TROIS-RIVIÃˆRES, QC - If there's been one recurring theme for Pete Vanderwyst and the ...
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, QC - If there's been one recurring theme for Pete Vanderwyst and the #99 EXIDE Batteries / National Fast Freight Pontiac team during the 2001 Castrol Super Series season, it's been strong races that have been tarnished by late-race misfortune. The pattern held true this past weekend at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières where the St. Thomas, ON racer was running fourth with just five laps to go in the 42-lap race around the legendary street circuit.
Poised to take a run at a podium position, Vanderwyst's heart sank when his car wouldn't accelerate for the final restart. Over the final few circuits, the EXIDE / Nat'l Fast Freight Pontiac limped around the course to take an eighth-place finish.
"All in all, it was a pretty good weekend," said Vanderwyst, who started 11th in the field of 23. "We were both happy and disappointed. Happy that we were running fourth before the last caution came out with five laps to go. But then, the alternator died on the car and that drained every bit of power out of the battery. Fortunately, there was enough juice in the EXIDE battery so that we could to make it to the finish. But the ignition system was burned out of the car and that killed us. That was the disappointing part.
"We were running a couple of things in the car, including an air-pump system and a fan. We just didn't have enough 'oomph' with the temperatures being so high. By the end of the race, it was back-firing. We limped around for the last four laps and somehow managed to stay on the lead lap for an eighth-place finish.
The result was hard to accept, considering that the leader of the first 41 laps, Don Thomson, suffered a clutch failure on the last lap, which would have moved the EXIDE / Nat'l Fast Freight Pontiac onto the podium, had Vanderwyst merely been able to hold his position.
"With what happened to Donnie [Thomson], we would have been on the podium. And when we had full power, we were stronger than [Peter] Gibbons and DJ [Kennington], who finished first and second. There was nothing that we could have foreseen. That's just the way it goes. I felt it [the alternator] going when we re-started the race. It was OK at low RPM, but when I took off, it sputtered. I switched ignition boxes and shut down the fan and coolers, but the volt gauge was down to nothing. I was just lucky that we made it to the end."
The race was the Castrol Super Series' first ever visit to Trois-Rivières. Vanderwyst enjoyed the experience. "It was a tight little racetrack. I've never been to a place that was so hard on brakes. We put on two sets of rotors and three sets of brake pads during the weekend. The Exide Batteries / National Fast Freight Pontiac performed well and the team did a great job. Three-Rivers was a fantastic event and there were tons of fans there to watch us. It was very well organized and I think that the CASCAR teams put on a great show."
But Vanderwyst is hoping to re-write the last chapter of the book that has cost him several top finishes this season. "It's just another of those late-race things that has bitten us on so many occasions this year. We just need a little bit of luck to put a good finish on one of the strong runs that we seem to have every week."
Looking ahead to the next race on the schedule, the EXIDE Batteries / Nat'l Fast Freight Pontiac will be making its lone appearance at Cayuga Speedway for a night race, this Saturday (Aug. 11), at the 5/8-mile, Hamilton, ON area oval.
"I've always loved Cayuga," commented Vanderwyst. "It's a fun, fast racetrack. We hope to get a good result there that will pump us up heading out west for the Calgary and Vancouver races."