Raphaël Lessard, the Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce driver, tasted victory once more on Saturday evening, one year after winning his first CARS Tour race on the same track. The victory came during the Scott McCorkle’s Liberty Buick & GMC 300 in which Raphaël competed in two 75-lap duels, part of the CARS Tour series.
At the helm of his Toyota Camry #99 FRL Express/Toyota-TRD/JBL Audio prepared by David Gilliland Racing, Raphaël was taking part in his first CARS Tour event of the season, series for which he was crowned the 2016 Champion last November. Lessard completed the first duel in 4th place, a race he hoped to triumph had it not been for an incident with Brandon Setzer. While fighting for second place, the two cars spun on the track with just few laps to go in the race, resulting in a yellow flag. Both drivers completed the race, yet neither where they envisioned they would.
Raphaël started the first duel in 5th position and quickly moved up one spot. Towards the end of the 75-lap race, Lessard, then in 3rd place, was able to catch up to the front cars as a result of a battle between the leader, Tate Fogleman, and the 2nd place car driven by Brandon Setzer. Unfortunately, in his battle for 2nd place with Seltzer, a collision occurred between the two cars. Raphaël ended up 5th at the restart, and was only able to advance one position, thus finishing 4th.
“The incident with Brandon Setzer was not intentional, it was a racing incident. I should not have taken the corner at that speed, but the lap before, he left me a lot of room and the lap after he closed on me. We had a bit of a rocky start tonight with the collision in the first duel, but we managed to concluded the evening positively as we left with a victory ,” said Raphaël.
The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver started 4th for the second 75-lap duel. “I cannot thank enough David Gilliland Racing for the tremendous job on my Toyota Camry which was ready for the second race!” Indeed, the car, after the repairs, performed as it did prior to the incident, enabling Raphaël to challenge his competitors to great battles on the track.
Matt Craig and Raphaël had a long and hard-fought battle lasting several laps: “I was quicker than he was on the inside of the track, and he was faster on the outside, keeping us side-by-side during a few laps. In the end, I won our battle. It was really fun to race against him,” explained Lessard.
Within 30 laps into the race Raphaël started leading the pack, with the constant pressure of Tate Fogleman in his rear-view mirror. The American driver had a thirst for victory as he pushed Raphaël a few times during the race. Just a few laps before the end of the race, Fogleman hit Raphaël on the side of the car, pushing the Canadian into a drift that he was able to control. Raphaël expected that the contact would have caused a slow leak on his rear tire, but it was rather Fogleman who suffered a problem forcing him to ease off and therefore allowing Raphaël to finish the race with a comfortable lead.
Raphaël’s next race is Sunday, May 21st, as he participates in the Short Track U.S. Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee.