HMCS: Montreal preview

HONDA MICHELIN SERIES DRIVERS EAGER TO RACE AGAIN IN MONTREAL Montreal, Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - Honda/Michelin Challenge Series drivers return to action June 11 on Montreal's Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve as part of the Grand Prix of...


Montreal, Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - Honda/Michelin Challenge Series drivers return to action June 11 on Montreal's Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve as part of the Grand Prix of Canada weekend. Round 2 of the 2005 season schedule promises more of the same action that has been part of the series 19-year legacy of head to head competition. Most of the front-runners from last year's thrilling race on the Ile Notre-Dame road course are back to compete.

Action begins early on Friday June 10 with a 30-minute practice session at 9:45 a.m. It will be followed by a 30 minute qualifying period later that day at 4:10 p.m. This session will set the grid for Saturday's 14 laps or 30 minute race scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. immediately following the F1 qualifying session.

2004 series champion Steven Laporte last year's Montreal race winner will be trying to repeat his feat again in 2005. Following Montreal, Laporte went on to win two more races during the2004 season to clinch his first-ever Honda/Michelin Challenge Series title. Even though Laporte can count on his Lombardi Racing teammates, Normand and Robert Boyer, for a helping hand during the race, the Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs driver knows that during the last laps and with the checkered flag in sight, every driver is looking to win.

''At the end of each race, it's each person for themselves, but, I must say that the Lombardi drivers work together very closely during every on-track session in order to maximize our results,'' said Laporte who finished second in this season's opening race held on May 22 at Mosport. ''Last year, I qualified fifth in Montreal and the start of the race was very competitive. I eventually worked my way past three drivers, including both Kuno and Nick Wittmer, before catching up to Normand (Boyer who was leading the race). I stuck to his bumper and we were able to pull a five-second lead at the finish. Normand is a strong competitor on the Montreal track, but it is my aim to beat him this time. Things worked well for me last season during the race and I think that if I qualify better I stand a good chance to win. As far as set-ups are concerned, we think we have the right one.''

Didier Schraenen, who won the 2005-opening race, leads the standings with 35 points, three more than Laporte. The Energie/NAPA/RDS driver was magnificent at Mosport winning the race from the pole and leading all 16 laps. Even with all the successes he's had during his career, the Mont-Saint-Hilaire driver has yet to win a race on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve but aims to win this year. His fourth-place in last year's race matched his 1990 career best in this series on that track. ''To win at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve would be a crowning moment for me,'' said Schraenen who would probably trade most of his race wins for that moment of glory on the top step of the famous Montreal circuit. ''I've been on the second step of that podium in F-1600. I often visualized winning here, but this year, I'm more than ready. My mind is set on winning. My victory at Mosport was great, but these two tracks are so different. Running smoothly and staying between the white lines at Mosport paid off, but on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, finding the right braking point is crucial. You must be aggressive and yet smooth in the chicanes. ''

Schraenen also knows that drafting partners are crucial in qualifying in Montreal. He's aware that drivers from Lombardi Racing and Honda de Sigi Autosport work closely in qualifying and it usually pays off. Schraenen thinks he's found a partner he could work with in Alex Penfold of Georgetown (ON). The Pfaff Leasing driver battled for the lead with Didier at Mosport and it was a clean fight. Good teamwork by Lombardi drivers Steven Laporte and Robert Boyer late in the race sent Penfold from second to fourth at the finish.

''He came alongside me during the race,'' said Schraenen. ''He surprised me with the way he handled himself. After the race, I went to see him and told him that it would be nice if we could work together during qualifying in the future.''

Another driver to watch this weekend will be Normand Boyer of Sainte-Agathe, a three-time series champion (1987, 1990 and 1991) and also a race winner in Montreal in 1989. He was never in contention at Mosport, finishing fifth. This was an unusual result for Normand, giving his history of excelling at this Ontario track. The veteran has scored 20 poles, 20 wins and 42 podiums in 67 series races during his career. His brother Robert was a changed driver at the Mosport season opener. He was smoother and yet more aggressive during the race and placed third. Last season, the Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs driver did not step on the podium until round eight in Saint-Eustache. Kuno and Nick Wittmer should rebound in Montreal after finishing sixth and seventh at Mosport. According to Honda de Sigi Autosport Team Owner Patrick Wittmer, ''There are going to be a few surprises in Montreal,'' said the father of the two racers. "My boys will be running up front."

The Series The Honda Michelin Challenge Series is sanctioned by ASN Canada FIA, sponsored by Honda Canada Inc. and co-sponsored by Michelin North America (Canada) Inc. Supporting partners include; 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


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Series General
Drivers Didier Schraenen , Alex Penfold , Robert Boyer , Nick Wittmer