PHOTO: Alex Labbe was disqualified from Sunday’s American-Canadian Tour Can-Am 200 and has been suspended from competition. (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

Hoar inherits victory, seals 8th ACT championship

WATERBURY — An unprecedented set of circumstances have developed in the wake of Sunday’s “Cam-Am 200” American-Canadian Tour event at Circuit Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, Que., leading to one racer being disqualified from an apparent victory and suspended for the foreseeable future.

Alex Labbe of St-Albert, Que., a second-year ACT competitor primarily racing on the ACT Castrol Series, crossed the finish line first at the Can-Am 200, but was disqualified after his team refused to have the engine from his No. 36QC Toyota inspected following the event. The race awarded championship points to both the U.S.-based ACT Late Model Tour and the ACT Castrol Series.

An official protest was filed to ACT officials when the teams of Patrick Laperle and Patrick Hamel posted $1,000 cash following the race to demand that Labbe’s engine be impounded and inspected by an official ACT “spec” engine supplier. According to ACT president Tom Curley, Labbe’s team refused three opportunities to have the engine inspected.

Labbe, who was the 2010 ACT Castrol Series Rookie of the Year and was ranked sixth in Castrol standings entering the Riverside event after an earlier victory at Autodrome Montmagny, explained his actions on the Quebec-based, French-language discussion forum www.GuideAuto.com.

The following is from Labbe’s GuideAuto.com post, translated into English:

“Me, Alex Labbe, driver of car number 36, wanted to write a press release to describe all what happened last night after the inspection for the ACT Can-Am 200.

“First, after having passed the technical inspection of ACT, the officials came to me when we were boarding the car in the trailer to tell us that the 91qc team (Laperle) had lodged a protest against the engine . I immediately went to see the owner of my car to tell her what was going on.

“With the frustration of the owner of my car against another team in our Quebec series, a lap down on us and not even in the top 10 accusing a protest against us, we really did ask about the competition and the kind of competitors we find every week in our series.

“In addition, the fact that the series would be inspecting our engine at Butler & MacMaster has cast doubt on the accuracy and reliability of this inspection.

“In addition, the owner had a short fuse with all the controversy that was held in Loudon two races earlier.

“But after a few minutes of reflection with the team and especially to convince the owner of my car, we decide to remove the engine to have it inspected anyway to prove that we really won this race. However, when we presented our intention to Mr. Curley, he told me that if I wanted to inspect my engine, I had to immediately head toward Barre, Vermont, to leave my car there and that they would remove the engine themselves.

“It really confirmed our decision, because in addition to the expense to ourselves to be there, the most important development was that we had this car with Mario and Germain Gosselin for one year. They have always helped me since I started in stock car racing and I think everyone is prepared to say that my car could turn in the corners as well as any of the others on the track. We were convinced that the development brought to the car and the 25 years of experience from Mario Gosselin was worth more than $5,000 (the winner’s purse). This prompted the owner of my car to deny their new proposal.

“I want to thank all my fans who supported me in this series and give you news in the shortest time to tell you the new series I run now, thank you again!”

Curley responded to Labbe’s comments in an email to Vermont Motorsports Magazine on Wednesday morning.

The following is from Curley’s email:

“Here are the facts.

