WATERBURY -- Donald Theetge has officially been named the 2009 Série ACT-Castrol championship, but not before a set of unprecedented circumstances determined that outcome.
At Sunday's season finale, the St-Eustache 300 at Autodrome St-Eustache near Montréal, Theetge entered the race with a 33-point edge over Patrick Laperle to lead the championship standings. Theetge was involved in a wreck just past the halfway point, sending him to the pits for major repairs on the suspension of his car. Meanwhile, Laperle led 189 laps in the race before a tire began to go flat.
That's when things become, as the official ACT-issued press release puts it, "bizarre." This is the explanation from the release, posted at 12:35pm on Tuesday:
"[Laperle] was leading around lap 268 when he appeared to have a tire going flat. Maintaining the lead but slowing dramatically until lap 270, Laperle knew he was in trouble. Sylvain Lacombe took over the lead on lap 270 and was then passed by eventual winner Jonathan Urlin of London, Ontario. Laperle started going back through the field. At this point there was not much question that he would have to pit under green flag conditions unless he could catch a ‘lucky’ caution flag.
On lap 273 Laperle’s cousin, Jacques Laperle, racing in only his second ACT Castrol event of the season, was running sixth on the lead lap. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, Jacques Laperle stopped his car under green in the outside lane on the backstretch, bringing out a yellow. The Jacques Laperle team claimed that they had a flat tire. ACT officials observed that the tire was not flat. Jacques Laperle was disqualified from the event for his actions of intentionally bringing out a yellow."
The infractions did not end there, however.
The ACT release continues: "Following a timing and scoring re-check of several positions which was requested by the Patrick Laperle team, there was a scoring adjustment on the Daniel Descoste finishing position. There was also a procedural penalty issued to the Patrick Laperle team by ACT officials for violation of the ACT rules and procedures. A Patrick Laperle crew member left their pit stall and entered the pit stall of cousin Jacques Laperle, just prior to the alleged ‘flat tire’ on the backstretch. Patrick Laperle was issued a one-lap penalty for this infraction. Under ACT rules and procedures the driver is responsible for the conduct of his team. Patrick Laperle finished the event in 8th position, the first car two laps down.
With only 17 of the 33 cars that started the event finishing, Donald Theetge managed to complete the race in 18th position. The final results awarded Theetge the Championship by a single point."
According to eyewitnesses, the pits were kept closed during the lap-273 caution period, thereby not allowing Patrick Laperle to come to pit road to change his flat tire. As the pace car turned off the speedway for the subsequent restart, the pits were then opened. Laperle entered the pits to change the flat tire as the green flag came out, losing the second lap during the process. A video posted on the French-language website, JournalSport.ca, shows a clip of the final restart, and shows Laperle (orange #91) on pit road and his team changing the tire.
Jonathan Urlin of London, Ont. was the winner of the race, taking the $5,000 top prize and the first Série ACT-Castrol victory of his career. Sylvain Lacombe, Karl Allard, Jean-François Déry, and Brandon Watson completed the official top-five finishers.