After months of preparation and some very successful sessions of pre-season testing, Doug Fortin brought his #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./General Tire/Toyota of Escondido Action Sports/Fox Racing Shox/Maxima Racing Oils Toyota to Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park this past weekend, ready to do battle with the rest of the Pro 4 Unlimited field in the 2015 season opening weekend of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Fortin and his “Dream Team” of mechanics, including crew chief Gil Aguirre, felt that they had made significant gains during the off season, noting that they had made both drivetrain improvements and setup changes in an off season where he tested more than he ever had before. Things looked promising during the Friday morning’s practice session, as Fortin posted a time of 48.463 seconds, second quick behind only defending class champion Kyle LeDuc.
Fortin faired well in qualifying that afternoon, posting the fifth quick time, and with a two-row inversion of the qualifying results, he would also line up fifth for the start of that night’s Round 1 main event. Unfortunately, lap one’s chaotic nature was not Fortin’s friend, as two fellow competitors spun him out in the second corner, dropping him all the way back to last place. Fortin lost a lot of ground as a result, but with some help from a few caution flags, Fortin recovered that lost ground and began to pick his way through the pack. The racing was simply chaotic, as the first 11 trips around the track netted just three scored racing laps, and yet by that third racing lap, Fortin was already up to sixth. “It made it fun (getting put to the back), to chase back through the pack,” Fortin said of the challenge to get back to the front. “Everyone’s spread out so you can pick them off one by one.”
Significant competition still laid ahead, with the likes of Bryce Menzies, Carl Renezeder, Rob MacCachren, Adrian Cenni, and LeDuc making up those left to hunt down. However, as the track dried and Fortin’s truck came into its own, the passes kept coming. A rollover by Cenni put Fortin fifth, and when LeDuc over-rotated in the second corner, Fortin picked him off as well. With five laps to go, and the top three still running pretty close together, Fortin began to wind them in with a series of blistering laps. A brief drop in pace for MacCachren dropped him to third, and Fortin quickly shot past him in the next corner to move up to a provisional podium finish. Fortin then made quick work of Menzies, who now ran second, at the end of lap 14, before setting the race’s fastest lap, as well a new track record of 47.361 seconds, on the penultimate lap of the 16-lap race. With too much ground left to make up between himself and Renezeder, Fortin had to settle for second, and wonder what might have been were it not for that first lap spin. “Everybody got to see the #96 come by them, except Carl,” Fortin said, “so we’ll have to do that next time.”
Round 2 qualifying went well once again, and after finishing fourth, Fortin would line up from pole thanks to a two-row inversion. Unfortunately for Fortin, a very aggressive opening lap saw him shuffled back to fourth. After getting roosted badly and being unable to get to a tearoff quickly enough, Fortin couldn’t see to avoid hitting the only part of the first jump on lap two that he couldn’t hit while carrying as much speed as he was, and that resulted in Fortin’s landing sideways, running up into the outside wall and flipping over, breaking his front suspension in the process. Fortin always feels that the second night of racing on any race weekend is his chance to do best, as he doesn’t have to preserve the truck, so ending the race so abruptly was certainly a hard pill to swallow. However, Fortin and the Dream Team will regroup and be back stronger than ever for Rounds 3 and 4, which are now less than five weeks away. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, in the south Phoenix suburb of Chandler, AZ, will host the next weekend of competition, April 24-25, and as this is one of Fortin’s favorite tracks, hopes are high that Doug will see a return to the winner’s circle. “I am really excited about Chandler,” Fortin exclaimed, “because it’s the first track we raced with our new truck last year, so I’m excited to see how far we’ve come in a year. Our setup for the corners should suit the track, because it’s one of the only tracks where you can pass in the corners. Hopefully everything we’ve learned in the last year will come to fruition.”
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
For more information, please visit www.fortinracing.com.