When Alain Lauzière decided to come back behind the wheel of his beloved No. 47 MINI Cooper S JCW in the Canadian Touring Car Championship presented by Continental Tire, he was going for the win, like every other race car driver in the world. What makes Team Octane different than any other is that they are a winning team and have proved it several times. To this day in CTCC, four Touring class championships have been conquered by Alain Lauzière (3) and Michel Sallenbach (1) who has won last year's honours with his No. 46 MINI Cooper S JCW before upgrading his orange car to the new Coupe model. In addition, the 2015 MINI force was able to elevate the MINI brand to the manufacturer's title for the first time in CTCC. A well-deserved team effort.
Amongst the victories that Team Octane seized this weekend was the first Team Championship. A recognition shared between the drivers of the No. 45 MINI, notably Carlos Tesler-Mabe who ran at GP3R, Silverado 250 at CTMP and at Circuit ICAR with a podium for the season finale. Samantha Tan participated at the Honda Indy Toronto when she had her first podium in career and the following weekend at Circuit ICAR in July.
"It's never easy to win a championship. Competition is hard and especially competing against racers like the Wittmers, a naturally talented family driven by passion and energy who always prepare their cars in a very meticulous way. It is difficult to race against them, but very gratifying when you have to push yourself to beat them. That's why we're fast. If great competitors like them weren't there to push us, we wouldn't be here today", modestly believed Lauzière. "Furthermore, winning a championship is a team effort. Team Octane's crews are amazing and they do a wonderful job preparing the cars. In my opinion, this is not my championship, it is our championship and even more their championship".
Before entering the last weekend of the season, everything was not settled and the sudden diluvial rain contributed to give everyone a good scare, to the exception of Michel Sallenbach who thought it was the best race of his life. Pushing the limits in wet conditions, Sallenbach got through the field and passed slower competitors, including Super Touring contenders. His comfort in the rain helped him get right behind Karl Wittmer who was leading the pack at that point. With only one lap to go, his engine stopped and forced him to retire. During this race, Sallenbach achieved the fastest lap overall which gave him the ultimate satisfaction to start the next and final race in pole position. A first in CTCC's history. Behind Wittmer, teammates Paul Gravel and Alain Lauzière completed the podium.
"This was without any doubt the best race of my life", exclaimed Sallenbach. "If my engine wouldn't have stopped, I could have stayed on the track for another half hour. A couple of more laps and I could have overtaken Wittmer".
With this race result, Paul Gravel achieved his best podium finish this season in his No. 48 MINI Cooper S JCW. This second place allowed him to get a fourth place overall in the Touring class championship for a second year in a row.
"I had a hard race at the last event and my car was quite damaged", said Gravel. "But we got it fixed in four days and we were ready for the last weekend. I race for fun and I am not used to go on the podium, but when I do, I enjoy every second".
The grand finale of the season should have been easier for Alain Lauzière, but he race was more against the car than against other competitors. A sensor issue reduced his power so severely that the car was impossible to push forward. With the help and support of his crew, he managed to complete the race at the back of the group with two laps down. Two teammates were able to take place on the podium. While Karl Wittmer doubled his victory, Michel Sallenbach crossed the start/finish line in second place, followed by Carlos Tesler-Mabe.
Lauzière concluded "For me personally, at a driving level it was a dream season. Everything went well. Of course we didn't go on the podium at every race, but we were very competitive. Across the paddock, we have a good reputation, we try our best to do things the right way. Our vehicle is more competitive on specific tracks but it's ok, we have to leave some for the other competitors once in a while", he chuckled.
For their continuing support, Team Octane would like to thank their partners: MINI Canada through its very generous contingency program, MINI ORIGINAL PARTS, Castrol, Bully Clutch, Revolution Motor Works, Perry Auto Laval, Carrosserie Touchette, PneusEnDirect.com, Lettrage Raoul, ASG Accessoire de Soudure Granby, Freins Carbotech, LDS Dyno, SoCalSportscar.com, GE Nighthawk and Axalta Automotive Finishes.
Team Octane only races and showcases MINI products. With a super-wide stance, ultra-rigid body and incredibly precise handling. MINI has a long history in motorsports and has always felt right at home on the track. Ever since John Cooper first exploited the racing potential of the classic Mini in the early 1960s, his name has stood for success and performance on the race track with MINI. MINI Continues to support Motorsport in Canada through its generous contingency program for CTCC and Targa Newfoundland. Visit MINI.ca for more details.