By Denis Bourbonnais
Bert Henderson has already left his mark on the hydroplane racing world and Sunday, at the 78th edition of the Régates de Valleyfield, he added to his already impressive legacy.
The driver from Brockville (Ontario) dominated a very competitive Grand Prix class and led the GP-777 Steeler to a decisive victory in the final presented in front of 30,000 spectators spread around the Saint-François Bay.
The 3rd lane belonged to Henderson, who pushed his hydroplane to take the lead at the exit of the crucial first turn. Tom Pakradooni in the GP-88 Rolling Thunder was insistent for half of the race, but his opponent built up a gap that could not be closed, winning with a lead of over 4 seconds. Henderson completed the 4 laps in 2 minutes and 32 seconds, going at an average of 160 km/h, and was crowned in Valleyfield for the 3rd time in the Grand Prix class.
Andrew Tate was in good position to offer great opposition to the defending champion, since he was starting from the inner lane, as he cumulated the most points in the qualifying heats. The young driver from Walled Lake (Michigan) however put himself out of the competition when he lost control of the GP-101 Fat Chance Too 10 seconds prior to the beginning of the race.
Pierre Maheu made a successful return to the Régates de Valleyfield, standing on the 3rd step of the podium after a good performance in Ken Brodie’s GP-50 Intensity. A two-time winner in Valleyfield, Maheu was followed by Marty Wolfe (GP-93), Éric Langevin (GP-12), who had to start from the second line, and Tom Thompson (GP-525).
Bert Henderson has won all three Grand Prix finals held this season in the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL). He celebrated like it was his first victory in Valleyfield. “Winning here the same year as my brother (Kent) makes it even more special”, he mentioned on the champions’ dock. “It is special because of you, the best fans in the world. I also have to thank Mike Endres, Jeff Richards, Huey Newport, the whole crew and my family”, added an emotional Henderson, holding his young son.
Pierre Maheu was in a festive mood too, happy with the results he obtained after a 4-year hiatus. “Very few people thought we could get into the final”, said the Saint-Michel-de-Napierville resident, who started from the 5th lane.
The four other Quebeckers in the GP class, Mario Blain (GP-757), Mathieu Daoust (GP-9), Martin Rochon (GP-77) and Bertrand Dulude (GP-48), enjoyed successful runs in the qualifying heats, but could not make their way into the main event of the weekend. Tom Thompson was granted his spot in the final by winning the consolation race.
Éric Langevin unfortunately had to start 5 seconds behind the first line, due to a tie with Pierre Maheu in the total points cumulated throughout the weekend. As per the rules, in case of a tie, the points from the last qualification determine the place from which each competitor will take the start. The referees had to look back at the second qualifying heat in which Langevin finished 2nd (heat 2C), while Maheu ended first in his round because of a penalty to Mathieu Daoust (heat 2A).
Brandon Kennedy could not capitalize on the successful weekend he had in Brockville because of steering problems on the GP-25 H8 Cancer Racing. In the overall standings, Bert Henderson is up to 414 points, 8 points behind Marty Wolfe, who still holds the top of the rankings. Éric Langevin and Tom Pakradooni are tied in 3rd place with 379 points.
To read the article in the Journal Saint-François: http://www.journalsaint-francois.ca/sports/2016/7/18/bert-henderson-impose-sa-loi.html [French version only]