Column By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – DRUMMONDVILLE, QUE – After a four-season hiatus, the Super DIRTcar Series is set to return to Canada for three nights of action-packed racing, July 31-Aug. 2.
As the Series goes north of the border, the three Super DIRTcar Series Canadian rookie drivers are eager for their chance to return to their home turf to show what they can do in a Big Block Modified against the best in the division – trying to build their presence in the Series like fellow Canadian Mat Williamson was able to do.
Mathieu Desjardins, Steve Bernard, and Felix Roy – all Quebec natives – will get three chances to perform in front of their countrymen when the Series returns to Autodrome Drummond in Drummondville, QC on July 31-Aug. 1 and then Brockville-Ontario Speedway in Brockville, ON on Aug. 2.
Their first stop is located approximately five miles from the center of Drummondville, QC, a city with an estimated population of 82,000. The track surroundings boast many available activities within a short walk or drive: restaurants, bars, movie theaters, hotels, and shops. Conversely, Brockville-Ontario Speedway is set in the country, with an estimated population a quarter of the size of Drummondville.
Even with the contrast in settings of the two tracks, all three matchups are expected to see full crowds due to the one enduring element of Canadian competition – the enthusiasm of fans to Super DIRTcar Series Big Block racing.
“I really think the Big Block races are going to be full at (Autodrome) Drummond,” Bernard said. “We got a lot of fans that are waiting for those Big Block Series races. So, when they come in, it’s always crazy… I think both tracks are going to be jammed packed. Those are the only one or two times a year they have to see those Big Blocks. Usually, at Drummondville, (track promoter) Yan Bussiere makes a big, big show with fireworks, planes, stuff like that. It’s for kids and everyone.”
The passionate environment, support of their home fans, and track familiarity will undoubtedly help the three perform to the best of their ability. They come into the matchups separated by a mere 26 points, with Bernard leading the way in 14th place, Roy in 15th and Desjardins in 16th. Roy, who hails from Napierville, QC and races Autodrome Drummond’s weekly shows twice a month, is conscious of the potential boost it could give him.
“I’m just super stoked going back to Canada,” Roy said. “I think it can be good for the points. I think we’re 15th… I’m super confident going back [to Autodrome Drummond]. I think I could do top-five if everything goes well.”
Desjardins stunned onlookers when he won the Feature on night two of the 2022 World of Outlaws World Finals in only his second start in a Big Block on American soil. He’ll look to deliver another winning formula this time around by drawing from his extensive experience as a weekly competitor at Autodrome Drummond – also 30 minutes from his hometown.
“At (Autodrome) Drummond, the starting position is really important, so, I need a good time trial,” Desjardins said. “After that, for the Feature, it’s really important to save the right rear tire on the first lap to finish good at the end.”
The drivers have spent half a season adjusting to and building a notebook of American tracks. They found through trial and error the differences in surfaces compared to what they were accustomed to seeing in Canada.
“The surface that you’re racing on in the USA are a lot slicker for us,” Bernard said. “Our tracks have more bite, they’re tackier. So, even though the surface looks like it’s brown and it’s going to give you some bite, it’s usually a lot less than what we are used to in Canada. So, we have to adapt and find the adjustments to make the car work and have some side bite and have some forward drive. That’s not what we need to do in Canada because the tracks are a lot heavier.”
Roy had similar sentiments to the adjustments that both he and his crew have been making during the transition to Series competition.
“It’s not the same dirt, so you need a lot of traction to be fast in the U.S.,” Roy said. “It’s usually slick tracks so, if you’re fast in the US, you’ll be fast in Quebec, because there it’s a lot of tacky tracks and you don’t need a lot of traction, so it’s easier. The goal on the car is to have the most traction you can, without being too tight. We’re trying to do that in the U.S., and the dirt is different. We’re getting at it. When we get back to Quebec, it will be easier, because we’ll have our Quebec setup. It’s not the same setup at all.”
Desjardins only focus will not be just on returning to Canadian track surfaces, but to reciprocate the expected energy from his home fans and make them proud.
“I’m really happy to be back at places I know,” Desjardins said. “It’s really hard for us to compete at tracks we don’t know. In the states, the tracks are really slick and we are not used to it. In Quebec, it will be tackier and that will help us. But, we have struggled a bit these past few races, so a good performance in Canada will give us some energy to continue with the Series,” Desjardins said. “I really want to make my fans proud of me. I will give everything I can.”
The Super DIRTcar Series travels to Autodrome Drummond in Drummondville, QC for two nights of racing, July 31-Aug. 1. Night one will be a 75-lap, $7,500-to-win showcase followed by a 75-lap, $10,000-to-win, Super DIRT Week 51 Qualifier.
They will finish their Canadian swing on Aug. 2 at Brockville-Ontario Speedway in Brockville, ON in a 75-lap, $7,500-to-win, showcase.