|The Lac La Biche - Lakeland Classic Wheels Club hosts this fabulous two-day ice-racing event each year at scenic Lac La Biche, Alberta.|
(I've never actually seen it in summer, but reliable sources swear it looks like this.)
|At the best time of the year, Lac la Biche is white. That's me in the Yellow #79 Chevette, centre of photo, as we're cruising along the back straight on the warmup lap. I'm starting 17th in the Rubber Class race. This is only half of the full starting field. Another 13 cars are off to the left, out of the picture. As we approach the start line the pack slows and bunches up tighter. The green flag waves, and we're off...|
|As you can see from the photo, the lake itself is immense! There is
plenty of room for this generously proportioned ice-racing track.
Check out the width of the track. That makes it easier for passing
or, in my case, being passed. There was a shortage of snow this
season, so the snowbanks lining the track were quite low in non-critical
areas like this. But at the end of the fast straights, the
snowbanks were piled much higher to stop any errant cars.
In addition to the track itself, the pits and a large paddock area on the lake is cleared of snow, providing parking space for trailers and other support vehicles and race cars between races. There is also an area for spectator parking, as well as a ring road that fully circles the outside of the track, allowing spectators to walk or drive to their favourite viewing locations.
|Hot dogs and hamburgers can be purchased from the concession stand. And, for those urgent occasions when the racing excitement (or the hot dogs) get to be too much for you, there are facilities (refreshingly air-conditioned) conveniently located throughout the paddock area.||
||People ask me if I'm ever afraid of falling through the ice. I
mean, really, we're talking about driving cars on a lake here.
Isn't that like um dangerous or something, eh?
I just point at the 10 ton snowplow that cleans the track. If the ice can safely support that behemoth, I figure a little Chevette shouldn't be a problem.
|People who've never visited Northern Alberta in winter generally have no appreciation for how cold it can really get out there.||Lac La Biche Weather||
|When evening falls on the first day of races, everyone retires to "The Trucker's Saloon" where the racers and volunteers are treated to a buffet-style feast. And, early the next morning, a free breakfast is served to all competitors at the La Biche Inn.|
|After everyone has had ample opportunity to satisfactorily stuff
themselves at the buffet dinner; after everyone has exhausted their
various war stories; after they've come to an agreement (or fistfight)
over who was at fault for causing whichever of the many collisions;
after the conclusion of all the back-slapping and final exchanges of
congratulations for any particularly brilliant overtaking moves; after
everyone is good and relaxed...
...only then does the deadly SERIOUS racing finally get underway!
Race challengers pair off for a series of head-to-head elimination races on the saloon's Daytona USA arcade game. Two drivers race against each other, while the others cheer on their favourites. The winners of each round of eliminations receive prizes donated by the Trucker's Saloon.
|Twenty-four racers took part in these special races. The twelve
winners of the first elimination round each received a baseball cap as a
prize, then paired off for a second round of eliminations.
The six survivors of the second round, myself included, each received a T-shirt.
After the third round of eliminations there were only three of us left standing. We each received a very nice winter jacket and $50 cash.
A coin toss determined which one of the three survivors got an immunity
pass (not me) into the final round. I had to race twice to defend
myself against the other two in the semifinal and final races. The
final round was between me and Mark Stevens (a.k.a. "Jeff Gordon").
With that Glorious Victory, I grabbed the title of 2001 Western Canadian Ice-Racing Champion, (Daytona USA - Arcade Class) (WCIRC-DUSA-AC for short). In accepting the award of a hat, a T-shirt, a jacket, and $150 cash, I've finally achieved the pinnacle of success and can now legitimately call myself a paid professional driver (arcade class).
After that grand finish to the day, I headed off to the hotel room with a smile on my face and cash in the pocket of my new jacket. I was hoping for a good night's sleep and dreams of higher successes in the second day's race events. But of course, as is usually the case on these race weekends, very little sleep was achieved that night...