Fourteen cars for an entire 70 laps around the rises and bends of Sainte-Jovite – Mount Tremblant is not much. Nowhere near enough to guarantee an afternoon of thrills and spills.
Of the fourteen cars that did make it, eleven were big TA1-class brutes. That ignited some scant hope of at least the 5-liter colossuses engaging in fierce battle, cautiously feeding expectation of some entertainment.
Goissen and Lepihive’s presence further fueled the prospects of a good showing; an old-school duel for dominance in the TA2-class had never harmed a race before.
History however struggled with the eternal tendency to repeat itself. And the promise of exciting racing soon proved no more than slick talk driveling from the marketeer’s tongue; idle speech painfully failing to cloak the Trans-Am series losing traction… Fast.
As the starting flag dropped, those who had put money on an outright scrimmage between Goissen and Lepihive were in for dour disappointment. Lepihive had somehow gotten it in his head that the whole field was up for a warm-up lap as the starting flag dropped. Just as had been the case in previous races. Yet Mount Tremblant race-control, for reasons unclear till the present day, decided to immediately flag the race on its merry way. Leaving the entire grandstand to witness Lepihive’s Escort being swallowed by a stampede of roaring Cuda’s and Bird’s.
It was a somewhat comical sight, all those brutes and Beemers storming away with that mad rage proper to first laps. And Lepihive solemnly hoovering over the track at a snail’s pace, convinced of doing the right thing by saving fuel and limit tire-wear. One could almost hear him bellow at the others: “You fools, you’re all wasting good money.”
By the time the French driver finally realized that the race was truly on, the whole field had dissolved behind the horizon. An excellent second starting position had been squandered away and the French driver was condemned to a long catch-up race.
The day would only worsen for the Escort-driver. After re-passing some cars, he went off in turn 1, hitting the outside fence hard. Severe damages were inflicted on the Ford and a lengthy pitstop imposed itself. By the time Lepihive finally rejoined, he was already a lap down on several cars. What had looked like a catch-up race, had turned into a merciless test of the French driver’s perseverance.
Goissen meanwhile made one of those blinding starts to which only he holds the recipe. He had already set sail for far horizons of bright dominance.
There was more turmoil on the first lap. Jason White, always known as one devoted to the cause of caution on a racetrack, started braking for turn 7, aka Gateway to the South Loop. Mike Becnel and Jan Titz were both taken by surprise. Evasive action ensued. Ending with contact between Becnel and Titz, the latter retiring his car after hitting a wall.
“Becnel shoved me off,” Titz clamored.
“We both were out of control, Titz even smoking his front tires under heavy braking. This was a racing incident,” Becnel responded with the cool of a polar bear. The Tex was not to fare much better though. He crashed his Bird out of contention after barely 9 laps. But at least he did it on the main straight, in front of the grand stands. Thus providing something this race was desperately craving for: action.
Schurer and Plaçais Jr. were engaging in some heroics of their own. Then spaced out; any kind of excitement inevitably fading.
Ben Paulet had by that time already withdrawn. The prospect of struggling his unruly Camaro for another 63 laps, just simply seemed unfathomable.
With merely one tenth of the race covered, the number of cars had hence dwindled down to a miserable 11.
And the attrition was far from over. Before the race was past the 1/3rd marker, Vannijlen, Miller, Plaçais and Ryon all crashed their cars out of contention. One started to get the feeling that the twisty and hilly nature of the Mount Tremblant circuit did not sit very well with the American powerboats. With more than 45 laps out of 70 to cover, the field was now down to barely 7 cars. Not even Mamie Van Doren performing a country song in an unprecedented duet with Doris Day, both stripped down to their bare essentials, would have prevented the crowd from dozing off.
At the front of the race, Ray Riddall was doing everything he could to keep some suspense by challenging Goissen’s BMW for the lead with his nimble Alfa Romeo. But the speed of the French ace was such that the gap steadily grew.
All the retirements allowed Lepihive to gain back valuable places and limit the damage to his season campaign.
With about 10 laps to go, Goissen was enjoying a three and half minute gap over second placed Riddall. Time for Greg the Hunt to give the audience something to get excited about. He spun his car of the track, blowing a tire in the process and digging his wheels deep into a sand trap.
It took him about 30 seconds to get back onto the grey stuff, reducing his advantage to 3 minutes. It then took him four minutes to make it back to the pit-lane on three wheels. As he entered the pit, his advantage had dwindled down to one minute… And he needed four new tires to be mounted.
Still, as the BMW left the box, it was still in the lead. Even if it now had Riddall’s Alfa clearly painted in the rearview mirror. A BMW on new tires in the hands of Goissen however soon proved more than Ray Riddall’s Alfa could handle.
Goissen cruised on to a certain victory, in the end winning the race with a 1.02 minute advantage over Riddall. Parker’s Javelin grabbed the last podium spot, be it 2 laps down on the winner. The second Javelin, driven by Dana Schurer, finished 4th a further lap down. Yves Plaçais and a resurrecting Pascal Lepihive were the last of the finishers in 5th and 6th.
Championship wise, even if he finished 5 laps down on Goissen, Lepihive was fairly rewarded for his demonstration in tenacity. He secured himself the full 12 points for third place in the TA2-class, bringing his overall tally to 122 points; still 51 points more than Goissen’s tally.
Things are much closer in the TA1-class, with Plaçais, Parker and Becnel all separated by less than 10 points.
Only one plea could nevertheless be heard rising from the Mount Tremblant grandstands: bring more cars for Watkins Glen.