The Saturday event was not the typical race for the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship as they were combined with the F Libre group for the day. The organizing club, BARC, did a great job to make the arrangement work for the day and despite a strange turn of events during a full course yellow it all worked out. As the race was about to go green for a three-lap charge to the finish, a F2000 car which was competing in the F Libre event had a suspension failure and the car went off and was sitting in a dangerous spot. The control tower had no choice but to abort the re-start. The checkered flag was given the next lap as the time to go recover the stranded car would have been beyond the time limit for the race. Typically for the F1600 drivers, it is the last part of the race when the real race begins and when the yellow flew, Lazare and Mitchell Jr were sitting in the 4th and 6th spots, respectively. It was not the result the drivers were looking for but sometimes you get caught out by things beyond your control.
The Sunday race would present the grid with their first opportunity to see how the Toyo shod cars would behave in the damp and then full on rain. As the cars were on the grid, rain was lightly falling, teams were forced to make decisions for set ups, but it looked like it would be a very little rain. As the cars took the green the rain began to pick up, and about mid race it became more steady for a true rain race. With basically a dry set up other than tire pressure adjustments, the BGR cars took little time to march to the front. Lazare jumped to second by corner 5 and with an outside pass in corner 4, Mitchell Jr was right behind him. Lazare then passed for the lead entering turn eight and Mitchell Jr, not wanting to be left out, made another great outside pass to snag the second spot. They crossed the finish line on the first lap one-two and began to stretch out from the pursuing pack. By the third lap they had pulled out a gap and were set to fight each other for the win when Mitchell Jr spun at the end of the Mario Andretti straight. He rejoined in third and quickly made it back to second. From that point on, Lazare continued to build his lead with Mitchell Jr having to fight back from a second spin as he left the track to avoid a spinning lapped car. When the checkered flag waved, Lazare had captured his first win, Mitchell Jr made it a BGR Team Grote 1-2 with a second place finish.
"The entire paddock had been wondering all season how the Toyo tires would perform in wet conditions and we were very pleased to see that they worked well for our cars," commented team owner Brian Graham. "The race itself looked very tricky as the conditions definitely got worse as the race went on and it was a continuous change for the drivers. Jesse and Jack did a great job, just to finish in the tricky conditions and to take the top two steps on the podium is a fantastic result for our two rookies. Both our Piper/Hondas have now won and yet another drivers name will be in the winner books for our team. This year's championship looks like it will come down to the last day which promises to be very exciting. The next round is a few weeks out at the beautiful Calabogie Motorsports Park and after our recent test there we are eager to get to it."
With a few weeks off now until the Calabogie event, the team will spend the time preparing for the highly anticipated event. September will be a very busy time for the team as the final three events in the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship and an additional stop for the team in the finale of the Quebec Formula Tour 1600 all happen in a five-week period. The team then plans to re-visit with the USA based F1600 Championship Series at Watkins Glen mid-October.
BGR Team Grote has put more drivers in the winner's circle than any other team in OFFC history and continues to strive to provide the perfect environment for karters to make the transition to the open wheel ranks. The winners of the past six consecutive years of Rookie of the Year will be looking to continue that tradition this season. To learn more about the team visit www.briangrahamracing.com.
From Brian Graham