1. The formal ACT post-race inspection was completed.
2. Our rule book states that any licensed competitor is entitled to ‘protest’ another competitor within a time limit following the post-race inspection. This was done by the 91QC
(Laperle) in concert with the 51QC (Hamel) when they officially protested the 36QC engine and posted $1,000 cash.
3. Alex Labbe was informed that there had been a protest [filed] against him and that under the ACT rulebook we were required to examine his engine.
4. For 12 years we have had a procedure in place where we randomly pull the ACT crate engines and take them to authorized engine builders of our choice. This engine was built by an ACT-authorized Quebec builder, so our choices were to either take it to Butler & MacMaster, our primary builder, or to one of our Ontario builders for inspection.
5. We were informed shortly thereafter by the Labbe team at our tech trailer that they were not interested in having their engine pulled and were going to forfeit the win and the $5,000 purse money.
6. We then went to the team location on pit road and explained to Alex that they had no choice other than to give the engine to us for inspection, and that if the team chose not to comply, there would be severe consequences. I explained that besides the loss of purse and points for the event, the team would be suspended from further competition in ACT including the remaining events at Autodrome St-Eustache, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway ACT Invitational, and the season-ending event at Airborne Speedway in the Fall Foliage.
7. I informed Alex that he should take five minutes to discuss this with his owner and team and let us know his decision. I also told him that this was not by the choice of ACT, but all teams are entitled under our procedural manual to protest and we must comply with properly presented protests.
8. After a discussion with his owner and team we were told that they would not allow the engine to be pulled.
9. We went back and loaded our trailer, dismissed the equipment to pull the engine, and sent the first wave of officials on the trip home.
10. After getting a flat tire repaired on our dually truck which took some time, we all got into our various cars and trucks and started moving toward the exit from the track when we were told by someone running over to our compound that the 36QC team had changed their mind! This was fully 30-45 minutes after they refused the tear down.
11. In one last attempt to resolve the situation, I turned around and went back to the pit road to inform Alex that since we had already accepted their decision, packed our equipment, sent most of the ACT officials home, and returned the protest money to the 91QC team that the only option they would be given was to follow us to Barre, VT. We would pull the motor with them or without them (their choice), I would then take the motor the following day (Monday) to Maine for inspection, return later that day, and deliver the motor so they could return home with the truck, trailer, car, and motor if it was legal. They were also told that the $1,000 protest money would be given to them to help cover their expenses. (They were actually told in the first conversation at the hauler that after pulling the engine, which would have taken about 45 minutes, if it was found legal, and with another 45 minutes to put it in, that is $1,000 return on an hour-and-a-half’s work!)
12. After being at the race track for ten hours and with a four-hour trip home, we were prepared for the inconvenience of taking the motor with us and going through our regular routine of having it checked and delivering it back by this Tuesday. They made their decision. We accepted that decision not once, but three different times as we kept trying to find an acceptable solution. Their lack of cooperation, and what now appears to be from the Labbe release a lack of respect for our personnel and organization, is regrettable.

“The integrity of the crate motor is the base of our entire business model. This is the first time a request to check a motor has been denied by a competitor. We have checked dozens of motors over the years and have never had a disqualification.”

Furthermore, the American-Canadian Tour released the following statement in a press release on Tuesday:

“The American-Canadian Tour announced penalties imposed on the Alex Labbe ACT Castrol team for violations incurred at the Can-Am 200 held at the Riverside Speedway in Ste-Croix, Que., on September 11, 2011. Labbe was disqualified from his win when the team refused to allow their engine to be impounded after a protest was filed by another race team, which is in keeping with ACT rules and procedures.

“The following outlines the specific penalties:

1. Forfeit of the championship points and $5,000 first place purse money from the event.
2. Loss of all points for the season standings in the ACT Castrol Series.
3. Suspension from ACT racing for the remainder of the 2011 season. [The team had been scheduled to race this weekend (September 18, 2011) at Autodrome St-Eustache in their annual 300-lap event; at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 24, 2011 in the $80,000 ACT Invitational; and the Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on October 8, 2011.]
4. A fine of $3,000, payable in full to the RPQ point fund prior to consideration for reinstatement in ACT racing.
5. GM crate motor serial #VZ360 is banned from racing in any ACT sanctioned event until further notice.
6. GM crate motor serial # VZ360 must be brought to a pre-determined location as instructed by ACT for an approved technical inspection. [This requirement, whether by the 36QC team, or if sold, by a team purchasing the engine, is a contingent factor on the possible reinstatement of the 36QC team and/or the #VZ360 engine competing in future ACT racing. All expenses regarding the inspection of the aforementioned engine will be the responsibility of the 36QC team, or must be included as a part of any sale agreement to a new owner who intends to use the #VZ360 motor in ACT competition. This penalty clause will be in effect regardless of whether the engine is now legal or illegal, or whether the engine undergoes any modification prior to turning it over to ACT for inspection.]
7. The 36QC team (Alex Labbe) will be on probation for a period of one full year from the date of reinstatement of the suspension, if that should occur. A further violation by the 36QC team of engine, shock, or tire rules in ACT competition may result in life-long suspension from ACT racing.

