Talking Racing With County Native Phil LaPointe

Episode 86

December 28, 2015

Van Buren native Philip Lapointe and I met  in Caribou recently to catch  up on his latest adventures . HTF Motorsports photo

Van Buren native Philip Lapointe and I met in Caribou recently to catch up on his latest adventures . HTF Motorsports photo

Philip LaPointe and I chatted for several hours last Wednesday at the Caribou Municipal Airport. The time flew by as we discussed racing and projects that Philip was involved in at Honda Performance Development (HPD).

In earlier episodes you may recall that Philip was a part of the team at HPD working on the Honda Indy Car aero packages, SCCA B-Spec Fit, the Formula F (formerly Formula Ford) SCCA racer, and a host of other projects.

He has now moved back to Marysville, Ohio where he is the Director of Technical Information at Honda Research & Development Americas INC> His headquarters are located in Raymond, Ohio.

He and his wife Amy like the Ohio area and wanted to get their children into smaller schools with more favorable student-teacher ratios. Son, Peter, is a freshman and daughter Sarah is an eighth grade student.

LaPointe enjoyed his six year stint at HPD where his technical knowledge and management prowess was stretched, shaped, and molded by the rapidly changing world of motorsports.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) released photos of their 2015 IndyCar short track aero package. Compare it to the Chevy aero kit in Episode 45

Honda Performance Development (HPD) photos of their 2015 short track and road course Indy Car. Photo courtesy Honda Racing

What I most enjoyed was the part he and HPD had in developing the aero kits for the 2015 Indy Cars. It was amazing all the work that goes into developing, testing, building, and distributing those kits.

Before closing out this phase of his career at Honda, LaPointe was to get work started on the 2016 aero modifications as well as Formula Four.

The purchase of the LaPointe’s home in Marysville was a typical gearhead buy. The home included a three and one half car garage where LaPointe will be able to spend more time working on his Formula F and Porsche 911 cars. He also mentioned possible Chump Car Series forays as well as getting his private pilots license.

One prediction of mine will be that LaPointe is not done with the racing side of his career. I suspect Honda and he are working on something which will utilize the Maine native’s passion and skills in motorsports. Look for further developments in future episodes.

At Beaudry's Store in downtown Huntington, Vermont. This was my first chance to try out my daughter's Toyota Sienna van. HTF Motorsports photo

At Beaudry’s Store in downtown Huntington, Vermont. This was my first chance to try out my daughter’s Toyota Sienna van. HTF Motorsports photo

Small Town Vermont Toyota Tour

The purchase of a new family van by my daughter Jessica Courtemanche and husband Christian prompted a mini tour of the local rural country side near their home in Huntington. Vermont reminds me of the contrasts found in many states with their traditional family owned rural areas and urban centers.

The tour included a stop at Beaudry’s Store in the middle of Huntington. The store has one gas pump in front with wavy wooden floors in the store. For Aroostook County natives it reminded me of a larger version of Stan’s at Madawaska Lake minus an eating area. Aisles of snacks, candies, home-made goods, as well as the necessities such as milk, make up the majority of the small interior.

For those of us old enough to remember this was typical of the neighborhood stores sprinkled throughout the north east. Family owned businesses which slowly died out as the automobile made it much easier to venture “in-town” and get supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores.

Beaudry’s fills a niche in this part of Vermont which keeps it alive for who knows how much longer. The owners were in the store and knew just about every one and everything about the goods they sold. The convenience of having gasoline, even though slightly higher priced than larger markets, allows locals to fill up their cans for chainsaws, lawn mowers, and snow sleds.

The north side of Liberty Head Post and Beam in Huntington, Vermont. HTF Motorsports photo

The north side of Liberty Head Post and Beam in Huntington, Vermont. HTF Motorsports photo

Vermont Craftsman Intrigue Me

Part of of our tour in the Courtemanche family’s Sienna van included a stop at Liberty Head Post and Beam owned by Duncan Keir. Those of you who have followed my Vermont travels know that I am always on the look-out for examples of craftsmen who may be in the area.

You may recall my two visits to Restoration Performance Motorcars in Vergennes as well as Vermont Sports Cars in Colchester in previous episodes. I saw true dedication to producing the best race and street performance cars anywhere in the USA. Yet these were in Vermont, a state where many think of granola crunchers rather than high performance cars.

I will continue to seek out these treasures in future trips to the green Mountain State. Meanwhile I am a long time viewer of The New Yankee Worksop , This Old House, and other similar shows. I will never be anywhere near as talented as the people on this programs but admire their knowledge and abilities.

The Liberty Head Post and Beam owned by Duncan Keirs reminds me of that old-time craftsman ship in action. Previous visits to the facility, located on the main road in Huntington, I saw the massive amount of effort needed to transform heavy timber into structural post and beam which was indeed a precise art.

Though I have yet to meet Mr. Keir a note on their wall revealed much to me about their philosphy as builders. It is I suspect the way their name was chosen.

A sign attached to the road side of the Liberty Post and Beam shop. HTF Motorsports photo

A sign attached to the road side of the Liberty Post and Beam shop. HTF Motorsports photo

According to this sign in 1977 the first project they were involved in was the dismembering and restoration of a Colonial home in nearby Hinesburg, Vermont. While removing some timbers, a 1826 Liberty Head penny was discovered. It’s obvious placement lead them so believe it was used to mark the construction date. This is why my unofficial guess as to how their name was chosen may relate to this find.

What impressed me was what appeared to be a mission statement in the article:

” This was the beginning of the fascination with the time-proven art of post and beam framing and desire to preserve and participate in this valuable part of our New England heritage”.

As mentioned previous that I have yet to speak directly to Mr. Keir, ,however, I have talked to Diana Locke of Caribou and her husband Dave Wakana. Diana’s mom is Duncan’s sister I believe. Both Dave and Diana mentioned that Duncan was retirement age and was selling the business. A For Sale sign on the property seems to confirm that idea.

I hope that the next owners continue in the tradition of it’s current owner.

Toyota Connections Needed

The inspiration for this part of the episode started with a short trip with my son-in-law Christian Courtemanche to try out their new 2014 Toyota Sienna van. The purchase of the van was necessitated by the future addition of their third child (our fifth grandchild) to the Courtemanche family next year.

I am impressed with the roominess and performance of the van. The 255 horsepower V6 and six speed transmission provided all the performance the family will need while giving 25 mpg average fuel economy and a roomy interior.

Toyota Sienna at Button Willow Raceway. The race-prepped van claimed to beat a Camaro SS on the race course. Photo courtesy of Toyota Racing

Toyota Sienna at Willow Springs Motorsports Park in California The specially tuned van’s time beat a Camaro SS on the 1.6 mile road race course. Photo courtesy of Toyota Racing

No we did not take a side trip to Willow Springs Motorsports Park near Rosamond California, however, I certainly would not turn down the invitation when the media is allowed to try the 300 +  horsepower van at the track.

The van was prepared for the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas this past fall. Toyota Technical Center and DG-Spec paired up to prepare the van for the show and track. It turned a lap time one second faster than a 425 horsepower Camaro SS.

Officials promised to have both vehicles at the track at the same time in January. I would love to get my hands on either of the two machines. If any of you have connections with Toyota would you use them to get me into that test session?

In the next couple weeks I hope to feature one of the most successful snowmobile racers in northern Maine and a local family that drag races despite the nearest track being over 190 miles away.

See you next year.

Let’s go racing!

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine