Doran-Lista racing dominated the Mont-Tremblant six hours, controlling a race that rewarded reliability rather than outright speed. The second and third podium positions went to GT entries, a remarkable showing for the slowest of Grand-Am's five...
Doran-Lista racing dominated the Mont-Tremblant six hours, controlling a race that rewarded reliability rather than outright speed. The second and third podium positions went to GT entries, a remarkable showing for the slowest of Grand-Am's five racing classes. Eighteen of twenty four starters saw the checkered flag but nearly all suffered serious problems that cost laps and positions. Class victories, by substantial margins, went to those teams that ran a consistent race.
Doran-Lista's #27 Dallara-Judd won the six hours by 13 laps out of 210 completed, the largest margin of victory in the history of Grand-Am. The team's nearest competitor in the SRP class, the #16 Dyson entry, finished a full twenty six laps in arrears. This race win completed a weekend that saw the team lead the charts in every single timed session.
Two hours into the race the situation was very different. Didier Theys drove the first stint in the race and built a one lap cushion over the rival #16 Dyson race car. During the second pit stop Theys handed over driving duties to car owner Freddy Leinhard Sr. In the twenty laps immediately following the pit stop the #16 reduced the gap and on lap 83 completed a pass for the lead. The Dyson car began to pull away only to crash, on lap 97, and was no longer a factor for a race victory.
The Doran team has suffered from off-track excursions and reliability problems this season but experienced only two minor incidents during this race. Early, on lap 60, their Dallara had a minor collision with a GT back marker that knocked the off the timing and scoring transponder. On lap 103 course workers ominously reported that the car was leaking oil. The team checked over the car and concluded that the oil tank had been overfilled and was simply overflowing.
"6 hours is a long race and anything can go wrong," said Leinhard Sr. Fortunately for the team they were clearly out front. "When you're not being pressured you don't have to take chances," explained co-driver Freddy Leinhard Jr.
The Dyson team's Crawford-Judd lacked speed all weekend. Their car was consistently between one and two seconds off the pace of the #27. The drivers of the car knew that they would have to push very hard to remain up front and faced the added pressure of helping co-driver Chris Dyson close the points gap to Didier Theys for the season's driver's championship.
It was driver Chris Dyson in the car who moved into the lead on lap 83. Dyson was pressing the car to its limits and, eventually, beyond. His crash on lap 97 came in the challenging turns 1,2,3 complex. Dyson lost the rear end of the car in the downhill, bending braking zone and slid through the gravel trap into the tire wall.
The car was removed from the gravel trap and eventually repaired. The damage looked so substantial that one of the co-drivers, James Weaver, changed out of his racing suit and began packing up to leave the track. "We didn't think we could fix the car. The damage was quite expensive," said James. Damage to the bodywork and front suspension was eventually repaired and the car finished seventh overall.
Didier Theys and Chris Dyson are locked in close battle for the season driver's championship. Theys arrived in Mont-Tremblant with a six point lead over Dyson, 257 to 251. This victory has increased Theys' lead by a further three points. Under a Grand-Am points system that rewards consistency more than finishing position he will need only a fifth place finish in the season finale to claim the title.
The GT class provided the excitement during this event. In addition to the #33 Ferrari of Washington 360GT's second overall and the #26 ACEMCO Porsche's third, track owner Lawrence Stroll's #86 360GT finished fourth. The third and fourth place finishers battled throughout the race and swapped positions several times.
The Ferrari of Washington 360GT continued an incredible streak of winning. The car, which first appeared at the Watkins Glen 6 hours in June, has won every race in which it has been entered. The second overall result is the car's best yet and had the team considering the possibility of an outright win. "When it was getting late in the race I thought,' dude, if that prototype breaks we're there!' I picked up the pace just in case something happened up front," said driver Cort Wagner.
The only scare for the team came in the middle of the race. The #33 had a light collision with the #86 Ferrari and spun. "I though he was going to let me through. He went wide going into the turn," explained Wagner.
The third and fourth place finishers passed each other both on and off the track. The Porsche moved into the lead for the final time on lap 179 taking advantage of a restart. During the last half hour of the race the Ferrari followed the Porsche closely, with the gap growing right at the end to a little more than four seconds. #86 Ferrari co-driver Nick Longhi described the battle: "I was feeling optimistic as we made it to the end. I could creep up on the #26, but coming out of the corners he had a little extra. He was also very good under braking. If I was running alone up front I was faster; when he was up front he was in control. When it got to the end of the race and the gap was 5, 6 seconds I knew there was no way."
Other GT competitors had mechanical problems. The fourth in class #66 Porsche lost time to repair a broken shift linkage. Class pole sitter Mosler MT900R broke two axles and a CV joint before retiring in twenty first position.
Race win in AGT went to Sky Blue Racing. The #29 mustang qualified on pole and pulled away from an AGT field filled with mechanical problems. The 28 lap margin of victory in class completed a successful weekend for the team. Season points leader Kerry Hitt finished second with ACP Motorsports.
GTS victory belonged to the Racers Group # 67 Porsche. This car, originally entered as a GT car, was changed to GTS because of the small number of entrants in the GTS class. The car proved the most reliable in the category, finishing eleventh overall. Local entry D.L.G.L. Porsche suffered electrical problems on the day but did take the checkered flag.
G & W Motorsports finished first in SRP II, a fine result in a car rebuilt following a hard crash in the previous round at V.I.R. The car performed without compare in every session. In the race competition for the class win never materialized.