Grand Am: Heartbreak in Quebec
On the same day that Ford announced production plans for the new 2012 Boss 302 Mustang, the Multimatic Motorsports team fielded a pair of Boss 302R Mustangs for the Grand Am race in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. The perennial favorite race is a 10-turn, 1.52-mile street course with plenty of immovable barriers. A sunset start to the GS race would serve to make things even more exciting.
French Canadians are massive racing enthusiasts and the weekend was packed with events. The relatively short course necessitated separate GS and ST-class races, so the GS schedule was compressed into a single day. Two practice sessions in the morning were followed by an afternoon qualifying run. The GS race ran Friday night, while the ST group would do their thing on Saturday.
Billy Johnson showed good speed in the #61 ROUSH Performance Mustang GT, posting second-fastest times in both sessions while learning the road course. At qualifying time, it was Scott Maxwell, in the #15 Multimatic Boss 302R that took the pole. Maxwell was more than 1.5 seconds ahead of Jack Roush Jr., who settled for second spot on the grid.
The frantic Friday schedule creates a different challenge for the teams, as Maxwell explained. “It puts the emphasis on the fact that you want to roll off the trailer with a well-sorted car. But you won’t really know how it will translate until you hit the track. That’s going to be the key, making sure you have a good car right from the first practice session. I’m sure it’s going to make for a really interesting day.”
Someone should have told Maxwell that this ‘interesting’ day was the thirteenth one of the month, and a Friday to boot. Whether it was bad luck or something else, Maxwell’s day came to an unceremonious end shortly after setting the fastest qualifying lap. Just eight minutes after the session opened, Maxwell slid into the outside wall at Turn 10, damaging both the front and rear ends of the Boss 302R. Before the race started, Multimatic withdrew the #15 car and Jack Roush Jr., inherited the pole position.
As dusk fell, the temperature dropped to a comfortable 78 degrees, but a cooling track surface would mean reduced grip around the street circuit. When the green flag fell just before 7:00 p.m., Jack Roush Jr. led the field in the #61 Roush Performance Mustang into the first turn and around the course. The exhilaration was short-lived as a Porsche Cayman got tangled up with another competitor on the following lap, bringing out a full course caution for the next five laps.
When the green flag returned, Roush resumed his lead with authority, setting the fastest lap of the race two laps before another full course caution period. The #62 Camaro RS.R of had pulled off course in Turn 6, with smoke pouring from the cockpit. The driver, Ted Anthony Jr., was OK.
When racing resumed, Roush continued out front, building a more comfortable lead with each passing lap. On lap 34, Roush pits for a driver change and other necessities. With twenty-odd cars on a 1.5-mile course, there’s not a lot of real estate to split up, so when Billy Johnson returned the #61 Mustang GT to the race, he found himself in 16th place.
Pulling up from the back of the pack is something that Johnson has previously shown a talent for, even on a tight course like this. Through the next thirty-six laps, Johnson tears through the field, starting to challenge Terry Borcheller’s #45 BMW M3 for second position by Lap 71. Two laps later, he made it by the M3 for second place.
The remaining 16 laps of the race saw Johnson chase Matt Plumb in the #13 BMW M3, but he was unable to catch up and settled for the team’s seventh podium finish in nine races. The next two Mustangs to cross the finish line were the second Multimatic Boss 302 in 7th place and the Boss 302R of Racers Edge Motorsport, in P13.
Before heading to Trois Rivieres, Maxwell’s co-driver, Joe Foster, said “Scott and I have some unfinished business at Trois-Rivières.” It seems that will remain the case for another year.
The Grand Am series heads to its season closing race at Miller Motorsports Park, September 10 – 11, in Tooele, UT.