By Denis Bourbonnais
The 2.5-litre driver Simon Fortin is a front-line warrior in every sense of the term.
On the powerboating circuit of the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL), the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield 25-year-old has a front-line position aboard his boat, the “Fortin Motorsports” S-199. In his everyday life, Simon provides care as a healthcare professional. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the respiratory therapist must deal with the risks of COVID-19 spread while performing his duties at the Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown.
“You constantly have to live with the risk of taking the virus back to your home and contaminating your family,” explains Simon Fortin whose girlfriend Olivia Hamilton is also a first-line worker as a nurse. Last December, right before the holidays, 35 employees and around 20 patients were affected by a COVID-19 outbreak within the Haut-Saint-Laurent healthcare facility.
While reiterating his confidence in winning the battle against the virus if compliance with sanitary measures is observed, Simon is eager to get back to the sport he has loved since he was a young boy. His uncle, Jean-Luc Fortin, highly skilled mechanic and owner of the “Vision” CE-25 in the 5-litre class in the ‘90s, led the way for the next generation. Growing up in a favourable environment to grow fond of the sport, he followed his dream to drive a hydroplane.
“The Régates de Valleyfield have always been the event of the year for me. I was always in the pits and it was the weekend that made me the happiest. I was hoping to get my boat as soon as I could. Today, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to drive a hydroplane at my age,” appreciates Simon Fortin.
After acting as Tommy Shannon’s crew member for 3 years within the “Pièces d’autos Valleyfield” S-4 team, the young man stepped behind the wheel for the first time in August 2018 in North Tonawanda (N.Y.). What was supposed to be a test run at first quickly became a need to feed the hunger for adrenaline.
Simon Fortin acquired Yan Lecompte’s F-28 and, as a driver/owner, he participated in the Régates de Beauharnois a few weeks later. His first complete season, in 2019, was spent under the premise of learning and he wants to build on this experience to improve his ranking during the next campaign.
Modifications were made to the “Auld/Henderson” hull with which Eric Langevin won the championship and grabbed a victory in the final heat at the Régates de Valleyfield. The motorist Claude Tremblay built an engine that should improve the performance of the hydroplane, which also sports a new paint job.
Amongst his objectives for the season to come, Simon would like to step on his first podium or obtain a 4th position in a final. He believes the championship race is open in the 2.5-litre class with the return of many 2nd year drivers and the arrival of a few rookies.
“The 2.5-litre class remains competitive despite the constant changes. The group of drivers is different each year with the first three drivers in the ranking graduating to Formula 2500 and the new ones making their debut. It is the perfect class to begin in the sport,” explains Simon Fortin.
Stressing the importance of relying on a good team, the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield resident realizes the privilege he had to learn the ropes of hydroplane racing alongside Norman and Tommy Shannon. Simon and his “S-199” crew are even next to their counterparts of the “Pièces d’autos Valleyfield” team in the pits during HRL events.
Simon Fortin counts on his sponsors and the diligence of his crew members on his journey to success. “Winning is a team effort. I am lucky to have teammates that support me and give me advice on different spheres,” mentions the driver who enjoys the services of a sports psychologist.
“My crew members make considerable efforts and put hours upon hours of work on the team’s operations. That’s what makes it worth it to work towards victory,” concludes Simon Fortin.