks Associates Racing. It was perfect today!
Hinchcliffe remarked, "Championship-wise, I think it was a great result for us, but it was a bit of a frustrating day! I think we had a bit of a quicker car at the beginning, and obviously, Kevin did a great job to get by me on that first restart. After that, it's just so tough to follow here in Portland with the long corners. We had a great car, and for the championship it's a good result. It's good to have another Canadian onboard and up here on the podium, but I've had two other Canadians have their first win in the last two races. I want my turn up top!"
Also at Portland fellow Canadian Devin Cunningham, from St. Bruno in Quebec, triumphed in Round 5 of the Star Mazda Championship while over in Montreal, at the Grand Prix weekend, Daniel Morad, from Markham, Ontario kept the home fans happy with a pair of victories in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Formula BMW USA Championship.