Trois-Rivieres: Race notes

Pruett wins thriller in Trois-Rivières. TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Quebec -- Scott Pruett came into the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières uncharacteristically uneasy about his chances at the tough French Canadian street course. However, the driver of the No....

Pruett wins thriller in Trois-Rivières.

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Quebec -- Scott Pruett came into the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières uncharacteristically uneasy about his chances at the tough French Canadian street course. However, the driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR put his fears to rest by earning his 19th career victory and his fifth triumph this season in Round 7 of the 2003 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship, held Saturday in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

Pruett, in fact, dominated the event at the 1.52-mile course, where he had only one previous start. Leading from the pole--his sixth in seven races this season and first for a Jaguar XKR here--Pruett held off a charging Johnny Miller and held the point for all 65 laps. In the process, Pruett also gave Jaguar its first Trois-Rivières victory, and earned the $2,000 Flowmaster American Thunder Challenge Award for winning the pole, leading the most laps, setting the fastest lap--1:04.843--and winning the race. Pruett also won the BFGoodrich Tires Take Control Award for leading the most laps.

"I was pretty nervous into this race at Trois-Rivières," said the two-time Trans-Am Series champion. "Johnny (Miller) was tough all day long. He really turned the heat on and picked up the pace. He's got a lot of experience in these cars and was able to run us hard.

"One of the things we learned this year is you can't run these cars too hard, because you've got to have a good enough car at the end," added Pruett. "But the Rocketsports team did a really good job to have three cars up here today."

As exciting as Pruett's charge to victory was, equally impressive was his nearest pursuers performances. Miller (No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) finished second, his fifth podium this season, and Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Stuck on You Jaguar XKR), finished third after starting 14th on the grid.

Randy Ruhlman equaled his best finish this season at Mosport of fourth in the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Canada/COYOTE Closures Chevrolet Corvette. Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools/The Crank Jaguar XKR) recovered from a late spin to finish fifth, just ahead of French Canadian driver Claude Bourbonnais, who made his Trans-Am Series debut this weekend in the No. 3 Rocketsports Jaguar XKR.

Miller held strong throughout the race, and challenged Pruett for the lead several times in the late going.

"At about the halfway point, we picked up the pace a bit and ran what we wanted to run," said Miller. "We got a little frisky. Then the caution came out on lap 50. After that, the car was pretty tapped out and we'd pretty much run it into the ground.

"But it turned out that we still had some more left," added Miller. "With seven laps left, Scott and I ran laps near our qualifying times, so that's pretty good for the tires and the brakes at that point in the race."

Meanwhile, Drissi was a man possessed at Trois-Rivières. Drissi started second to last after he was unable to record a time in qualifying after breaking a suspension piece in practice. Drissi then picked his way methodically through the field, and after a four-tire pit stop under caution, Drissi charged back through the field, winning a three-car battle with Lewis and Bourbonnais on lap 60 of the timed event. The third-place finish is Drissi's best this year, and marks his fourth career podium finish.

"I really enjoy this track and the Trois-Rivières fans," said Drissi. "They bring out the best in me. I finished third here last year, my best finish last season, and now I finish third again, best this year. Next year, we want the top spot.

"I've got to say thank you to my Rocketsports team," added Drissi. "We've been really frustrated this year. We've had some bad luck, and this is just the boost we needed. We missed a few podiums this year that should have been ours, and it's good to be back."

Bourbonnais said he wasn't able to conserve his car enough to hold third place, a spot he occupied for most of the race.

"I wish the race had been 20 laps shorter," said the affable French Canadian with a laugh. "I ran my tires off. Then I couldn't put the power down. Compared to my experience in open-wheel cars, these cars are thought to manage for the race as I found out. There's not as G-Force, but a lot more heat inside the car. We had a good car and I think we showed that as we ran with the leaders for most of the race."

The cars driven by Drissi and Joey Scarallo, who finished 10th in the No. 06 ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette, failed post-race inspection. Both cars violated Rule 2.10: "Ground Clearance." Both drivers received the following penalties: forfeiture of all drivers' and team owners' points earned at this event; loss of all prize money earned at this event; and a $2,000 fine, of which $1,000 was suspended. Neither drivers' finishing position was affected due to the penalties.

