HMCS: Mosport season opener preview

HONDA MICHELIN SERIES CHAMPION STEVEN LAPORTE READY TO DEFEND HIS TITLE IN THE SEASON OPENER AT MOSPORT Bowmanville, ON, Thursday, May 19, 2005 - The Honda Michelin Challenge Series kicks off its 19th season of competition during this ...


Bowmanville, ON, Thursday, May 19, 2005 - The Honda Michelin Challenge Series kicks off its 19th season of competition during this weekend's Victoria Day SpeedFest at Mosport International Raceway. Earlier this year, series officials released a nine-race schedule that features some of the most prestigious Canadian events of the 2005 season. Four of those races will be held on the challenging 3.957-km Mosport track near Oshawa. Besides the opener this weekend and the season finale on October 2, round three will be held during the CASCAR Mosport Father Day 500 weekend of June 19. The seventh race of the season, and third at Mosport, will be on September 4 as part of the Labor Day Grand Prix of Mosport featuring the American Le Mans Series.

Over the course of the 2005 season, Honda Michelin Challenge Series drivers will also compete at the Canadian Grand Prix on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on June 11, and make a return trip to the Ile Notre-Dame track on August 28 for the Molson Indy Montreal. Another first for the current series, drivers will challenge the streets of downtown Toronto during the Molson Indy on July 9. They will also join the Grand-Am Cup drivers for a weekend of festivities at the annual Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières on August 7. The series last race in Quebec will be held September 25 during the Fall Classic at picturesque Circuit Mont-Tremblant.

''We are so happy to return with such a great schedule for 2005,'' said Ralph Luciw, Series Director of the Honda Michelin Challenge Series. ''Drivers will be running at major Canadian events at Mosport, Montreal, Toronto, Trois-Rivières and Mont-Tremblant. These events will showcase the Honda Civic DX Coupes pushed to the limit each time they go around the track. It's also great to have the double-ender at Mosport, as the track is a true test of driver skills. Over the years there's never been a dull moment at Mosport when the Honda cars are running, and fans will be thrilled once again with such close competition.''

The 2005 season promises to be another championship battle to the finish as the top-11 drivers in last season's final point standings are all back along with five highly touted rookies and several second-year drivers. Leading the pack is series champ Steven Laporte of Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (QC) who is eager to become the first driver to repeat as series champion since Normand Boyer won back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991. Laporte, and Boyer who finished fourth, shared all the wins at Mosport last year with Normand winning the first two and Laporte closing the season on a strong note with two wins to secure his first-ever Honda Michelin Series title. Robert Boyer and Emmanuel Boivin-Moreau are the third and fourth members of Lombardi Honda Racing team.

Alex Penfold is back for a second season, but he will share double duties as he is also competing in the SPEED World Challenge Series. ''I can't wait to race at Mosport,'' said the 2004 Honda Michelin Series Rookie of the Year, who has a head start on his fellow competitors having competed in a couple of World Challenge races this season. ''It's exciting to race in both series but my main goal this year is to win the Honda championship. It will be a challenge to race both kinds of cars. You can fool around with the mechanics of the car in World Challenge, but in the Honda Michelin, you run a stock street car. There are also fewer games going on in Honda, but the experience gained in the quicker World Challenge will improve my driving abilities as each series runs at a different pace. My future still lies in sponsorship money, and a series championship would be an asset.''

The Rookies

The Georgetown (ON) driver will have a teammate this year with his brother Richard Penfold joining the Pfaff Leasing Team. ''Richard is very competitive and his input should even-up the score because it's difficult to win often against multi-car teams in this series,'' concluded Alex Penfold. Richard is one the hot rookies along with karting standout Matt Champagne of Fonthill (ON) who will be the lone entry for Team Center Honda Toronto. Team Kart Depot Predators will field a two-car team for rookies Tyler Givogue of Embrun (ON) and Philip Major of Ottawa. Both drivers will also enjoy the support of Dow Honda Ottawa that is also fielding a car for Andrew Bearss, Dow Honda's General Manager.

More Veterans

Also returning to the fold is the Honda de Sigi Auto Sport team with second-year drivers Nick and Kuno Wittmer who respectively finished second and fifth in last year's championship battle. Didier Schraenen, who finished third, is also back in the hunt along with his teammate Denis Baillargeon of Montreal, Frederick Lelièvre from the Gaspe Region and Ryan Kelly from London (ON). Kelly, who finished tenth in his rookie season, won two poles with his KelCoatings London Honda, but only converted one of those poles into a podium finish.

What's up this weekend?

Four classes will compete in five races this weekend in Mosport. Race action for the Honda Michelin Series' 21 drivers entered in the Victoria Day Sprint Weekend gets underway Saturday with one practice session and two qualifying sessions. These sessions will set the grid for Sunday's opening round race that's scheduled to start at 2:50 p.m.

What's New This Year

For 2005, the Honda Civic DX Coupe race car will feature a new front and rear suspension package as well as an improved exhaust system. Designed by Multimatic, an Ontario-based company, the new Dynamic Suspension package will improve lap times by enhancing the handling of the Civic DX Coupe at higher speeds in the corners, as well as reduce wear on the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. The package includes new front and rear springs and dampers.

The Series

The road racing series was originally launched in 1976 with the Honda Civic hatchback. The single-make Championship Series gives drivers the opportunity the showcase their talent in identical cars. The series is sanctioned by ASN Canada FIA and sponsored by Honda Canada Inc. and co-sponsored by Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., Dynamic Suspensions, Bosal, CSC, Goodridge, NGK, Hawk Performance Brakes, Mechanix Wear and Racing Radios.

The Honda Michelin Challenge Series opens its 19th season of competition with the Victoria Day Sprint Weekend at 2:50 p.m. (EDST) on May 22, 2005 at Mosport International Raceway. 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 it's two plants in Alliston, Ontario


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Series General
Drivers Didier Schraenen , Kuno Wittmer , Alex Penfold , Phillip Major , Tyler Givogue , Robert Boyer