Trois Rivieres Race Report
Although #76 had engine woes early on, by race time it looked to be very quick. Alas, Mathieu Audette was involved in a nasty shunt on lap three which destroyed the car.
Trois Rivieres, Canada -- August 5th, 2006
As with every race so far this year, the Kensai Racing with Compass360 driver line-up for the Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres was very stout indeed.
Back together in the newly-built #75 car, Travis Walker and Aaron Povoledo looked ready to take a win, especially considering their very, very strong run at this event last season.
In the #76 car, the team's top finisher this season, Karl Thomson, was paired with local hot shoe Mathieu Audette, who is currently leading the FAQ (Federation de l'Automobile du Quebec) championship. Track knowledge was good for all of the drivers, especially Audette, who won the FAQ race here last year.
Track time at the GP3R is always at a premium, meaning that teams and drivers need to get up to speed quickly. The #75 car was good out of the box -- proving yet again what a great car builder Kensai has become -- getting faster each session.
The #76, on the other hand, had developed a misfire between its dominant showing at Barber and this race. The team chased software gremlins to no avail, the day ending with a spectacularly catastrophic engine failure on the front straight during the second practice session.
The crew, as usual, did an amazing job, swapping the engine over the evening, and getting the car ready for qualifying on Saturday morning. Walker struggled with the set-up of #75, netting 14th place. It was the first time he's qualified out of the top five all season. Audette only managed one lap before a pulley slipped off its wheels, rendering #76 powerless. He started second-last.
The race started under beautiful clear skies in front of a capacity crowd. A lot of the drivers love this event, as the fans are so very enthusiastic -- our races are one of the prime tourist events of their season.
At the start, both Travis and Mathieu made up places, Audette jumping into a solid battle with the #68 Mazda RX-8 of Scott Schlesinger and the #126 BMW 330i of Paul Stoddart. On the fourth lap, heading down the back straight, Stoddart managed a run inside of Audette, who moved to protect his line. The two cars made contact on this, one of the fastest parts of the track.
The #76 car was spun into the left wall, and then ricocheted backwards into the right wall, ripping the left rear suspension off. The #126 BMW , meanwhile, collected the Mazda, which had been doing its best to steer clear of the melee. Stoddart's BMW came to rest while the Mazda, which had been moving at a good clip, headed straight into the front end of the now stationery Acura. The damage to all three cars was substantial.
Schlesinger and Stoddart walked away from the incident, while Audette was removed from the car by safety personnel, and was transported to nearby St. Mary's hospital. He was awake and alert, and was released later that evening, having undergone a precautionary CT scan.
It took twenty minutes to clean up the mess and remove the wrecked cars from the circuit. At the drop of the green, Walker picked up where he left off, dispatching the cars ahead, and moving up to a solid fifth by the pit stop.
Co-driver Povoledo continued to fight for positions, having some good scraps with both Performance Motorsports BMW Z4s and the HART Honda Accord. At the fall of the checkered flag, the sole Kensai car was listed in 11th place.
The whole team is thankful that Mathieu emerged unscathed (a testament to the exceptional build quality of the Kensai cars), and are overwhelmed by the support of the series' fans, officials, and other teams.
So, yet another truly eventful race for the Kensai Racing team, who returns to Toronto to survey their options. With just two races left on the season, it's impossible to build another RSX-S in time for the Miller event. Consequently, the team has decided to sit that race out and concentrate on the season closer at Virginia.
That six-hour event promises to be a very interesting end to a tumultuous season.
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For more information on Kensai Racing contact Ray Lee, (416) 752-2066. Visit http://www.kensairacing.com
For more information on Compass360 contact Karl Thomson, (416) 465-2299 x21 or email karlt at compass360 dot com. Visit http://www.compass360.com
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