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Bouvrette Reverses Curse, Claims ACT Checkers at Chaudière

After failing to take the green in the first three ACT Tour events of 2022, Jonathan Bouvrette took the checkered flag in the first ACT Tour points race in Canada since 2019.

Jonathan Bouvrette makes laps earlier this season at White Mountain Motorsports Park before breaking a rear gear in heat races. Bouvrette, whose three trips to the United States ended before the feature event, not only started the Claude Leclerc 150 but finished first. (STS/Jeff Brown file photo)

Whatever Jonathan Bouvrette’s team was lacking for luck, they found at Autodrome Chaudière.

The Quebec native shook off a series of season-opening misfortunes to win Saturday night’s Claude Leclerc 150, the first points-paying American-Canadian Tour Late Model race in Canada since 2019.

And while Bouvrette celebrated a Canadian podium sweep, DJ Shaw’s fourth-place finish rang loudly in a race that could have major implications for the season-long ACT Tour title chase.

Saturday’s race was a long-overdue return to the series’ cross-border roots. The inaugural Claude Leclerc 150, named for ACT’s still-active “Ironman,” was intended to reboot ACT’s tradition of competing both in the United States and Canada. A successful outing in 2019 was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and when international borders were locked down to essential and commercial traffic, the 2020 and 2021 events were scheduled but ultimately canceled altogether.

The reopening of the border to non-essential travel reopened ACT’s options for Canadian competitors, with a handful of Quebec’s Late Model stars opting to chase ACT Tour points this year.

Bouvrette is among those full-timers, though the stats sheet belies the Quebec native’s travel itinerary. The Blainville, Que. racer has traveled to the first three dates on the ACT Tour’s calendar, but misfortune kept him from taking the green flag at all three races.

A blown engine and an ensuing crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in April left Bouvrette with a damaged car to haul home for repairs, leaving him on the sidelines for the Northeast Classic. Bouvrette returned for the Community Bank, N.A. 150 at Thunder Road in May, but a heat race crash sidelined him before the race began. And in heat races for the Spring Green two weeks ago, a rear gear failure once again left Bouvrette pushing the car onto the trailer while others pushed their cars to the grid.

For the first time this season, Bouvrette advanced to the feature, chasing front-row starters Patrick Laperle and William Larue in the opening laps. Larue prevailed early as Laperle struggled to find the handle on his orange #91, but veterans Dany Trépanier and Bouvrette gave the touring newcomer a handful as they battled for the top spot.

Trépanier took the lead, but Bouvrette fought past the two-time touring champ approaching halfway. Trépanier would sneak past on a lap-126 restart, only for Bouvrette to win the side-by-side battle four laps later.

From there, Bouvrette was home free, cruising to his second ACT Tour victory in his first start of the year. Interestingly, Bouvrette’s first career ACT Tour win came in the 2019 season finale at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway, giving him back-to-back Tour wins in his last two starts.

Larue rebounded for second, with Trépanier finishing third in his first Tour start since August 2019. Shaw scored a hard-fought fourth-place finish, with Tour rookie Alexendre Tardif rounding out the top five.

Maxime Gauvreau was sixth in his ACT Tour debut, with fellow Quebecers Jeff Côté and Rémi Perreault in tow. Vermont’s Jason Corliss was ninth, with sophomore Erick Sands picking up his first top-ten result of the year after a slow start.

Claude Leclerc, the race’s legendary namesake, was 21st in the 28-car field.

The strong field, though, was light on entries from the United States. Only five teams crossed the border for Saturday’s showdown at Chaudière, with Matt Anderson and rookie Cody LeBlanc joining top-ten finishers Shaw, Corliss and Sands. Anderson finished 16th, while LeBlanc ran out front early before suffering electrical issues that ended his evening in 23rd.

Despite the open borders, racing in Canada poses plenty of pitfalls, from vaccination mandates to app-based verifications to border background checks. The regulatory requirements, along with the sky-high price of fuel, may have been enough to prompt many teams to race a bit closer to home for one weekend.

And so drivers like NHMS Northeast Classic winner Derek Gluchacki, 2019 ACT champion and Claude Leclerc 150 winner Rich Dubeau, and Spring Green winner Jimmy Hebert were elsewhere on Saturday.

Shaw’s fourth-place finish, then, vaulted him to the points lead, some 81 markers ahead of his nearest challengers. Tied for second are former champion Patrick Laperle and early-season points leader Gluchacki. Sands leaped to fourth in points, with Bouvrette making a big move to fifth despite not taking the green flag in a feature until Saturday.

How this plays out over the next eight events, especially with another points-paying visit to Canada in August, will dictate whether Shaw cruises uncontested to his first ACT Tour title, or whether another driver can rise to the challenge. Confronted with a rescheduling conflict between his ACT and Pro All Stars Series schedules, Shaw favored the ACT Tour race this weekend, a hint that the five-time PASS North champ is all in on an ACT title run.

Shaw came within a few points of the ACT championship last year, overcoming an early-season disqualification to challenge Ben Rowe for the crown on the last lap of the season. With that in mind, the white-hot Gluchacki or the battle-tested Laperle could still find themselves within grasp by October.

But October is still a lot of laps away.

Unofficial Results, ACT Claude Leclerc 150 at Autodrome Chaudière:
1. (41QC) Jonathan Bouvrette
2. (55QC) William Larue
3. (19QC) Dany Trépanier
4. (04VT) DJ Shaw
5. (21QC) Alexendre Tardif
6. (17QC) Maxime Gauvreau
7. (51QC) Jeff Côté
8. (33QC) Rémi Perreault
9. (66VT) Jason Corliss
10. (36NH) Erick Sands
11. (37QC) Marc Bégin
12. (66QC) Simon Roussin
13. (110QC) Olivier Labbé
14. (21TN) Jean-François Déry
15. (9MX) Yvon Bedard
16. (49NH) Matt Anderson
17. (51H) Patrick Hamel
18. (03QC) Sébastien Couture
19. (90QC) Zachary Fauteux
20. (9QC) Mathieu Kingsbury
21. (11QC) Claude Leclerc
22. (91QC) Patrick Laperle
23. (7NH) Cody LeBlanc
24. (57QC) Carl Poulin
25. (78QC) Michael Lavoie
26. (88QC) David Trevors
27. (16QC) Jimmy Letteux
28. (31QC) Steven Boissoneault

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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