ANTI AND LACROIX SCORE TOP TENS IN MONTREAL TRAFFORD, PA (June 26, 2006) -- Anticipation was high in the John Walko Racing camp heading in to the main event in Montreal on Saturday. With Rookie Kevin Lacroix, who won at this circuit in...
ANTI AND LACROIX SCORE TOP TENS IN MONTREAL
TRAFFORD, PA (June 26, 2006) -- Anticipation was high in the John Walko Racing camp heading in to the main event in Montreal on Saturday. With Rookie Kevin Lacroix, who won at this circuit in Formula BMW last season, setting the second fastest time in final practice the team hoped to leave the event with another strong showing.
Round Five of the Star Mazda Championship Series took place at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit as a support race for the Formula One Grand Prix of Canada. With the busy schedule of on track activity, the team was limited to just two practice sessions and no qualifying. In a slight twist from a regular event, the field was determined by the Championship points standings entering the event.
As a result, the team needed to get up to speed quickly in order to make best use of the shortened schedule.
Lacroix, racing in front of his hometown crowd, had moved to second quick by the second session, just .051 seconds behind the fast time set by Ryan Justice. Meanwhile, teammates Charles Anti and Ross Smith improved their times as well from one session to the next with Smith shaving nearly two seconds off of his previous best time.
Unfortunately, with the race grid being determined by points totals, the JWR team was at a bit of a disadvantage due to two of their three drivers not competing in all of the events this season. Ross Smith had missed the previous race after becoming ill. His JWR entry still placed on the podium but that did not help Smith in the points standings. As a result, he was relegated to 19th on the grid at Montreal. Lacroix's second quick practice time and third highest points per race pace did not help him either as he started in seventh place due to not starting the season until the second event.
The opening of the race was marred by a spectacular first lap accident that eliminated fifteen of the 42 entries. This was a double edged sword for the JWR drivers as Anti was able to avoid the on track carnage and gain significant ground from his 21st starting position. Smith's return to the cockpit was short lived however as he was caught up in the incident and accrued enough damage to be forced to retire from the race before completing a single lap.
Team owner John Walko was glad to see Smith back and indicated that he had the potential to make an impact in this race.
"Ross had an awesome start, passing a half dozen cars or more. He was aggressive yet smooth and was picking up positions quickly. Unfortunately, moving up in the pack put him right in the middle of the accident and he was taken out of the race."
Anti's patient approach to the race was rewarded with an eighth place finish, his first top ten of the season, and a leap to twelfth in the Championship standings.
Walko liked what he saw from his rapidly developing rookie.
"Charles was one of the only ones to make it through from the back of the field, taking cues from his spotter and picking his way through the accident. He drove his best race of the year, battling with the frontrunners to the end. He was very impressive and now knows what it is like to run at the front."
Lacroix also made it through the incident unscathed, running as high as second in the time shortened eleven lap shootout race.
"The car was very, very fast. I knew the race would be short, we only had a few laps after the restart. I was pushing very hard, closing on Adrian (Carrio, leader and eventual winner) when I hit the wall. After that I just had to hang on until the finish."
The late race wall contact pushed the young Canadian to seventh at the end of the race, his first finish out of the top five since joining the Series three races ago.
The STAR Mazda Championship Series next competes in Salt Lake City at the Miller Motorsports Park in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series July 13-15.