AND THEN THERE WERE THREE TORONTO, September 21, 2005 - With two races to go in the 2005 Honda/Michelin Challenge Series schedule and only three points separating the top contenders, three drivers are still in the...
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
TORONTO, September 21, 2005 - With two races to go in the 2005 Honda/Michelin Challenge Series schedule and only three points separating the top contenders, three drivers are still in the thick of a championship battle that will go down to the wire. Brothers Kuno and Nick Wittmer and veteran series driver Steven Laporte will meet again this weekend for Round 8. This time, it will be at picturesque Circuit Mont-Tremblant for another battle royale that will also involve 17 other drivers, who are also fighting their own little wars to secure a better position in the points standings.
Following his second place finish at Mosport during the Labor Day race weekend, Laporte is back on top of the standings with 208 points. The Lombardi Racing driver began the season with a couple of second places followed by a win in round 3 at Mosport. That victory eased the series defending champion into first place. But his next two races in Toronto and Trois-Rivières were not up to par and he slid into second place. He then captured two successive second places in Montreal in late August and at Mosport, where he also secured his first pole of the 2005 campaign and moved back into first.
Laporte has a slim two-point lead over red-hot Kuno Wittmer of Hudson (QC). The Honda de Sigi racer started the season on a slow note but picked the pace in round four in Toronto where he won his first race of the season. He followed suit with his second podium finish of 2005 in the subsequent race at Trois-Rivières finishing third after winning the pole. He continued his streak with a couple of wins in Montreal in late August and at Mosport on Labor Day, finishing just ahead of Laporte on both occasions. His series of four consecutive podium finishes slowly helped him move up from sixth place after round three to second place in the championship going into round eight this weekend.
The third member in this troika is Nick Wittmer, teammate and younger brother of Kuno in Team Honda de Sigi AutoSport, who sits in third place with 205 points, only three from Laporte. A very fast and exciting driver to watch, Nick won four poles this season, but has only converted the first one into a win in round two at Montreal in June. He won his second race of the season in Trois-Rivières, when he drove by his brother Kuno who had started from the pole. The win helped the younger Wittmer move into first place ahead of Laporte, but the latter slowly closed the gap and retook first place when Nick failed to finish in the top three in the last two encounters.
With two hot drivers in the championship hunt, Team Honda de Sigi AutoSport is poised to win its first title of the new millennium. But, defending series champion Steven Laporte is still cool as he sits in the driver's seat at the moment. His Lombardi Racing teammate Robert Boyer will have to step up to the plate if he wants his team to remain series champion. He finished twice on the podium in the first three races, but lately, he has been unable to take away precious points from the Wittmer brothers...
Didier Schraenen is a long shot to win the title. He is currently fourth with 192 points, 16 off the pace. He would need a retirement from each of the troika members, an unlikely scenario, if he hopes to win the title. Instead, he should beware of Frederick Lelièvre who sits in fifth place with 179 points. The Mont-Joli driver has been on the podium in three of the last four races while Didier, who started the season on a high note with a win in the inaugural race of the season followed up by two other podium finishes, has been absent from the rostrum in the last four events. Schraenen would like to show he has not lost his form by winning the final two races, but he is not alone with that thought. Lelièvre has been close very often, but he is still looking for his first-ever Honda/Michelin win.
In the rookie championship, Tyler Givogue of Embrun, an Ottawa suburb, leads the championship with 129 points, 15 more than runner-up Matt Champagne of Fonthill, Ontario. The 20-year-old Champagne led the standings for the first five races of the season. But he missed the Molson Indy race in Montreal in August, due to other commitments and Givogue, who is also 20, took over first place at that point. The Kart Depot Predators driver increased his lead after the last race in Mosport. Third place in the rookie standings belongs to 16-year old Philip Major of Ottawa. The second member of the Kart Depot Predators team has picked-up 98 points in seven races.
There will be plenty of action for the Honda/Michelin Challenge Series drivers this weekend with no less than six on-track sessions starting with two practice periods on Friday, followed by two qualifying sessions on Saturday. The best result from each driver during qualifying will set the grid for Sunday's 16-lap race scheduled to start at 1:25 p.m.
The Honda Michelin Challenge Series is sanctioned by ASN Canada FIA, sponsored by Honda Canada Inc. Supporting partners include: Michelin North America (Canada) Inc, Dynamic Suspensions, Bosal, CSC Racing Products, Goodridge, NGK Spark Plugs, Hawk Performance, Mechanix Wear and Racing Radios.
Honda is the world's preeminent maker of engines for automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment. With more than 120 manufacturing facilities in 30 countries worldwide, Honda now attracts nearly 20 million customers annually. Honda Canada manufactures the Honda Ridgeline, Civic, Pilot, and the Acura EL and MDX at its two plants in Alliston, Ontario.