It’s now been a decade since winged single-seaters raced at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. We look back at the 2013 edition, and how close international junior series have come to racing there since
Nestled between Montreal and Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres is a mid-sized city in Canada at the meeting point of the Saint Lawrence and Saint Maurice rivers with a long motorsport history.
Since 1967, its streets have hosted the World Rallycross Championship, IMSA, NASCAR Canada and high-profile single-seaters such as Atlantics, Indy Lights and USF Pro 2000 – which last visited in 2013.
Since then Formula 1600, North America’s Honda-powered answer to Formula Ford, has been the category that’s kept single-seater racing on the support bill of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (GP3R).
In December 2019 it was announced that Formula Regional Americas would visit the circuit the next August, but then the COVID-19 pandemic led to the grand prix being cancelled in April 2020. Immediately it was announced that FRegional Americas would instead race at the 2021 edition of the event, but in May of that year the series cancelled its trip.
“The ongoing pandemic and the changing border guidelines have made planning very difficult for our staff and teams,” it said in an announcement. “After working with local government officials, we could not guarantee that all of our teams and drivers would be able to travel without quarantine mandates since we have such a diverse international group.”
This time there was no reconvening to have FRegional Americas on the 2022 bill, and last weekend’s GP3R action around the 1.52-mile track was headlined by NASCAR Canada and included F1600 action once again.
The entry-level F1600 cars also race on Canada’s other street circuits, but not since USFP2000’s last visit have winged single-seaters, or an international series, taken to Trois-Rivieres.
USFP2000 was there from 2005 to 2013 as Pro Mazda, and its final visit was its fastest. Andretti Autosport’s Matthew Brabham led the way in practice, setting a 1m02.063s to lead JDC MotorSports’ Juan Piedrahita by 0.622 seconds. The 13-car field was covered by 5.105s, with future IndyCar driver Kyle Kaiser propping up the timesheet.
Brabham went even faster in qualifying, setting a new track record for the series with a 1m02.175s. This time he was fastest by 0.276s over Juncos Racing’s Diego Ferreira, and the spread of pace tightened up with 4.397s encompassing the 13 drivers despite a bit of oil and water on the track.
The domination of Brabham continued into race one of the weekend, which at 40 laps sounded long for a third-tier single-seater race but on such a short track meant it flew by. Brabham had already won nine times that season in the 12 races that had taken place prior, and in Trois-Rivieres he led from start to finish (and from a standing start rather than a rolling one) to win by 10.815s and set a new lap record on the way.
A very slow start by Ferreira dropped him from second to fourth, with Piedrahita having to swerve around him after starting right behind. Ferreira got back past him for third at turn two, and Shelby Blackstock followed him through.
Kaiser went off at the tricky negative camber turn six and beckoned for marshals to help him get going again, but there was no caution period and it enabled Brabham to pull away.
Scott Anderson took second place on the opening lap, while on lap two Piedrahita got back ahead of Blackstock. Soon he was being chased by sixth-placed Spencer Pigot, and after many laps of pressure they eventually swapped places.
Ahead of them, Ferreira reclaimed second with a diving move on Anderson at turn six, and later on behind them Zack Meyer had a spin but avoided the barriers.
Anderson had been demoted to fourth by Piedrahita by the halfway point of the race, and at one point had Pigot in his mirrors before gapping himself and coming onto the rear of Piedrahita late on. He wasn’t able to pass him though, and finished just 0.418s off the podium.
Piedrahita revealed afterwards he was struggling with tyre degradation at the time, while Ferreira admitted his slow start was his own mistake as he was not ready for when the lights went out. He also had been hoping for a caution period to help him get onto the tail of Anderson earlier on and therefore then be able to have a chance to stay with Brabham.
“Absolutely fantastic weekend,” was Brabham’s reaction to victory. “Opposite to Diego, I was hoping there wouldn’t be yellow flags”. It was “a lot of fun out there” as the “track was grippy” and enabled him to beat his pole time by 0.286s.
“At first I think [the tyres] were really, really, really good. I mean I didn’t really feel – they definitely dropped off a little bit towards the end. But nothing like [the compound used] last year, I guess. I mean it was fast through the whole race, and they were really, really consistent and you could really feel where they were at.”
Given the pace he could maintain through the race, Brabham reckoned “we can definitely go more qualifying set-up for the next race”.
It did the trick, as he once again made a great start, led every lap en route to a record-extending 11th win of the year, set a new lap record and wrapped up the title with a round to spare. This time there was a caution period through the first four laps after a crash involving Blackstock, Kaiser, Lloyd Read and Stefan Rzadzinski, and Brabham’s victory margin was 5.5s.
“It’s just been a perfect year,” the new champion said when he got out of his car.”
“I’m just absolutely speechless,” he added. “I couldn’t think of a better place to win the championship. It’s been so much fun here in Trois-Rivieres.”
Ferreira held second from start to finish this time, while Piedrahita lost third to Pigot at the start. He then chased him and eventually reclaimed the position on lap 26 of 40, with Anderson demoting Pigot to fifth on the last lap by intensely pressuring him until he made a mistake and the door was open for him to get past.
Race 1 (40 laps)
1 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 41m50.292s
2 Diego Ferreira Juncos Racing +10.815s
3 Juan Piedrahita JDC MotorSports +16.349s
4 Scott Anderson Juncos Racing +16.767s
5 Spencer Pigot Team Pelfrey +25.896s
6 Shelby Blackstock Andretti Autosport +29.995s
7 Lloyd Read JDC MotorSports +45.905s
8 Stefan Rzadzinski Team Pelfrey +47.778s
9 Julia Ballario Juncos Racing +1 lap
10 Kyle Kaiser World Speed Motorsports +1 lap
Pole: Brabham, 1m02.175s
Fastest lap: Brabham, 1m01.889s
Race 2 (40 laps)
1 Brabham 44m27.807s
2 Ferreira +5.582s
3 Piedrahita +16.702s
4 Anderson +19.530s
5 Pigot +20.223s
6 Zack Meyer JDC MotorSports +37.469s
7 Ballario +1m01.414s
8 Bobby Eberle World Speed Motorsports +1 lap
9 Jay Horak M1 Racing +1 lap
10 Read +16 laps
P: Brabham, 1m02.177s
FL: Brabham, 1m01.830s