MX-5 Cup is Taking it to the Streets of Trois-RiviÃ¨res TROIS-RIVIÃˆRES, CANADA (Aug. 14, 2008) - The first half of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup has been a shining example of how spec racing should be: four different winners,...
MX-5 Cup is Taking it to the Streets of Trois-Rivières
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, CANADA (Aug. 14, 2008) - The first half of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup has been a shining example of how spec racing should be: four different winners, all of the them first-timers and an average of more than three lead changes per race (at the line). While the odds of another first-time winner decline with each round, the talent pool in MX-5 Cup is deep enough that it's still a possibility this weekend, Round Five at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières.
Who could keep the streak of first time winners alive on the streets of Trois-Rivières? Two candidates stick out: Christian Franck and Elivan Goulart, who are coincidentally tied for seventh in points at the moment.
Franck's race at Road America may have ended early with a nasty hit in the Turn 12 tire wall, but before the incident he was battling with the leaders and had set the fastest lap of the race. He's qualified the No. 16 Alara Racing/Select Painting MX-5 in the top three twice (Mosport and Portland) and he led a lap at Portland before a bobble took him out of the battle at the front of the field. If Franck stay focused and out of trouble, he has the potential to become the fifth different MX-5 Cup winner. Unfortunately staying focused and out of trouble couldn't be more difficult than in the tight confines of the Trois-Rivières street course.
While single-car teams are hard to come by in MX-5 Cup, Goulart has shown he doesn't need teammates to get his No. 70 GRE/Veloctiy-Club.com/SCDA1.com MX-5 to the front. Goulart's first full MX-5 Cup season started off with a third-place qualifying result at Road Atlanta, but that morphed into a last-place starting position when Goulart opted to change his tires to better suit the changing weather conditions. After top-10 finishes at Mosport and Portland, Goulart finished a career-high fifth at Road America.
While it wouldn't be his first win, a victory by Todd Buras at Trois-Rivières would continue the streak of different 2008 winners in MX-5 Cup. Buras recently scored his first pole at Road America, but had to settle for third when the race ended under yellow, preventing himself and teammate Brad Rampelberg from drafting their way to the front in the final laps. Trois-Rivières has always been good to Buras -- he's finished on the podium here in each of the previous two years. Driving the No. 56 Hooverspeed/Pancreaticcure.org/Patron Tequila MX-5, Buras has started out the 2008 stronger than ever and is only 15 points behind Championship leader Eric Foss.
Foss got to the Championship lead by winning the season opener at Road Atlanta and finishing on the podium in every race since. Foss is already at a disadvantage to Buras, having never been to Trois-Rivières before, but such unfamiliarity didn't stop him from finishing second at Road America in the No. 28 Team MER/Autobarn Mazda MX-5. Same goes for teammate Ryan Schimsk, the most recent MX-5 Cup winner. He took the top sport at Road America in the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical MX-5 despite never seeing the four-mile road course until last weekend. The pair's dynamic teamwork has helped them learn courses quickly. Will it work again on the schedule's only street circuit?
MX-5 Cup shootout winner Rampelberg is currently third in the Drivers' Championship, a single point behind teammate Buras. If he's not on the podium like he was at Road Atlanta and on the top step at Portland, he's one step away, in fourth, like Mosport and Road America. Another newbie to the streets of Trois-Rivières, Rampelberg will rely on Buras' expertise to help keep the top-five finishes coming in his No. 14 Hooverspeed/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5.
Robert Huffmaster should be happy to be racing in Canada again, as he scored his first win north of the border back in May at Mosport. A street course, however, is pretty much the polar opposite of the fast and sweeping road course in Ontario. Huffmaster will be working with teammates Foss and Schimsk to learn the tricks of navigating his No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Co. MX-5 around the 1.521-mile Trois-Rivières circuit.
Trois-Rivières is unpredictable at best; concrete walls that seemed so far away in practice or qualifying, will collect you in an instant while attempting a pass in a five-car train. At least one full-course caution is a near guarantee, and the fact that this season's championship is closer than it's ever been at Trois-Rivières, means drivers will be even hungrier to grab that extra spot on the restart. Fans can try to keep up with all the action by logging onto www.mx-5cup.com for live timing and lap notes throughout the weekend.
Round Five of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will go green at 3:35 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Aug. 16. The race will air on DIRECTV, Dish Network and regional cable networks the week of September 22nd.
-credit: scca pro racing