Mike Poupart Motorsports

130 Veterans Boulevard, Suite E              Kenner, Louisiana  70062   USA
Phone: 504-472-0400                     E-mail: mpmotorworks@bellsouth.net

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Grand Bayou Charity Challenge Road Race
June 3, 2007

By:  Patty & Mike Poupart
Photos by:  Donald Tusa & Dennis Denuna (posted online at Poupart Photos)

    What began as an idea to have a road race to highlight sports car racing in southeast Louisiana and raise money for a charity at the same time quickly turned into a major fundraiser with support events all working for the same worthy cause.  With only 10 weeks of planning, and help from many sources, the Inaugural Grand Bayou Charity Challenge was able to present a check for $12,000.00 to UnlockingAutism.org, a national grassroots organization founded by Shelley Reynolds, of Louisiana, that offers help and links to resources for parents of autistic children.  We learned that our donation would fund the organization's 24/7 hotline for a whole year!  The event took place on Sunday, June 3, 2007 on the challenging 1.8 mile - 14 turn Grand Bayou Race Circuit at No Problem Raceway Park
in Belle Rose, LA.  The Grand Bayou Race Series regulars provided exciting sports car road racing for the spectators and race fans alike.  Other fun events were held during the day including a 2-mile run, touring laps on the road course and a cruise-in for street rods, classic and exotic cars.  There were vendor booths, door prizes, 50/50 ticket sales and live music during the lunch break provided by Amanda Shaw and The Cute Guys.  There are so many people who volunteered their time and efforts to make this event happen, but huge thanks must be given to our co-organizers, Chris & Lois Wilken.

    Now for the inside scoop on the event from the race team's point of view.

    Mike Poupart Motorsports presented four cars to run in this event beginning with the #144 ex-Speedvision Cup Competition Coupe Viper driven by Mike Poupart.  Mike was joined in the Super Production class by Johnny Walter, driving the #98 Liberto Cleaners Corvette; Christian Francois, driving his #77 Corvette; and rookie, Robbie Poupart, driving the team's newly acquired #29 "Lumaro" (Camaro bumpers on a Lumina body) (actually an ex-Kelly American / IMSA GTO car), which only made it to the race due to the donation of a starter and used tires from Johnny Walter.  With all of the event excitement, the teams and drivers pulled together to help each other during the busy day with John Walter, Johnny's son, leading the way to make sure everyone's details were taken care of.  Mike Murphy helped Robbie throughout the day on details from fuel and tires to repairs and moral support.  Patty was busy being the MC (Mistress of Ceremonies) all day making public service announcements and calling the afternoon heat/feature races taking her away from her usual crew/photographer duties.

    Robbie's day did not start well.  He got a flat tire on the trailer on the way to the track in the morning.  His newly mounted race tires did not fit under the front fender wells of the car which necessitated trimming the body to make them fit.  Then, while moving Mike's dually to go run a quick errand, Christian ran over the front nose of Robbie's car which was sitting on the ground.  Now the decision to trim the body to make the tires fit didn't seem so drastic.  Using an assortment of tools to cut the fenders and taping up the rough edges, a bit of help from Christian and Mike Murphy, and a few encouraging words from family & friends, Robbie managed to make it to the grid in time for the practice session.  This was the first seat time he was getting in the car and, with no power steering, the car would be a monster to drive all day. 

    The practice session went well. Everyone came in early for different reasons. Robbie wanted to get an assessment of the new car, Mike had other event duties to attend to and Christian was developing a power steering leak.  The qualifying session was interesting.  Robbie spent most of it parked near the big oak tree off the side of the turn 1 runoff due to a wire that fell off the fuel pickup.  Mike's session was short again, only about 3 laps, but that was because he was hurrying to give Amanda Shaw a ride in the Viper before the session was over and she started to play music during the extended lunch break.  Christian's power steering leak became worse and un-repairable.  He qualified his Corvette in mid-pack, but did not run the feature race. 

    A special treat was in store for the drivers and spectators as Amanda Shaw sang the national anthem from the microphone in the drag race tower followed by a group of youngsters on the grid who gave the call for "Gentlemen, start your engines!"  The engines fired up and got the excitement level up high as the cars pulled out onto the track led by a Louisiana State Police Officer driving a Camaro police cruiser doubling as a pace car for the day.   At the front of the starting grid for the Super Production /GTO / Vintage V8 feature race would be Mike Poupart in the #144 Viper (SP) in P1, Johnny Walter in the #98 Corvette (SP) in P2, Ralph Wicker in the #24 Monte Carlo (SP) in P4, Steven Melton in the #21 Corvette (GTO) in P5, and Robbie Poupart in the #29 Lumaro in P6, followed by Mark Summers in the #88 Camaro (GTO) in P7 and newcomer to NPR, Bill Ironside, in his recently acquired #44 GT1 Oldsmobile (SP) in P8. The field would be thirteen cars deep with only two Vintage V8 cars in the mix.

    With lights flashing, a State Trooper led the group onto the racing circuit.  When he got to turn 8, he got the signal from the tower to drop off.  The lights on the car went out and it sped away from the field in order to clear turn 10 before the green flag was shown to the racers.  Mike brought the field down nice and slow.  When the green flag waved, Mike and Johnny went side by side through turns 10 and 11. Mike slipped a little on the outside and Johnny got the jump and led into turn 12.  And so the race began. There was never more than a car length between Johnny and Mike for the whole race, but Mike could not get by for the lead.  During the race, Robbie's car was smoking in most of the long right hand turns and he was experiencing intense heat from the exhaust system.  His steering wheel was also hot to the touch even with his driving gloves.  As the race neared the end, Wicker had already dropped out, Robbie had passed Melton and was running 3rd overall staying ahead of the remaining GTO drivers.  He fought the idea each lap to come in, but he knew it was close to the end and he would be mad if he quit just before the last lap.  Being a Poupart, he doesn't know the word "quit" and stayed out there.  After all he had been through all day, Robbie never quit.  The decision paid off.  He finished 1st in GTO and 3rd overall behind his Dad, Mike Poupart (2nd in SP) and Johnny Walter (1st in SP). We used the "Cool Shirt" system from the Viper to help Robbie recover from the heat and the fumes while we stood around and celebrated the 1-2-3 overall finish with two class wins for Mike Poupart Motorsports.

    We are very proud of Robbie for taking the class win in GTO in his very first road race, especially under the conditions he had with the car.  With some new exhaust, power steering, some real service and tires we are sure he will be a regular threat, possibly even to Super Production.            

    As event organizers, we want to thank ALL the drivers in ALL the classes.  Their entry fees went directly towards the fund raising efforts as did the entry fees from the 2-mile runners.  We had a good turnout from the spectators and we don't think anyone can say they didn't have a good time.  We're already talking about next year and the possibility of a 2-day event!
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