While the skies were sunny and clear, the track surface at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres told another story for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series Race 1 Saturday morning.
A fairly rainy weekend and overnight thunderstorms drenched the 1.52-mile, 10-turn street circuit, forcing IMSA officials to declare the first race to be a Wet Session, mandating all teams start on Continental rain tires.
The clearing skies presented a challenging situation for competitors. As the 45-minute sprint progressed, the track surface began to dry, causing teams to gamble on their tires and decide whether or not to come into the pits and change to slick tires.
Not one to let anything slow him down, Kenton Koch and the P1 Motorsports team made the decision to keep the No. 8 Ligier JS P3 on track, and make the most of his rain tires on the drying race line. It proved to be a positive move, as the Glendora, California resident checked out shortly after the green flag and sailed clean and clear to the checkered flag and the LMP3 victory.
And while it was smooth sailing for Koch, the waters were churning behind him, with plenty of exciting multiclass action to keep the Trois-Rivieres, Quebec fans entertained.
Colin Thompson, who qualified third in his No. 14 Kelly-Moss Road and Race/Ignite Norma M30 was shuffled back on the start and relegated to fifth position. But like his rival Koch, the series points leader was not to be deterred, and proceeded to put on the speed and pressure, making his way back up to the leaders to challenge series newcomer Stefan Rzadzinski from Edmonton, Alberta, who jumped into the No. 17 Ligier JS P3 entry for P1 Motorsports this weekend.
Rzadzinski made the most of the start, moving up from fifth to second on the first lap, and held his ground for several laps until he saw Thompson in his mirrors, gaining ground. He ultimately conceded position to Thompson on Lap 8, and Thompson pushed on, taking second place in class with Rzadzinski collecting his first series podium in third.
And while the youngsters were battling it out in LMP3, the Masters division, for drivers 45 years of age and over, saw its fair share of action as well.
The No. 47 entry of Garrett Kletjian of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for Forty 7 Motorsports blasted through the start and took advantage of a first-lap kerfuffle to jump from his starting position of 13th all the way to sixth before the first lap concluded.
The only full-course caution period of the race was issued to retrieve the No. 72 of MPC entry Tazio Ottis with JDC Motorsports, but when the field went green just two laps later, Kletjian was firmly in position and holding.
Meanwhile, class points leader Naj Husain in the No. 3 Ligier JS P3 for Extreme Speed Motorsports/ Cloudistics kept an eye on the No. 47 from his eighth-place starting position. After the first-lap tangle, Husain fell back to 10th when he chose to pit and change to slick tires, but as the field went back to green, he began his hunt for Kletjian, gaining ground until he tucked into Kletjian’s mirrors by Lap 13.
From there, the battle became full-scale war and the two deftly wove through traffic in lockstep until Husain saw an advantage on Lap 20 and made his move to take the top step of the podium in class, with Kletjian following, taking a well-earned second-place finish.
As anticipated, the light and nimble MPC entries proved formidable on the short and tight circuit, leveling out the playing field with the faster, yet heavier LMP3 cars. But it was Gary Gibson and Team Perfect Pedal who proved the point in their No. 13 Elan DP02, as Gibson, who started in sixth position, blazed his way through the field to capture second place overall, as well as the MPC and MPC Masters victories.
But he was not without challenge. Hard on Gibson’s heels was the No. 7 of Kris Wright of JDC Motorsports. The Pittsburg, Pennsylvania resident started in fourth overall and quickly moved up a position to sit in third until Thompson’s charge to the front pushed him back one spot. He locked in behind the No. 14 and regained position as Thompson continued to move up.
Wright continued to lead the class, but a wobble on Lap 21 gave the advantage to Gibson and Wright finished second in class.
In their own tight battle shortly behind Gibson and Wright, were MPC Master classmen Stuart Rettie and Jay Salmon of ODU Motorsports. The teammates enjoyed spirited competition as Rettie in the No. 21 entry started just ahead of Salmon in the No. 46, but Rettie was also caught in the first-lap incident and the two swapped positions.
From there, Rettie patiently stalked his quarry, moving up until they were practically neck-and-neck on Lap 23. Rettie saw his opening and took it, as well the overall MPC third-place finish, and second in MPC Masters, with Salmon taking third.
