|Four laps into this race, and things start to get
interesting -- not that it's in any way boring to be leading a
race. But in terms of video coverage, there really wasn't much to
see up until this lap.
For the first three laps, Colin in the Black #3 has been closely following me. There are a couple of places where he takes a different line than I do. I still think my line is quicker through the combination corners, but my approach leaves me vulnerable in a couple of spots where Colin has been threatening to make a move on me.
But the next time I checked my mirrors, Colin was gone...
|As we come around to start the 5th lap, there's Colin's
car being extracted from the snowbank!
Ahead of me is the Silver #71 car of Chris Brandt. He was pulled out of a snowbank on the previous lap and rejoined the race just ahead of me. He's anxious to stay ahead of me now, to keep me from putting him a lap down.
|At the moment I still have a comfortable lead over the current
2nd place car of Jim Graham. But I can't afford to be
held up too long behind this car before Jim catches me.
This could be a problem for me. I don't know Chris Brandt at all because he's new this season and I haven't raced with him before. I was hoping, seeing as how I miraculously caught up to lap him within only 5 laps, that it would be easy to get past him.
But actually, he's very quick!
|Watch the video to see what a nice job Chris does of smoothly drifting his car
through this left-right kink, clipping the apexes perfectly.
I've never actually taken the time to look down at the speedometer here, but we're at mid-rpm in 3rd gear so we must be doing somewhere between 80-100km/h (50-60mph) at this point.
Note also that the ice is already much more slippery than it was on the opening lap of this race.
|Right here, coming out of the kink, is where I get my first inkling
of how difficult it might be to do any passing at all.
The snow kicked up from the leading car makes it impossible to see where you're going.
Fortunately there is no other traffic and the track is wide, so I only need to sidestep a bit to get out of his slipstream to where I can see again.
|This is still a dilemma for me. I do need to get past
Chris. But I don't want to crowd him too much yet because I don't
know whether or not I can trust him.
Evidently he is capable of making mistakes, otherwise he wouldn't have been stuck in a snowbank long enough for me to have caught up to him like this.
I'm still leading the race, so I really don't want to take a chance on tangling with a backmarker and getting knocked off the track. But I'll need to do something soon because Jim Graham has already noticeably closed up the gap behind me.
|And then Chris does make a mistake.
Chris is too fast going into the second part of the double-left turn, and consequently he drifts wide on the exit.
I slow right down and keep well to the left.
|Chris is now too tight to the right.
He will either need to slow way down to stay on the right, or he will slide off to the left which'll ruin his approach into the following left turn. Either way, I have a speed advantage in this corner.
Since I approached this turn from the left side of the track, I have the luxury of two options for making a move on Chris. I could run up beside him on the left, or I could wait for him to slide across my nose, then pass on the right.
|Because I was unsure of what Chris would do, I chose to do neither
and instead waited for a safer opportunity.
As it turned out, Chris stayed over to the right, safely leaving the door open for me on the left. But I wasn't convinced that he'd do that for me. Had I stuck my nose in there, he could very easily have drifted wide and pushed me off.
Because I backed off, and because Chris stayed on the right, he now has a much better line through this left-hander than I do and he easily pulls away from me.
|Crossing the line to finish the 5th lap, look at how much
of a gap Chris has created between us over just the short length of the Pits
That's a result of his better exit speed out of the previous corner.
|But he's left his braking too late again and slides wide on the exit.
This leaves him positioned too far left for a good run through the next left-hander onto the straightaway.
Although I'm slower right here, it's really the next corner that makes all the difference.
|Again depending on what Chris does from here, due to my wider
approach I have the luxury of a choice between two options.
Either he will have to be very slow in order to keep his car to the left, in which case I'll pass him on the right. Or he's going to take this corner as fast as he can and drift over to the right, in which case I'll pass him on the left.
|He's scrabbling for grip on the polished ice surface and slides over
to the right edge of the track.
I cut across the slippery stuff and head to the inside where there is better traction.
From here it's just a drag race down the straight. But I have an advantage in that I started onto the straight already with more speed than Chris, I have better traction for acceleration, and I now have the inside line covered into the upcoming hairpin to the left.
|Chris has only three options at this point. He could try to
block me out by blatantly weaving in front of me. I'm very happy
to report that he did not do that. When racing for position, some
people will choose to block. I think it's really tacky to do that,
and it would be inexcusable for lapped traffic to pull such a stunt on
the leader of the race.
You may notice in the video that Chris does squeeze me a bit, but I think that was more an effort to get away from the really slippery far right edge of the track. Or he's trying to compromise my line into the hairpin by squeezing me to the left. But I'm having none of that. I'm tracking in a straight line and I've purposely not cut over into his lane, but left him two car width's of room so as not to crowd him.
His second option would be to try to stay alongside me deep into the braking zone for the hairpin in an effort to make me overshoot the turn. But I won't be suckered into making that mistake.
The third option for Chris, and the best one for me, is for him to concede the position and simply tuck in behind me, which is what he did.
|It was a big relief that I didn't screw up anywhere and throw the
race away. I'm embarrassed to admit that's happened once before in
1999 when I spun out of the lead
with only two corners to go to certain victory.
After passing Chris Brandt, nothing else interesting happened until the chequered flag. I started from pole position, led every lap, and won the first race!
Several Formula One drivers were once asked their opinion of what would be the perfect race. Most said the best would be to start from Pole Position and lead every lap to take the chequered flag. My hero, Gilles Villeneuve, instead said the perfect race would be one where he starts from Pole but has some problem that drops him to the back of the field, from where he eventually passes everyone and takes the lead in the last corner to win the race. That would be the perfect race.
It really is a BIG advantage to start up front. It was great to finally win one, but I'm not convinced the other races will be this easy. I strongly suspect the remaining races will be more difficult.