LANSING, Mich. -- French Canadian driver Claude Bourbonnais will make his Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrichÂ® Tires Cup debut during the Grand Prix de Trois-RiviÃ¨res July 31-Aug. 2. Bourbonnais, a veteran open-wheel and sports car racer, will ...
LANSING, Mich. -- French Canadian driver Claude Bourbonnais will make his Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup debut during the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières July 31-Aug. 2. Bourbonnais, a veteran open-wheel and sports car racer, will drive the No. 3 Rocketsports Racing Jaguar XKR at North America's oldest temporary street course.
Bourbonnais will compete in the car normally driven by three-time Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi. Gentilozzi, who ended his record streak of 183 consecutive starts by surrendering his ride to Brian Simo at Lime Rock earlier this year, is competing on a part-time basis this year.
"My goal this season is to seek out championship-caliber drivers to compete in the No. 3 Jaguar XKR," said Gentilozzi, who will be in Road America during the Trois-Rivières weekend with his Champ Car World Series team. "Claude more than fits that description. He's been competitive in every series in which he's raced, and has demonstrated himself as a true racer. He'll be a potent force to deal with in front of a hometown crowd, at his home track."
Bourbonnais will receive backing from longtime sponsor Player's for the Trois-Rivières event. Player's is a former title sponsor of the Trois-Rivières race.
"We hope that this sponsorship will enable Claude to do well at Trois-Rivières," said Michael Bonelli, Sponsorship Associate for Player's. "There are several reasons for our decision to provide this support. We are a sponsor of the Rocketsports team in the Champ Car World Series and we were aware the team was looking for an experienced driver to compete at Trois-Rivières.
"As a former title sponsor of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, we wanted to find some way to be associated with this extremely popular event by providing a ride to an accomplished Quebec driver," added Bonelli. "We selected Claude because he is a former member of the Player's driver development program who has considerable racing experience. We wish him well in Trois-Rivières."
Bourbonnais has a long history at Trois-Rivières. In fact, Bourbonnais has competed regularly at the 1.52-mile, nine-turn temporary road course since 1985. Although this will mark his first Trans-Am Series start, Bourbonnais is by no means a rookie. He's competed in F-2000, Toyota Atlantic, British Formula 2, Indy Lights, along with the Champ Car World Series, the Indianapolis 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Most recently, Bourbonnais finished fourth overall at Trois-Rivières in the 2000 Players Grand Prix Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race. Bourbonnais co-drove a Ford Lola B2K10 Sports Racer Prototype with Scott Schubot in that event.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to compete for Rocketsports at Trois-Rivières," said Bourbonnais, who has 28 victories in his career, and multiple track records. "I know the track like the back of my hand. The horsepower is nothing new to me, although there is more weight and therefore energy to deal with. I'll have three or four hours in the car prior to Trois-Rivières, though, and that should help."
Bourbonnais believes he'll have "home field advantage" at Trois-Rivières. Interestingly, whoever wins the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières will be a first-time winner here, as not one of this year's active Trans-Am Series drivers has a victory at Trois-Rivières.
"It's always special to run where people know you," said Bourbonnais, who with a victory, would join the likes of Robby Gordon and Price Cobb by winning in his Trans-Am Series debut. "I'm from Quebec, and have a lot of experience at Trois-Rivières. Since 1989, the course hasn't changed much, and I've been there on and off ever since, so I think I have a bit of an advantage from the start.
"I know most of the Quebec and Ontario tracks quite well," added Bourbonnais. "I've been racing there for more than 15 years. For sure, this is my home track."
The Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, Round 7 of the 2003 Trans-Am Series championship, is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. The race will air live on SPEED.