Kyle Masson, who surprised the crowds yesterday in qualifying, started from the overall as well as class Pole Position in his No. 18 MPC entry for Performance Tech Motorsports/Neurospine Institute, but was collected in the first-lap incident and forced to pit for inspection and repair. The team wisely chose that opportunity to switch the car to Continental slicks before resuming competition.
Despite being five laps down, the combination of talent and slick tires went into full throttle, and Masson kept increasing speed throughout the race. While he was unable to gain ground to finish on the podium, he did capture the fastest lap of the race on Lap 23 with a lap time of 1m03.341s.
Kenton Koch – No. 8, P1 Motorsports – LMP3 Winner
“It was definitely weird starting out on rain tires. It was obviously a little bit wet in the beginning so it was probably a safe decision to do that for IMSA. But I just had an absolute blast out there. It felt like Skippy days [Skip Barber Racing School] when we were on road tires. We were just flat-tracking and sliding around and having a good old time. It brings back memories and I had a blast this time. It’s good to be back driving something like this with ‘road tires.’ I can’t thank P1 Motorsports enough and everyone that’s helped me get here.”
Naj Husain – No. 3, Extreme Speed Motorsports/Cloudistics – LMP3 Masters Winner
“We had a great race and the crew did a great job. We got on the slicks early right after the Yellow on the first lap and boy that made a big difference. The track was still wet so it took some time to dry and get up to speed. But as soon as it did we started ticking off laps and started catching the leaders. We were running third at the time and I just got into Turn 1 and someone tapped my left side and took me out. But we ended up seventh and first in Masters. But it was really a lot of fun.”
Gary Gibson – No. 13, Team Perfect Pedal – MPC and MPC Masters Winner
“My crew gave me a fantastic car. The tires were just unbelieveable. I thought every lap that ‘these tires are going to go away’ but they never did. They held great all the way through the race. I could have gone faster if I needed to at the end. But I was going as fast as I needed to. It was just great.”
The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series lined up Sunday afternoon for the second of two races for the day with much different conditions ahead. The morning race saw competitors starting on Continental rain tires, but wishing by the midway point they had donned slicks as the track began to dry.
Clear skies the rest of the day ensured that the track stayed dry, as pole sitter Kyle Masson started on point by virtue of his fastest race lap in Race 1 in his Mazda Prototype Challenge-class (MPC) No. 18 for Performance Tech Motorsports and Neurospine Institute.
Lined up beside Masson’s Elan DP02 was the No. 3 Extreme Speed Motorsports/Cloudistics Ligier JS P3 of Naj Husain, who quickly overtook the slower car of Masson on Lap 1, followed by Race 1 winner Kenton Koch in the No. 8 who leapfrogged both Husain and Masson to take over the top spot in his P1 Motorsports Ligier. And if that weren’t enough, LMP3 points leader Colin Thompson hurdled into third in his No. 14 Kelly-Moss Road and Race/Ignite Norma M30 just before a quick full-course caution for a spun car on course.
Coming into this weekend, Thompson needed only to defend his lead in the points with conservative racing. Koch’s late start this year left him with much work to do if he was ever going to catch Thompson. None of this seemed to phase Koch however, as he began a blistering stint after the Lap 5 restart.
Koch was unrelenting with the throttle in his Ligier, reducing his lap times as the race progressed. Nothing was slowing Koch down as he posted the race’s fastest lap of one minute, 2.430 seconds, a deep 26 laps into the event. At one point, he had built up a lead on Thompson of nearly 28 seconds. It seemed as if Koch might disappear altogether had a full-course caution not slowed him down on Lap 37. The race ended under Yellow and Koch took his second win of the weekend and fifth of the season. Thompson held on for second place, keeping a firm grasp on his championship points lead in LMP3.
Behind leaders Koch and Thompson, a three-car locomotive formed on the Lap 5 restart with Husain leading the way ahead of series newcomer Stefan Rzadzinski in the No. 17 P1 Motorsports Ligier, followed by Masson in the MPC chassis.
Husain held off Rzadzinski for nearly 20 laps, as the two battled for position in tight formation, while Masson watched from a few car lengths behind. Rzadzinski made his move on Lap 24, getting a good run from Turn 5 and winning the drag race with Husain into Turn 6. Rzadzinski held on to third place for the remainder of the race to claim his second LMP3 podium finish of the weekend in his first weekend with the series.
