Mont-Tremblant: Finlay Motorsports preview

FAMILIAR WARRIORS Champ Car Veteran And Canadian Fan Favorite Memo Gidley Turns His Talent To Sports Cars With A Hot New Team Full Of Familiar Faces While Co-Driver Michael McDowell Returns To The Scene Of His First-Ever Sports Car Race Fast...

FAMILIAR WARRIORS

Champ Car Veteran And Canadian Fan Favorite Memo Gidley Turns His Talent To Sports Cars With A Hot New Team Full Of Familiar Faces While Co-Driver Michael McDowell Returns To The Scene Of His First-Ever Sports Car Race

Fast Facts -- Finlay Motorsports Drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell in the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant, May 19 -- 21

Memo Gidley, himself - Canadian, is a familiar face to Canadian motorsports fans -- he won his first open-wheel race in Canada driving for Lynx Racing, drove three races for the Player's/Forsythe Champ Car team and ran Toronto and Vancouver for Rocketsports in 2004.

* This race marks a homecoming of sorts for Michael McDowell -- the 2004 Star Formula Mazda champion drove his first-ever sports car race at Mont-Tremblant last year, finishing 6th in the Grand Am Cup event.

* Other Finlay Motorsports team members will also be familiar to fans -- Team Manager Steve Cameron and Engineer Rick Cameron orchestrated Patrick Carpentier's record-setting Atlantic championship with Lynx Racing in 1996 (nine wins in 12 races, eight in a row from the pole), and technical specialist Mathieu Cloutier of Saint-Jean, Quebec, worked with Buddy Rice (the 2004 Indy 500 winner) on the Lynx team in 1999.

* Gidley and McDowell will co-drive the #19 Finlay Motorsports / Air Force Reserve / Make A Wish Foundation BMW Riley Daytona Prototype in the Rolex Series race scheduled to take the green flag at 11:00 am Saturday, May 21. This car led 22 of 86 laps in round 3 at California Speedway, and ran in the top-3 for most of round 4 at Laguna Seca. It set the fastest lap in both events and is a prime contender for victory at Mont-Tremblant.

Finlay Motorsports arrives at the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant -- round 5 of the 2005 Grand American Rolex series -- with a hot mix of youthful aggression and high-speed experience that has made it the team to watch over the last two races.

With co-drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell at the controls of the #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish / Dinan-powered BMW Riley prototype, the team is currently 10th in the championship, and has served clear notice that its first victory is not too far in the future by running at the front and setting the fastest lap in the two most recent events.

During round 3 at California Speedway, with Canadian hotshoe Michael Valiante substituting for Gidley (who had racing commitments elsewhere), the team led 22 of 86 laps before finishing 7th due to a series of full-course yellows late in the race. And again in round 4 at Laguna Seca, with Gidley and McDowell driving, the team qualified 5th on the grid and ran in the top three for most of the race before being called into the pits for investigation of a non-existent oil leak and once more finishing 7th in a caution-filled race that ended under yellow flags.

While this is the first visit to 2.65-mile Circuit Mont-Tremblant for Memo Gidley, McDowell had his first-ever race in a sports car at the circuit in 2004, finishing 6th in a Grand Am Cup Porsche 996. McDowell won multiple national karting championships on his way up the ladder, and won the 2004 Star Formula Mazda championship with eight victories in ten races.

"Mont-Tremblant is a beautiful, historic circuit, the kind of place I dreamed of racing while I was trying to get my career started working in go-kart shops and instructing at the Bondurant School," says McDowell, 20, of Phoenix, Arizona. "I really enjoyed my race here last year, and I think it's a track that suits my driving style and our car. Both Memo and I like natural-terrain road courses like this the best, and I expect we'll have another extremely competitive race."

While Gidley may not have raced at Mont-Tremblant before, he is a favorite of knowledgeable Canadian motorsports fans who has enjoyed considerable success in his father's home country. Gidley won his first open-wheel race in the streets of Toronto driving for Lynx Racing in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, and went on to drive three races for the Player's/ Forsythe Champ Car team when Patrick Carpentier injured his wrist. His most recent Canadian adventure came last season when, after more than a year out of a Champ Car, he was called to Toronto -- on Saturday -- to fill in for the departed Nelson Philippe at Rocketsports.

"Since I've had to do it so often during my career, I've developed a procedure to get up to speed as quickly as possible in a new car or at a new track," says Gidley, who has 38 Champ Car starts on his resume. "First I get any TV coverage from previous years and use that to create a mental image of the track and which way the turns go.

My first laps on the track I use to figure out where I need to place the car to make maximum use of the track. Then I start to pick out braking markers, explore what the track is like off-line, look for the places where its OK or not OK to drop a wheel off, note where the water might puddle if it rains and try out the curbs to see if hitting them helps or hurts. Then it's just a process of refining what I've learned.

With Michael to help, I'm confident we'll be up to speed pretty quickly."

Among the Finlay Motorsports team members on the other side of the wall will be Mathieu Cloutier, a native of Saint-Jean, Quebec, a former aircraft mechanic who began working on race cars in 1996. He joined the Lynx Racing Atlantic team in 1999 and worked with Buddy Rice (who went on to win the 2004 Indy 500), along with such Canadian drivers as David Rutledge, Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and Michael Valiante. Cloutier is now the jack-of-all-trades technical specialist for the Finlay Motorsports team, working on the transmission, shock absorbers, fabrication and repairing broken bodywork.

"Racing is a really fun job, but if you don't have a passion for it, the travel and long hours will burn you out quite fast," says Cloutier. "The positive side is that you do get to travel, and you're always doing something different, so things never get to be routine. And of course, when you're on a team like this one that can come in and give the big, established teams a run for their money, then it's the best job in the world."

Teams will begin setting up in the Circuit Mont-Tremblant paddock on Wednesday, May 18, with four hours of on-track testing beginning at 12 noon on Thursday, May 19. Practice continues on Friday, May 20, with a single 15-minute qualifying session scheduled to start at 3:15 pm. The 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant is scheduled to take the green flag at 11:00 am, Saturday, May 21. The race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel beginning at 11:00 am Eastern Time.

-fm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Michael Valiante , Michael McDowell , Buddy Rice , Louis-Philippe Dumoulin , Nelson Philippe , Steve Cameron