“When asked why the penalties were so severe, Tom Curley, president of the American-Canadian Tour said, “For the past 12 years, the entire success of our crate/spec program has used as its basic foundation maintaining the integrity of the crate motor, sealed shocks and unaltered tires.

“Alex is an excellent young talent, right up there with Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Austin Theriault, and Nick Sweet in terms of talent. It is difficult to understand why, when the protest was filed, the team refused every option we offered to try and resolve the issue. This is the first violation of this kind in the 27-year history of ACT racing. I am hopeful that Alex and his team can comply with the penalties and move on to what is sure to be a promising racing career.”

Brian Hoar of Williston, who crossed the finish line second behind Labbe, was named the official winner of the Can-Am 200 at Circuit Riverside Speedway. Wayne Hellwell, Jr., is now the runner-up, with Nick Sweet third. Hoar also clinched his record eighth ACT Late Model Tour championship.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — Can-Am 200
ACT Late Model Tour/ACT Castrol Series — Circuit Riverside Speedway, Ste-Croix, Que.
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pos.-(Start)-Driver-Hometown-Laps
(# – denotes rookie)

1. (2) Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt. — 200
2. (21) Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Dover, N.H. — 200
3. (15) Nick Sweet, Barre, Vt. — 200
4. (10) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Me. — 200
5. (8) Brent Dragon, Milton, Vt. — 200
6. (14) Patrick Hamel, St-Edouard, Que. — 200
7. (1) Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Hudson, N.H. — 200
8. (32) Sylvain Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que. — 200
9. (7) Claude Leclerc, Lanoraie, Que. — 200
10. (22) David Michaud, Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que. — 200
11. (18) Patrick Laperle, St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Que. — 199
12. (11) Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton, Vt. — 199
13. (31) Gaetan Lauzier, St-Pacome, Que. — 199
14. (16) Donald Theetge, Boischatel, Que. — 198
15. (3) Jimmy Cormier, Princeville, Que. — 198
16. (35) # Ben Ashline, Pittston, Me. — 198
17. (28) Martin Lacombe, Terrebonne, Que. — 198
18. (36) # Yannick Tremblay, Chicoutimi, Que. — 198
19. (17) Ricky Rolfe, Albany Twp., Me. — 196
20. (12) Patrick Cliche, St-Jean-de-Chrysostome, Que. — 195
21. (19) Karl Allard, Quebec, Que. — 190
22. (9) John Donahue, Graniteville, Vt. — 187
23. (20) Jean-Francois Dery, Quebec, Que. — 183
24. (4) Steve Lesage, Pont-Rouge, Que. — 167
25. (23) Glen Luce, Turner, Me. — 166
26. (5) Jonathan Desbiens, Levis, Que. — 161
27. (29) # Dave Farrington, Jr., Jay, Me. — 151
28. (25) Marc-Andre Cliche, Vallee-Jonction, Que. — 128
29. (34) Jimmy Linardy, Somerville, Mass. — 104
30. (30) Jonathan Bouvrette, Blainville, Que. — 101
31. (13) Mark Lamberton, Mooers Forks, N.Y. — 57
32. (6) Randy Potter, Groveton, N.H. — 53
33. (27) Dany Trepanier, St-Edouard, Que. — 48
34. (33) # Rowland Robinson, Jr., Birch Harbor, Me. — 14
35. (26) Steven Boissonneault, Lyster, Que. — 6
DQ (24) Alex Labbe, St-Albert, Que.