Husain’s efforts were good enough to acquire his second LMP3 Masters win of the weekend and fifth overall. Another series newcomer, Garrett Kletjian, took his second-consecutive second-place finish in the No. 47 Norma M30 for Forty 7 Motorsports despite a late race spin, causing the final yellow flag. He grabbed an LMP3 Masters class victory in his debut at Lime Rock Park just a few weeks ago.
In MPC competition, Masson played a conservative hand this afternoon after finding trouble in the morning. With a good grip on the MPC points lead, he had little to gain by engaging the faster LPM3 cars battling around him. The safer wager returned another class win and a fourth-place finish overall. Masson has now tallied nine top spots in class this season.
Holding steady with another second-place finish in MPC this weekend was Kris Wright in the No. 7 of JDC Motorsports. Wright has been in a tight battle with his JDC Motorsports teammate Tazio Ottis all season and this weekend’s results have moved him into second in the MPC championship.
Ottis had to overcome adversity after a hard crash in Saturday’s qualifying round caused significant damage to his No. 72 MPC entry. His JDC Motorsports crew put in an incredible effort and got his car to the grid for Sunday’s Race 1. Unfortunately, Ottis was caught up in a Lap 1, Turn 1 incident that disabled his car once again.
Undeterred, JDC went back to work and got Ottis to the grid in quick fashion yet again for Race 2. Starting 14th in the field, Ottis steadily climbed the charts to a seventh-place result overall and the third spot on the MPC podium – a sweet reward to an otherwise disappointing weekend.
Stuart Rettie’s ODU Motorsports team is manned by students from Old Dominion University aspiring to have a career in motorsport. Having a young crew that is still learning hasn’t hampered Rettie’s efforts in the MPC Masters division. In fact, he entered Sunday afternoon only one point out of the lead in class points after a second-place finish in Race 1.
Rettie and his ODU students were rewarded in Race 2, as the No. 21 crossed the line first in class, securing his second win of the season and the points lead in MPC Masters with only two races remaining.
Robert Masson, Kyle’s father, climbed from 15th to ninth overall in his No. 11 for Performance Tech Motorsports/Global Microsurgical Center to take the second step on the MPC Masters podium. He was followed by teammate Stephen Dawes, who collected his first MPC Masters podium of the season in his No. 38 A.I.G. Technologies entry.
Kenton Koch – No. 8, P1 Motorsports – LMP3 Winner
“Obviously my day went really good. I wish it had stayed Green the whole time. It was a little bit hot inside the cars. It’s nice when I get outside, when I’m inside the car it feels like it’s 100 degrees or higher. I can’t thank these guys enough. It’s been a great opportunity to be racing this year again. At the beginning of the year I didn’t think I would be racing this season. A couple months later I find myself in a car and I feel very grateful for the opportunity that P1 Motorsports has afforded me and I am looking forward to doing many more things with them to come.”
Naj Husain – No. 3, Extreme Speed Motorsports/Cloudistics – LMP3 Masters Winner
“Great race. It was dry this time. I had a little bit of a battle with Stefan [Rzadzinski]. It was a great battle and I had a great time. This is a great venue. There’s a big crowd here and it was tons of fun. Thanks a lot to my team for doing a great job. The car was fabulous all weekend.”
Kyle Masson – No. 18, Performance Tech Motorsports – MPC Winner
“The start of the race, the LMP3s all passed me on the back straightaway, obviously there’s a power disadvantage there. The rest of the race was really just managing. I was behind Naj [Husain] and another LMP3 car and we were running not so quick times. We were running 1:05s but I was so close to the draft and everything that I burned my brakes. So, I spent the rest of the race with only front brakes because I cooked the rears. It was really just management from that point on. It was really, really good experience to learn how to manage the brakes. This track is awesome, but it’s really difficult. It’s the nature of this track and trying to manage in the draft with the LMP3s left me no air on the brakes. I did the best I could and held first and had a lot of fun doing it.”
Stuart Rettie – No. 21, ODU Motorsports – MPC Masters Winner
“It was a great race. We had a nice clean start and I just kind of put my head down and put in my laps. It was a lot of fun. I really love doing these street circuits. They are just so much fun. I did have a problem partway through. My brakes went away so I had to back off a little bit. But basically just kept the gap with the cars behind me and was able to win. The ODU car was really cool today. This was awesome.”