While hanging out with the Nissan Canada squad at the Fall Classic at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant this past weekend, I think some of the group got tired of me comparing the Micra Cup to the old Honda Michelin Series. Given the brand competition, I can understand that frustration, so perhaps a bit of a history lesson might be in order.
Back in what many people consider the golden era of motorsport in Canada, we had three of the most competitive racing series on the planet. The Player’s GM Challenge, Rothmans Porsche Cup and the Honda Michelin Series provided fans and racers the most exciting racing ever seen. The incredible competition produced star drivers like Champ car/Indycar stars Scott Goodyear and Paul Tracy, NASCAR winner Ron Fellows, Le Mans winner Scott Maxwell and of course all around good guy racer Richard Spenard and many more.
The success of the Rothman’s series eventually led Porsche to create the wildly successful GT3 Cup Challenge, which happens around the globe today. The original Honda Michelin Series began in the mid-Seventies and ran for 17 seasons. The evenly prepared, affordable, race cars provided fans with an ultra competitive, rough and tumble show at every track. The affordability of the series meant that there was often more than fifty cars in the field.
The all in excitement of the Honda Michelin series has never been duplicated in Canada, until now.
Conceived to showcase the fun to drive factor and dependability of the all new Nissan Micra, the Micra Cup has achieved those goals and far more in just one season. Series founder Jacques Deshaies, a graduate of the Honda Michelin series himself told me that all weekend at he was being approached by fans who said they had made the drive up to Tremblant specifically to watch the Micra Cup.
The series is just one season old and already has a loyal following. I heard more cheering for on track action yesterday afternoon than I heard at any NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race all season. Why? Because the racing is FANTASTIC!
Saturday racing action
With the title still to be determined, 24 cars set off for Saturday’s race under bright skies. The desperation to win evident, there were constant battles from the front of the pack to the back markers. The lead group consistently included championship contenders Olivier Bedard and Stefan Rzadinski and that always competitive Spenard. The trio diced hard throughout the race, often swapping positions.
For the most part, the racing is quite clean, without the bumping and banging of those earlier single marque series, largely because of the modern trend away from “avoidable contact”. Bedard had been leading for some time, until a bit of an altercation saw the black Micra fall back due to front suspension damage. Rzadinski took the win, followed by Spenard, until that is, the race stewards had a closer look. In the end, Rzadinski and Spenard were both penalized 30 seconds. That bumped rookie of the year contender Marc-Antoine Demers to the top spot, followed by GT Academy winners Tharanoj Thanasitnitikate and Abhinay Bikkani.
The season finale race
The place had an excited energy on Sunday morning, as fans lined much of the track, anticipating an exciting finish to the season. They were not to be disappointed.
The racing was fierce from front to back. It really was inspiring to watch every competitor, regardless of their personal speed(remember, the cars are all the same), had someone to race against, meaning that fans had something to get excited about through the entire race.
By the time the checkered flag was waved, Rzadinski and Spenard had again taken the top spots, followed on the podium by Antoine Bessette.
In a post race release, Christian Meunier, president of Nissan Canada said: “I couldn’t be happier with the first Micra Cup season! We had almost 30 drivers from different backgrounds – go karting, open wheel, other racing series – and some who are entirely new to racing. It’s exciting to see how they compete around some truly challenging tracks and in front of huge audiences,”
For his part, Deshaies is delighted with the success of the season, saying “We knew there was a need for a spec series in Canada, and we’ve proven it with the success of the Nissan Micra Cup! We’re excited to bring an affordable racing series to Canada that puts the drivers’ talent before the budget,” and is already looking to the future.
2016 will be an exciting second season for Micra Cup and this guy hopes beyond hope that we will see the series expand to include Ontario venues!