|This is the first Rubber Class race of the day.
Mark Stevens and Jay Esterer tangle in front of me...
|The mixed front-wheel-drive/rear-wheel-drive Rubber Class races
begin with a two-by-two rolling start. I'm starting
19th on the grid of 26 starters, according to the car's
current points ranking in the Rubber standings.
Mark Stevens, in the rainbow coloured #24 Chevette, gets a little out of shape as he's forced to leave room for the blue VW pushing by him on the outside.
On the right, Lionel McKernan in the green #55 tracks smoothly through this tight corner, leaving lots of running room for me to his left.
The blue VW and Mark both lose a bit of momentum, making me ease off the throttle for a moment. Lionel tries to pass them both on the right. But that won't work because it puts him on the slick ice surface outside of the racing line in the following left hander, exactly as happened to me earlier during the start of the first Chevette race in image #8.
|The two VW Rabbits that started ahead of me now disappear down the
long front straight due to their stronger engines and front-wheel-drive
(FWD) traction. They are undeniably faster on the straights.
But I'm convinced the Chevettes are better handling cars and quicker in the corners, not to mention that the tail out driving style of rear-wheel-drive is WAY more fun! Several times over the weekend one of those Rabbits would blow past me at the end of the straightaway, only to get in my way in the next corner. FWD cars take really bizarre lines through corners!
My momentary hesitation on the throttle costs me now as Mark begins to pull away.
As I shift up into third gear, Jay Esterer in the black #9 comes flying past me. Jay has an uncanny knack of nailing his starts perfectly, then blowing past several cars in the opening stages of every race.
|All the way off to the right, Lionel is easing away from me as
well. But he has lost a bit of ground to Mark.
Another perpetual front runner, Kevin Sakaluk in the orange #8 car also cruises past me on the right.
My car doesn't seem to pull as strongly in third gear.
|On the left, Mark is having difficulties slowing his car for the
hairpin because he's offline on the slick black ice surface. He's destined
to slide wide of the apex.
Jay, in the black car, even though he did pull right up alongside Mark, wisely chooses not to try a pass around the outside into the tight left hairpin. Instead he brakes early to cut in behind Mark.
Lionel is stranded on the far right. Always the gentleman, he patiently waits for Jay to move before starting his own turn. But when Mark eventually slides wide, it leaves Lionel with no other option than to run wide all the way around the outside. As a result, he's completely hosed. Even I, from way back here, end up passing Lionel in this corner.
Of the bunch, Kevin in the orange car, just off screen to the right, is best positioned for this corner.
| Mark (Blue/Red) slides too deep and Jay (Black) cuts
inside. On the exit, Jay should be able to squeeze Mark to the
outside edge of the track.
Kevin (Orange) is well positioned to get on the gas earlier, and should move up to make it three across on the exit. From there he'll have the inside line into the following left hander.
I (Yellow) hold my breath and wait to see what shakes out.
Lionel (Green) is basically screwed.
|While Mark and Jay are still getting turned around, Kevin is already
hard on the throttle and building momentum to pass left of Jay.
Unfortunately everyone will suddenly be forced to change their plans...
Typical for some of the wacky and unpredictable front-wheel-drive cars, that blue VW Rabbit on the outside is taking an unconventional line around this hairpin.
|From deep on the outside of the turn, and despite having all kinds of
room available to his right, the VW cuts straight across the nose of
Mark's car in order to exit the hairpin positioned in the very middle of
the track! Where the *%$# is he going?
Jay is squeezing from the left, the VW leaves no room on the right, Mark has nowhere to go and spins, collecting Jay in the process.
Watch on the video how Kevin, already going quicker than Jay, almost rear-ends Jay's car and instantly abandons his plan of passing on the left, instead changing course to the right without touching anyone.
When I grow up, I'd like to be as good a driver as Kevin. I never even saw the VW until studying the video tape today.
|Mark spins off to the left, taking Jay with him.
Kevin has lost a bit of momentum, so I am able to keep right up with him as I accelerate in first gear onto the back straight.
Note how much space the VW had available on the right.
|I keep thinking this car just isn't pulling as strongly as it did last
year. It's great in first gear. Second gear is okay
too. But it starts feeling flat the moment I shift up to third.
To compensate I've been revving it higher as long as I can in second gear before upshifting. But the engine really doesn't feel any happier at higher revs. It's making lots of noise, but it seems to run out of breath at higher revs.
In this image you can see Kevin's rear tires momentarily kick up rooster tails of snow when he shifts up to third gear. Watch for the telltale puffs of snow on the video, then listen how much longer than Kevin I'm holding second gear before upshifting.