Two of the most accomplished racers from the province of Quebec stood toe-to-toe at the conclusion of Saturday night’s 100-lap Serie ACT event at Autodrome St-Eustache (QC). With fans on their feet, Alex Labbe, the 2014 series champion, and fan favorite Patrick Laperle waged an intense battle over the course of the final 10 laps. The duo swapped paint and banged doors coming to the checkered flag on the final lap before Labbe was able to inch ahead at the finish line to score the victory. The battle didn’t end there, however.
Admittedly frustrated, Laperle pounded on the back bumper of Labbe’s No. 48 until both cars ended up in the gravel over the top of turn one. There, the two driver’s exchanged words and stood face-to-face.
“I gave it everything I had,” Labbe told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I settled for second right on the restart and then I went to make a charge on the last lap. I caught him and tried to stick my nose to the inside of him three or four times before. On the last lap going into three, Laperle just drove it right down to the apron going into the corner. He pushed a little bit in the middle of the corner, so I just kept my race line and drove right to the bottom of him. We were door-to-door and hit a little bit in the doors but I raced him to the finish line.
“He tried to wreck me like twice when I passed him. He tried to hit me in the right rear quarter (panel) and send me into the wall. Then going into turn one he just drove right into my back bumper and spun me right off of the track. It got a little bit hot, but it was okay. We went our separate ways after we said everything we needed to say.”
Laperle, who is known to be one of the most passionate and emotional drivers at the race track, was extremely frustrated with the way he was passed for the lead. He believed that Labbe put his tires below the white line and pulled a “bump and pass” in order to win the race.
“He was a bit better than me coming into turn three,” said Laperle. “He touched me and moved me up. They said that I opened the door. It’s much easier if you’re on the inside and want to move a guy up than if you’re on the outside to move the guy down on the flat track. It’s almost impossible. They said that I moved up and they said it was not a bump and pass.
“They said that I opened the door, but f— that. I’ve got enough experience and I’m not going to open the door. If the guy is faster than me, pass on the outside. I know that St-Eustache is pretty hard to pass on the outside. He tried to dump me like three times the last five laps and passed me on the pit road. I’m not going to live with that. I was right on the white line and he pushed me and that’s it.”
The final 10 laps of the race, including the battle between Laperle and Labbe can be seen starting at roughly the 2:00 minute mark.
According to Labbe, Laperle opened the door by trying to enter the turn right on the white line and pushing up in the middle of the corner. At that point when the door opened, Labbe believed that he had to do what he had to do in order to score the checkered flag for his team.
“He didn’t expect me to pass him there so he was really upset,” Labbe stated. “He never thought he would have finished second I think, so he was really upset with that. He was accusing me of using the bumper to pass him. I was faster than him like every lap in the middle of that corner. My car really rotated really good. He just tried to protect the inside and I just drove right under him and got the win.”
After the checkered flag waved, Laperle admittedly drove right into the back bumper of Labbe and sent both cars flying over the turn one banking. For Laperle, the move was one that he thought he needed to make in order to make his frustrations known.
“I said, ‘you mother f——, you’re not going to go with your car to the start-finish line to get the trophy,’ so I dumped him and that’s it,” Laperle said in a phone conversation with Speed51.com. “He pushed me I don’t know how many times. I said, ‘F— him, I’m going to push him in the grass.’ I was pissed and he was pissed right after the race. It’s been like that in racing for so many years. You go so fast and then you’re mad and you do stuff that you regret or something. But I did it and I’m going to be able to live with that.”
Once the two drivers were stopped in turn one, Labbe unbuckled from his car and approached Laperle. The two exchanged words before Laperle was able to exit his car. The tension between the two began to escalate from there before officials were able to separate the two and send Labbe down the frontstretch to victory lane.
“I just wanted to go talk to him and he grabbed me by the suit and tried to pull me,” said Labbe. “There was like five guys from his team that came to my car and wanted to push me. I don’t mind. I just do what I have to do. They’re not going to change anything in my driving style by pushing me or coming with their big arms. I know they’re big people, but I have to do what I have to do on the track and that’s my job.
“I’ve got way more people on my side than they got on their side so I don’t really care. As long as my team is on my side that is all that matters to me.”
Despite being two of the most accomplished Late Model racers in Quebec, Labbe and Laperle hadn’t tangled for a couple of years prior to their clash on Saturday. According to Laperle, the two even enjoyed a meal together at Hooters when they visited New Smyrna Beach, Florida this past winter during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
“It’s stuff that happened many years ago,” Laperle said when asked about any previous incidents between himself and Labbe. “We were in Florida this winter and we went to Hooters together and stuff like that. He was driving our truck because when we were at Hooters we had a couple beers and had a good time.”
Labbe also admitted that the two were becoming friends off of the race track, but he also admitted that he doesn’t go to the race track to make friends.
“We used to have a couple issues like a couple of years ago, but it’s been a couple of years,” Labbe said. “We were becoming friends, but we don’t go racing to make friends. I had to win that race for my team. We had the fastest car down there. We had to bring that checkered back and it’s a good thing for the points and everything. I had to get that win for my team and that’s what I did.”
Despite currently leading the Serie ACT championship standings, Laperle said that Saturday night’s incident has him questioning whether or not he will continue his chase for the title. At 40 years old, the St. Denis, Quebec driver is sick and tired of going to the race track and leaving frustrated.
“If I’m not able to go racing and have fun anymore, I’m going to pick and choose my races,” stated Laperle. “I’m sick and tired of trying to fight for my point. I’m not going to spend my summer at the race track and be mad at people. I’ve been racing for 17 years. You go racing in the U.S against Joey Pole or Nick Sweet and those guys for the lead for 25 laps at Plattsburgh and we never touched. Come to Quebec and bang-bang. It’s always like that and I’m sick and tired.
“I’m tired of being yelled at and yelling at people and being mad at people. Maybe I’m getting too old or something, but something is wrong.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Sylvain Morin