First and foremost, this past week has been very busy and eventful for us, so I wish to thank my lovely fiancée for partly taking care of the logistics of our many trips and adventures. She is the queen of over-packing but that’s OK, you never know when you’ll need stuff! I’m going to give a detailed report of our day so if you don’t like reading much then you can always scroll down to see the pictures and click on the videos!
The weather was perfect for the day. We left on time around 10:50 AM and managed to snake our way through Trois-Rivières packed roads by taking small side streets. We managed to arrive near our destination without so much of a slow down. Signage was horrible though so we ended up taking a turn into the Media parking. We got turned away and I managed to find a parking spot alongside a nearby school. Lucky us! It took us about 30 minutes to get inside the grounds as we had to wait in line.
As expected, there was a few exotics on display near the entrance;
We tried to find the RX paddock but we couldn’t. Shame. We were told that it was open the evening before but closed for today’s races. We ventured off to the other paddocks, including the Porsche GT3 cup cars;
Then there was the Canadian NASCAR racecars;
We later learned that we had come in the wrong entrance four our “upscale” tickets so we had to walk all the way around the site. Here’s a few short videos of the practice sessions I took at two different points along the way;
Afterwards, we had to get out the site and get back into the hippodrome building where our seats were. To my dismay, I found out that our seats were inside the building itself. I first thought that they would relay the sounds of the races via the speakers but it was not so. There was also non-functional big screens inside the place. I thought that it would have been neat if they’d put the video broadcast of the races on those screens so we could follow when not seeing the cars.
Here’s what it was like inside during the first qualifier of the Lites class:
Anyhow, despite the lack of sound, we still had comfortable chairs, A/C, nearby amenities like toilets and food, and a decent view on almost all of the dirt section of the track.
Here’s a few pics of some Lites class cars;
Here are two pictures of two different cars that I somehow managed to take at the very same spot! One chance in a thousand!;
The cars lost a lot of rear bumpers on that day but they seemed made out of thin FRP, so it’s easy and quick to replace them as they are only held with screws on the sides near the rear quarters:
Did you know that the cars in the Lites class are all IDENTICAL? Yup, it’s a class rule. They were designed by Andreas Eriksson of Olsberg-MSE and are manufactured by Avitas Motorsports in Turkey. They feature a mid-engine AWD drivetrain. They produce about 310 HP. Can I buy one? Haha! However, they turned out to be LOUDER than the Supercar class, albeit they popped less often and more silently. You’ll see for yourself in later videos…
Meanwhile, here’s some pics of a few 600 HP beasts in the Supercar class;
Here’s Patrick Carpentier, 5 times CART champion, and the local Québec guest driver invited by the series, waving to the crowd after a good qualifier:
This was not without controversy from the local rally fans (including myself) as Carpentier always was a formula circuit driver with no rallying experience. The connoisseurs felt like the FIA should have invited Antoine L’Estage instead, the current Canadian rally champion, and a Quebecer to boot. However, his sponsors decided this was unfair and pushed his participation to the RX event. They managed to get him to replace a sick driver in the Lites class. L’Estage did fairly well at first but was eliminated in the last qualifier.
Anyhow, it also went to prove that most of the people present didn’t know squat about rallying as L’Estage was not applauded at all, contrary to Carpentier and Villeneuve (the former F1 champ) which both received warm cheers from the crowd. I’ve overheard so much disinformation and total ignorance from some conversations I caught about the sport, the drivers, and the cars, but I’ve learned from experience to steer clear from such people and not to try to educate them. I strongly suspect that the attendance would have been much less if Villeneuve and Carpentier would not have been present.
The qualifiers were dominated by Petter Solberg, winning 3 out of 4, most times with a huge lead. He was dead on for the starts, which is the key to victory in RX, as the first guy in the first corner usually wins if he doesn’t do any mistakes. Truly, the most exciting of the drivers to watch, deserving of his nickname “Hollywood”, and my favorite to win. Here’s a pic of him in one of his victory laps:
Jacques Villeneuve drove decently, much better than past performances I’ve seen of him do in RX events. He even went on to win a qualifier but didn’t wave to the crowd. He’s always had a rather drab personality. He was eliminated by mechanical failure in the third round. I did find it funny that his car was sponsored by “St-Hubert BBQ”, a well known local Québec chicken family restaurant chain, and painted to mimic their delivery cars.
