by Denis Bourbonnais
Remy Leblanc has gone through the gamut of scenarios since he captured the Hydro 350 class points championship in September 2017.
The following year, the Campivallensien driver had a 2nd consecutive title in his sights at the last meeting of the season in Beauharnois when a broken pontoon thwarted the H-799 team’s plans.
After taking a break in 2019, the construction contractor accepted the offer to drive the Grand Prix class “Miss Cleopatra” in preparation for 2020. However, the COVID-19 virus forced the cancellation of the season and Rémy Leblanc subsequently decided to cut ties with the Grand Prix team to find his sidekick Michel Arsenault within the “H-799” team.
“I wanted to come back to the H-350 to continue what we had started, and I was interested in a season shortened by 4 events. The boat is ready but now that the 2021 season has been cancelled, I want to move on to something else”, said the 44-year-old racer.
Rémy Leblanc plans to hang up his helmet for family and professional reasons, so he will not be back behind the wheel of a hydroplane in 2022. However, he is not closing the door on a possible return to drive a Grand Prix boat in the Hydroplane Racing League.
“It didn’t work out with the “Miss Cleopatra” team but I would like to fulfill my dream of driving in Grand Prix. If the opportunity arises in the future, I’ll be listening”, he says.
The ultimate in 2017
Rémy Leblanc got a taste for motorsports by hanging out with his friend Martin Rochon in karting competitions. In 2013, he was part of Martin’s HRL team in the Hydro 350 class and that’s all it took to launch a new career in hydroplanes.
During his first two campaigns on the motorboat circuit, Rémy made a name for himself in the 2.5 liter and Formula 2500 classes at the controls of the “Vegas” S\F-99, finishing on the podium at the 2015 Régates de Valleyfield thanks to a 2nd place finish in the final. He moved up to the competitive Hydro 350 class in 2016, inheriting the seat of the “Bergeron” boat piloted in previous years by Ghislain Marcoux (El Diablo H-666) and François Dumouchel (Lamborghini Montreal H-9).
Leblanc quickly established himself as one of the drivers to watch and in 2017, he delighted his supporters by becoming the season champion aboard the H-799. This accomplishment came in the very last start of the campaign in Gananoque, Ontario.
“The final race awaited by all hydroplane racing fans met the highest expectations”, wrote the author of these lines in the pages of the Journal Saint-François. “Remy Leblanc and Jimmy King, engaged in a battle to finish for the 2017 championship, kept fighting until the last moment of the season. It was all settled on the course, one on one, in one of the most exciting races in the 10-year history of the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL).”
A small point separated Remy Leblanc from Jimmy King before the final race, held under a blazing sun and in ideal weather conditions. At the end of an epic duel that lasted 5 laps, only 2 seconds separated the winner from his rival at the finish line.
“Remy Leblanc, the new champion of the most competitive hydroplane class in the HRL, did things in a big way. Starting in the 3rd lane, the Coteau-du-Lac driver got a nose start on the H-799 and exited the first turn tied with Jimmy King (Pleasure Seekers H-12) and Patrick Haworth (Bad Influence H-79). Leblanc and King then stayed side by side for most of the feature until the Quebec racer defeated the veteran driver from Wales, Michigan on the last lap to take the title by 5 points”, said the “Saint-François”.
Leblanc opened the machine wide, setting the fastest time of the weekend (3m32.00) while King set the second fastest time of the weekend (3m34.82) in this race that made HRL history. “It’s quite a feeling to win a championship in this manner. We didn’t really have a chance to compete in the finals this summer because of the bad weather. Finally, we were able to battle it out on the water. I’m happy for my team members who must receive a lot of the credit for our success this season”, commented the champion, who took the traditional winner’s tumble in front of the spectators in the waters of the St. Lawrence River.
For Remy Leblanc, it was the ultimate feat in his 5 years in the HRL. “Definitely the best feeling I have had behind the wheel of a hydroplane. I’ve watched the race over 100 times and I still feel the same emotions”, describes the 2017 champion.
A year later, at the 12th Régates de Beauharnois, Remy Leblanc experienced the opposite feeling as he saw his quest for the season championship slip away due to a major breakdown. Holding an 11-point lead going into the final weekend, he suffered damage on his first start of the day and lost the right side of the H-799.
“In my 5 years of competing in the HRL, I experienced the pinnacle as a driver in 2017 and unfortunately, my biggest disappointment in 2018 when the championship slipped away from us. That’s part of racing, anything can happen when the stakes are high”, summarized Rémy Leblanc, who does not reject the idea of returning one day behind the wheel of a hydroplane.
Photo credit: Marc-André Rhéaume