08 Jun Sibling rivalry brewing in Canadian Touring Car Championship
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Having a father who owns a car dealership definitely has its benefits. When that dealership specializes in expensive sports cars, it’s even better.
George Sahakian is the president and CEO of United Auto in Boisbriand, which deals in high-end, pre-owned vehicles. His son, Chris, inherited his father’s love for fast cars and decided to get into competitive racing two years ago after picking up more than a few speeding tickets while driving some very fancy automobiles at a young age.
“I really do wish I had started earlier,” Chris said about racing on a track instead of the highways.
But the 24-year-old has been a quick learner.
Last year, Chris won the overall Canadian Touring Car Championship while driving a Ford Mustang Boss 302S for his father’s United Auto Racing team. The series holds races in Quebec and Ontario with several classes of cars, including BMW (Mini), Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota, GM and Ford. They are production cars with limited modifications, and races are held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., Calabogie Motorsports Park near Belleville, Ont., Circuit ICAR in Mirabel and the GP3R track in Trois-Rivières.
“It was something I never expected,” Chris said about his championship last year. “I never thought I’d finish in first place, but halfway through the season we looked at the points and I was leading. I’ve learned in racing that the race is not won in the first corner. It’s about strategy, it’s about playing the tires that you have and playing the car right. So we played to that edge.
“The basic was something that my coach taught me at the beginning: always start and always finish and you’ll always get points and you’ll finish high in the standings. And that was my edge in the end.”
Chris is looking to defend his title this season and will face a challenge from someone he knows very well. Younger sister Ashley, 21, is driving a second Ford Mustang this year for United Auto Racing.
“Intimidating is a little much,” Chris said with a smile. “But I’ve never been the one to turn down from a challenge, so I love the fact that she’s there. It gives me a little bit of edge in a way that I get to push her and help her.”
Ashley, like her brother, grew up driving flashy automobiles and her first car was a red Audi A5, which she used to get her license at age 16.
“I’ve grown up around cars all my life and I’ve always liked to drive fast,” said Ashley. “I actually wanted to start race-car driving way younger, but never had the time.”
Ashley was busy studying at John Abbott College and then the John Molson School of Business. She has also done modelling work and won the Miss Quebec Globe Pageant in 2015.
“I grew up with cool cars, my mom and dad would always switch cars,” said Ashley, who along with her brother works at her father’s dealership. “It was cool growing up in that atmosphere and that really brought out my passion for cars.
“I feel way safer in a race car with professional drivers on the track rather than on the street or the highway with people who don’t know how to drive,” Ashley added, noting she is strapped into a five-point harness with a neck brace while racing. “For me, being in a race car I feel safe, I feel great, and going fast makes me so excited.”
Ashley said her father doesn’t get nervous when his kids are out driving one of the fast sports cars from his lot.
“He trusts us,” she said. “He knows my brother and I know how to drive. He even let me drive his Ferrari, an F430. It’s so fun. I love cars.”
Chris said the sports cars he has driven that impressed him the most were a Dodge Hellcat for its “raw power” and a Corvette Z06, with 650 horsepower, which drove “like it was on rails.”
But for now the Sahakian siblings, who live in Dollard, are focused on their Ford Mustang race cars with Chris driving car No. 99 and Ashley No. 7. After the first stop of the season last month at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Victoria Day weekend, Chris sits in first place in the overall standings with 240 points and Ashley is eighth with 95. The next stop is June 17 at Calabogie Motorsports Park.
Ashley said she isn’t feeling any added pressure competing against her brother.
“I guess I get the same pressure as anyone else,” she said. “But the goal is to beat my brother and the other guys, so there’s a bit of pressure there trying to beat my brother and showing that I’m as good as him. But other than that, I don’t feel much pressure.
“The goal this year would be to beat my brother in at least one race. Even if I beat him once, it would make me happy. Bragging rights forever.”