Hot on the heels of a very promising weekend in Reno, Doug Fortin brought his “Dream Team” and the #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./General Tire/Toyota of Escondido Action Sports/Fox Racing Shox/Maxima Racing Oils Toyota south to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Rounds 15 and 16 of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, where he was again a top contender throughout the weekend.
Fortin had yet another new General Tire available to him this weekend, and having been unable to test this new offering before the race weekend, Fortin used the Thursday practice sessions to get himself acquainted with the new shoes. After two runs getting a feel for the tires and setup on Thursday, Fortin jumped up to third quick on the Friday morning practice session, before scoring a very solid fourth in qualifying. With a six-position inversion, Fortin would start on the inside of the front row, and that’s where he remained after a chaotic opening lap. Fortin held station for the early portion of the race, but when leader Bryce Menzies dropped out with a mechanical issue, Fortin moved right in to challenge new leader Rob MacCachren for the top spot. All of the top four drivers were running very close, pushing the pace to the limit, and unfortunately, Fortin found that limit in turn two on lap 12, as he hooked a rut and bicycled hard, his truck turning almost perfectly perpendicular to the ground in an instant. “I tried to ride it out,” Fortin says, “but then I hooked another rut and went for a ride.” Rolling clear over the outside k rail, Fortin broke an upper control arm and bent some bolts, ending his night early.
Undeterred by his misfortune the night before, Fortin came back out with a very solid truck for Round 16 qualifying, and for the first time this season, it was Fortin who came out on top. Edging his good friend Carl Renezeder by a very close 0.058 seconds, Fortin bested a field in which the top ten competitors were covered by just 1.111 seconds, a real display of just how competitive this Pro 4 Unlimited class really is. Unfortunately, though, a four-position inversion would put Fortin back on the outside of row 2 of the starting grid.
Again, Fortin kept calm through the chaotic early laps of the race, yet still managed to move quickly up to third thanks to an error on the part of Greg Adler. Another error, this time by the leader MacCachren, put Fortin up to second, but he had his mirrors full of points leader Kyle LeDuc. For ten laps, Fortin and LeDuc waged an absolutely epic battle for second place, one that had everyone in the grandstands out of their seats and on the tips of their toes, watching eagerly as LeDuc repeatedly stuck his nose in on Fortin, only to have Fortin put himself right in the preferred line and shut the door on LeDuc. “I had to be fairly defensive,” Fortin said, “so Bryce (the leader) got away. It was hard to concentrate on running down Bryce when Kyle was so close; I wasn’t gonna leave any door open, and the inside line is pretty fast on that track.” Fortin drove with incredible grit and determination to hold of the class’ most aggressive driver, and those in attendance certainly came away with a new-found respect for the buggy guy turned Pro 4 contender.
“I tend to drive better and more focused when I’ve got pressure,” Fortin says, and that was certainly backed up on this night, as Fortin kept LeDuc at bay for over ten laps. Finally, LeDuc just got a nose ahead of Fortin, only to spin out just seconds later, before dropping well back with an issue. Finally free to fight forward, Fortin now had to deal with a flat tire, which had already been hampering him for a few laps. “I went into ‘protect second place’ mode,” Fortin says, “because I knew Carl was coming.” Fortin did hold Renezeder off, and although his finish was a second place, it was certainly a very popular podium amongst the fans, who cheered wildly at having just witnessed the race of the season so far.
The season will come to a close next month, as in five weeks’ time, the series returns to Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park for the final regular season race of the year, Round 17, as well as the ever-exciting Challenge Cup. A winner of the Pro Lite Unlimited versus Pro Buggy Unlimited Challenge Cup back in 2010, Fortin hopes to capture the even more prestigious Pro 2 Unlimited versus Pro 4 Unlimited Challenge Cup title at a track where he has shown some very promising speed earlier this season, as well as sew up a very respectable fourth place in the championship standings. With just five points separating himself and Renezeder, it should be an exciting weekend of racing in southern California.
Doug would like to thank all of his sponsors for their valued and continued support:
Fortin Racing, Inc.
Toyota of Escondido Action Sports
Fox Racing Shox
Maxima Racing Oils
Method Race Wheels
Weldon Racing Pumps
Automotive Racing Products
McGrath Fiberglass Products
Gibson Performance Exhaust
Cool It Thermo-Tec