After spending the afternoon comfortably inside and eating a decent dinner, I decided that we should try and steal ourselves some non-reserved seats outside the hippodrome building. Besides, most of the thrill of seeing those top-end rally machines is the sound, right? We managed to secure ourselves a decent spot outside for the remainder of the day!
Between texting Nigel and David (a local friend), here’s a series of merged clips of Lites class qualifiers:
I was surprised to later find out that all the cars were running slicks with very little tread and some even ran smooth slicks! I mean, the track was still 41% dirt. That might account why I thought they seemed a bit slow on the dirt sections. I expected faster!
Anyhow, here’s some merged clips of the Supercar class qualifiers:
The sound is less impressive than the Lites, right? Twice the horsepower and it’s quieter. Who knew? A lot of chirping though, especially coming from Petter Solberg’s car. It sounds like there’s an angry bird stuck in his wastegate! Haha…
At the official dinner break, there was a short “half-time show” of dirt bike freestyle stunts. Something to please the younger crowd and those with Monster Energy tilted caps. I’m not taking away the skills of the riders, they did good, but I found it rather generic and boring. Here it is:
At this point in time, I did find the racing to be a bit redundant to be honest, wishing it was over. I took time to scrutinize where the general admission seating was and let me tell you that it must have sucked for them; most of it was in the asphalt straight. It must have been like watching drag racing but with RX cars. A decent spot was near the hairpin (see my first video). Then there was the “stadium” reserved seating where I reckon you could see 75% of the track but at a distance. High dollar corporate seating was near the first curve at the end of the asphalt straight where you could probably see the drivers fighting for position before the hairpin turn. There was some balcony lounges at the hippodrome as well. Anyhow, finally came the finals…
Here’s part of the Lites final:
Here’s the FULL Superclass final from my POV:
…and Petter Solberg wins the final! Awesome performance! 5 wins out of 6 races. Congratulations to him! Patrick Carpentier must have practiced a lot because he was able to reach the finals but ended up crashing on the dirt straight’s jump. The very fast circuit-like track did suit his style though. Most RX tracks are slower and more technical. Still, a decent performance which was applauded loudly by the crowd.
The corporate seating got to see the podium right in front of them at the end. Two fellas also got one of Solberg gloves thrown at them from below. I would have liked to attend the podium ceremony but there’s no way we could have gotten there in time so here’s the video from my POV on the big screen:
As you saw in the later videos, darkness and menacing clouds were coming in, but I’ve decided to try my luck at finding the RX paddock on our way back. I did find it… kinda… well, at least part of it; home to a few Lites teams, the Red Bull Team’s Supercar Fiestas, and the lone Subaru clan. The others were inaccessible. Here’s what I could take:
Don’t give me any ideas you! Hehehe… ^^
We learned that there would be autograph sessions with the drivers in an after-race party downtown but we were tired and decided to call it quits for the day. We left the site afterwards and walked back to the car. As soon as we got in, rain started pouring down hard. Traffic was already horrible on the main boulevard when we walked past so I figured that with the rain it would be a 30 minute crawl to the highway. So, using my trucker instincts, I went for the small side streets once more and navigated my way back to the highway a few kilometers westward. The trip back was uneventful. We got home around 10:15 PM. My fiancée says that she enjoyed herself even though she couldn’t see much.
I doubt that the event will return next year but you never know. If it does return, I might be attending again but we’ll arrive at a later time so not to get too bored. If it does return, Nigel and Darryl better step up and come! If it does return and I win the lottery, I will be buying my way into the event! Haha! I figure I’d do OK in the Lites class as I’ve seen many drivers do a lot of mistakes I don’t normally do at that power level. Anyhow, I hope you’ve enjoyed this report and that it made you feel a bit like you’ve attended yourself!
Stay tuned for project retroactive updates in the next few weeks!