The race ran in 74 minutes and 40 seconds at a winning average speed of 79.447 miles per hour. The race was slowed by the caution flag once during laps 50 through 53. Those earning bonus points on the Fast Five Lap--lap 10 here--were Miller, Bourbonnais, Hayner, Sak and Lewis. The Fast Five Lap awards one bonus point to all drivers within five seconds of the leader at each race this season.

The next Trans-Am Series race is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 24 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. That race will air on same-day, tape-delayed basis on SPEED at 12:30 p.m.

The Trans-Am Series is America's oldest continuously running road racing series and celebrates its 38th anniversary in 2003.

Notebook:

* Claude Bourbonnais thrilled in his Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup debut Saturday at Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. The French Canadian driver finished sixth in the 64-lap event, after running third for most of the race in the No. 3 Rocketsports Jaguar XKR normally wheeled by Paul Gentilozzi. Bourbonnais has a long history at Trois-Rivières. In fact, Bourbonnais has competed regularly at the 1.52-mile, nine-turn temporary road course since 1985. Although this will mark his first Trans-Am Series start, Bourbonnais is by no means a rookie. He's competed in F-2000, Toyota Atlantic, British Formula 2, Indy Lights, along with the Champ Car World Series, the Indianapolis 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Most recently, Bourbonnais finished fourth overall at Trois-Rivières in the 2000 Players Grand Prix Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race. Bourbonnais co-drove a Ford Lola B2K10 Sports Racer Prototype with Scott Schubot in that event.

* Veteran motorsports broadcast journalist Chuck Dressing celebrated his 20th anniversary of covering Trans-Am Series racing this weekend. Dressing, who spotted for the live SPEED Channel broadcast, worked his first Trans-Am Series race in 1984 at Watkins Glen. For the record, David Hobbs won that race.

* The No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR of rookie Jorge Diaz, Jr. started last at Trois-Rivières. Diaz's time was disallowed after his team elected to make an engine change. Diaz qualified ninth Friday. Diaz was cited under rule 1.7.10.1 in the Trans-Am Series Rulebook: "...If a driver changes engines after qualifying, the driver must forfeit his starting position and start at the back of the grid. The entire grid moves up, filling the vacant positions..."

* Max Lagod (No. 83 Hypermax Chevrolet Camaro) was the only driver in Saturday's race electing to run BFGoodrich Tires' 75 (hard) compound tires on both rear wheels. Lagod used a similar strategy in the last event at Cleveland and earned his second career podium finish.

* Scott Pruett (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) will moved into a tie with Ron Fellows for sixth on the Trans-Am Series all-time win list with 19. Mark Donohue tops the all-time win list with 29 victories.

* Pruett's victory was the first for Jaguar here.

* Along with his BFGoodrich Tires Take Control Award for leading the most laps, Pruett won the Flowmaster American Thunder Challenge Award, which gives the driver that wins the pole, leads the most laps, turns the fastest lap and wins the race $2,000. This season, Pruett has been the only driver to claim the award, which he has won five times

* Scott Pruett didn't let lack of experience or even gearbox troubles get in the way of him earning his sixth pole this season, and 26th of his career, during Friday's qualifying session. The 1:03.890-minute lap at 85.687 miles per hour gave Jaguar its first pole here.

* For his efforts, Pruett won the Jaguar Pole Award, a performance-based initiative that rewards drivers who earn the pole at each of the Trans-Am Series' events this season. Polesitters will receive a key--regardless of what type of car they race--which, at the culmination of the season, they will use to attempt to open the door to a 2004 Jaguar XK8, during a formal ceremony. The driver whose key opens the vehicle will win a one-year lease on the car.

-scca pro racing-

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Ron Fellows , Scott Pruett , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , David Hobbs , Max Lagod , Michael Lewis , Claude Bourbonnais , Mark Donohue , Jorge Diaz